Pamela Caldwell, centre left, Carole Jones and the rest of the NPC Nusa’Lon Dragons dragonboat team give a cheer after a race Saturday afternoon at Maffeo Sutton Park. (KARL YU/News Bulletin)

Nanaimo dragonboat coach aims to beat competition, remember friend

‘I still come out and honour her every year’

The coach of the Nusa’Lon Dragons dragonboat team has her sights set on beating the competition and helping others beat breast cancer this weekend.

The Save-On-Foods Nanaimo Dragonboat Festival is taking place at Maffeo Sutton Park from July 5-7 and Holly Wylie and her team, part of the Nanaimo Paddling Centre, were among over 60 teams racing through the waters in Nanaimo’s harbour.

Besides competition, Wylie said she has personal reasons for taking part.

“My sister is a breast cancer survivor,” said Wylie. “Also my best friend died of breast cancer and that’s how I got involved in this sport … and they started this event for breast cancer research, so for me it meant everything. It meant to honour her and I still come out and honour her every year.”

RELATED: Dragonboat festival brings ‘guts and glory’ to Nanaimo

As for the team’s performance, Wylie said she was happy with how the Nusa’Lon Dragons competed on Saturday afternoon.

“We like to try and beat all the local teams,” said Wylie with a laugh. “Our team is doing awesome. We’ve won both our first races today.”

Kix Citton, Nusa’Lon Dragons women’s team captain, said the team’s appearance at this year’s festival was preceded by a lot of hard work.

“I think we’re doing really well,” said Citton. “Everyone’s trained really hard all season. We trained throughout the winter as well. This is what we trained for and Nanaimo festival is a fantastic experience, so the whole team is really excited and happy to be here, so you can really feel that positive energy and the strength of the team coming together.”

This year’s festival will feature Guts and Glory races for the first time, a pair of races with 1,500-metre long routes, and Wylie said it is different than other races.

“Guts and Glory is a very tricky race in that you have to have a really good steersperson that knows how to manoeuvre that boat around the buoy and because these boats weigh 850 pounds on their own, these boats are really hard to manoeuvre around the buoy and it’s like doing three race pieces, three 500-m races altogether.”

Proceeds from the event will go to the Nanaimo Hospital Foundation and Nanaimo Community Hospice Society. The event began in 2003 and in that time, over $700,000 has been raised to aid breast cancer patients.

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