Last races with team for founding coach Mary Rowles
by Donna Cochran
Salt Spring’s dragon boat team brought home a bronze medal in the top grand final mixed division at Comox on the Sept. 16-17 weekend. It was a thrilling way to end the 2023 dragon boat festival season.
The Comox Marina Park venue in beautiful Comox Bay was the perfect setting for the festival and it was organized for the first time by Vancouver Island Paddling. The one-day event featured 200-metre sprints in both standard boat (20 paddlers) and small boat (10 paddlers) in women’s and mixed divisions. Spirit Point raced in the standard boat mixed division. Their times from the first two races placed them in the top mixed division grand final, third fastest out of nine mixed teams.
We faced two tough races against Dragon Riders and Navy Dragon Anchors — both teams that had been way ahead of our team in past competitions. With combined times of the semi-final and two rounds of the grand final, Spirit Point posted a very impressive bronze finish with a time of 1:55.1. That was 1.3 seconds behind second-place finisher Dragon Riders at 1:53.8. First place went to Navy Dragon Anchors at 1:49.8. These were the three fastest posted times of the 30 teams in the festival.
Paddlers included Cora Platz, Donna Cochran, Mary Lou Cuddy, Lisana Dodd, Shari Macdonald, Audrey Denton, Sheena Frisch, Robyn Huntley, Melynda Okulitch, Wendy McEachern, Ann Marie Davidson, Wendy Andrews, Michael Peirce, John Ortlepp, Sam Goddard, Andrew Okulitch, Janet Bright, Gwyneth Ortlepp, Chloé Frisch and Chris Ortlepp. Special thanks to guest paddler Mahdu Bannur from Fairway Gorge Momentum Club.
A huge shout out to retiring coach Mary Rowles, who called the first two races and paddled for the final two, and to assistant coach Lynda Green for calling the two exciting grand final races.
Our nimble steersperson Tom McKeachie and “attention to detail” team manager Barry Green rounded out the team roster.
It was our last official race with Rowles, our long-time coach and friend who has moved to Metchosin to be closer to her own outrigger team at Fairway Gorge paddling club. Rowles started the dragon boat team in 2006, so this is her 18th year as coach. She has helped the team grow and thrive, encouraging paddlers young and old.
Our practices were on Long Harbour when we started out and now are on St. Mary Lake. In every type of weather, Rowles was at the front of the boat keeping us in time with shouts of encouragement, sometimes using very salty language. But she always used good humour and a focus on improving our technical skills, building great team spirit and, most of all, having fun. She will greatly missed!
Thanks for everything, Mary.