Dragon boats competitors will hit the Inner Harbour next weekend for the annual Victoria Dragon Boat Festival, and this year’s festival will be a key stepping stone for the Gorging Dragons internationally.
For the third time in 20 years, Vancouver Island’s first dragon boat team will be representing Canada at the International Dragon Boat Federation’s 9th Club Crew World Championships, in Ravena, Italy
“Its been a long process,” said coach Tom Arnold, 39.
“We qualified at the Canadian National championships last year, so between that and Italy we’ve spent the last two years in training – right through the winter, three times a week as a team and a lot more solo training.”
Arnold described his entry into dragon boating as fairly typical. Having grown up canoeing on lakes, he decided to try out dragon boating when the company he was working for in Toronto formed a corporate team. By the time he moved to Victoria, he felt he was ready to paddle competitively, and ended up with the Gorging Dragons.
The team landed a spot in the 2004 Cape Town Internationals, becoming the first Vancouver Island team to compete, and medal, on an international level.
“Nobody was more surprised than us,” Arnold said. “The entire team had worked up from a recreational to a competitive level, and to be there with the best teams in the world – Germany, Russia – and to medal against them, it was amazing.”
Despite the Gorging Dragons becoming an international force, the Victoria Dragon Boat Festival is still an annual highlight for Arnold.
“Its all about finding those moments when everybody is perfectly in-sync,” Arnold said. “When it feels like the boat is lifting into the air, and you’re flying down the race course. It’s a hard feeling to match.”
The Victoria Dragon Boat Festival takes place Aug. 15 to 17. The Gorging Dragons will be competing before moving on to Ravinca, Italy for the Club Crew World Championships on Sept. 3.