For the past eight years, Nepean Masters Swim Club (Nepean masters or The Masters) has entered a team in the Ottawa Nortel Dragon Boat Festival. When we first tried paddling, we thought this pursuit would be a good fit for our swimming fitness and a good way to end the swim season. Many years of enthusiastic participation have made Dragon Boating an interesting sideline dimension of the swim club.
At one time, Nepean Masters had a second team, which eventually became a Ladies team and after two years, moved away from the club. The main team has finished everywhere from third (when the festival was 90 teams) to 16th in 2006 (when there were 190 teams). We must admit, we have had our fair share of disappointments including the loss of our steersperson over the side during a final and disqualification for finishing in the wrong lane. Nonetheless, we are usually a top ten boat in a field that includes year-round paddling teams. The team is comprised of males and females from all the NMSC swim groups, with some paddlers having participated for eight consecutive seasons. For the past several years, we have had ten practices prior to race weekend, beginning in late May after the swimming Nationals.
For those who don't know, dragon boat racing has been a major source of inspiration for breast cancer survivors. Eleven years ago, a Vancouver doctor decided to debunk the theory that exercise could cause cancer to spread, and the first team of survivors entered a dragon boat race festival. From there, participation mushroomed. Today, there are hundreds of breast cancer survivor teams and like most others, the Ottawa Nortel Dragon Boat Festival has a special category for these teams. For the past six years, Nepean Masters Swim Club has sponsored and awarded the Breast Cancer Cup. These paddlers ability to overcome adversity is an inspiration to all the teams and spectators and Nepean Masters is proud to have the honour of saluting them.
As the snow deepens, 22 NMSC members will start to dream of life on the water instead of in it, register the team and look forward to a cool, early-morning in May when the command PAddLES UP will start another season.
Be sure to read the Dragon Boat Scrapbook for more information.