Tri Port Dragon Boat Society’s Pink Pussycats posted a personal-best time and finished second overall Sunday, and the Tri Port Warriors of Port Hardy moved up two competition classes and claimed gold in the women’s diamond A division in the annual Nanaimo Dragonboat Festival.
For the first time, the Tri Port Dragonboat Society entered three boats into a competition. Namaxsala, made up of paddlers from Port Hardy and Alert Bay, made its debut with a bronze-medal finish in the mixed silver division.
“In addition to winning three medals, the thing I love most about it was we looked like one big, happy group,” said Irene Paterson of the Pussycats. “Which is what we are. Every time one of our teams was racing, everyone else was on the shore. We were the loudest support group there.”
The Pink Pussycats posted the top overall time of two minutes, 19.98 seconds in Saturday’s qualifying heats to earn a berth in the women’s platinum semifinals. After posting a comfortable win by more than five seconds in Sunday’s semifinal, the Pussycats clocked 2:16.79 but finished second to the blistering Dragon Ladies of False Creek (2:14.32).
The same Dragon Ladies crew topped the Warriors in their opening heat Saturday, sending the Warriors into the diamond division. But the Warriors, who won the gold division here a year ago, were undefeated the rest of the way. They cruised to a four-second win the B semifinal and then clocked 2:23.65 to edge Despirit Housewives (2:24.17) in the diamond A final.
Namaxsala missed a berth in the gold division by less than a second in Saturday’s qualifying, then improved its time by nearly four seconds to place second in the mixed silver A semifinals. The team then posted its best time of the weekend, 2:26.64, to place third in the final.
The team included paddlers picked up in Courtenay and Nanaimo, and its full crew had never before paddled together in practice, said Paterson.
“Namaxsala did amazing,” said Kendra Hall of the Pussycats. “They came home with medals from their first time there.
“It was amazing to see three Tri Port teams there. We all stuck together, and the small-town feel definitely came out.”
The teams helped each other in additional ways. Two Namaxsala members who had never drummed before offered to do so for the Pussycats, who were missing their drummer due to an injury. In return, Pussycats coach and helmsman Jerry Woo did double duty as helmsman for Namaxsala, which also had an injury issue.
The Tri Port Dragon Boat Society will hold its second annual regatta on the waterfront in Port Hardy on Sept. 10.