Pemberton paddlers fly high in Vancouver 

Eagles capture fifth consecutive junior title

For a landlocked town on a small lake, Pemberton’s continuing success in dragon boat racing is amazing. The community is now established as a powerhouse in the sport at the national and international level.

At the annual Alcan Vancouver Dragon Boat Festival in False Creek last weekend, the Pemberton Canoe Club entered five teams in various racing categories, where they faced some of the top teams from around North America. When two days of paddling wrapped up on Sunday, the Pemberton paddlers, men, women, and youths, were again standing tall.

The Laoyam Eagles, a co-ed team of high school students, succeeded is defending their junior division title for a fifth straight year, blowing away a confident team from Portland, Oregon, the Franklin Aquanauts, in the Junior A Final by almost nine seconds.

The Eagles’ time of one minute, 59.95 seconds was the fastest posted by a junior team, and was among the fastest times of the weekend in any category.

Although they had a close call in an earlier heat, colliding with the Eric Hamber team from Vancouver, the Eagles easily took the extra wildcard heat to head into the finals as the top-seeded team.

The Laoyam Falcons, a farm team created this year to develop the younger and more inexperienced paddlers into Eagles, did exceptionally well in qualifying for the Junior A Finals, where they finished in fifth place.

The Pemberton Spirit women’s team competed in both the recreational and mixed divisions at the festival. The team has 14 novice paddlers on the crew, and looked at this as a rebuilding year for the team.

The Spirit finished eighth out of nine teams in the Recreational B Final, where they were the only all-female team in the competition.

In the women’s A Division Final, the Spirit finished in seventh place overall.

The Bald Eagles, a crew made up of Pemberton parents and graduates from the Laoyam Eagles, competed for the first time this season, and did well in their first few heats. They narrowly missed the finals in the Competitive A division, and were instead relegated to the Competitive B Finals where they faced another mostly Pemberton team, the Canadian National Junior Crew.

The Canadian National Junior Crew took first place by a fraction of a second over some fast and highly motivated teams. The Bald Eagles finished in sixth place, just over two seconds back of the juniors.

Hundreds of Pemberton residents turned out for the festival, including paddlers and supporters, and the participants estimate that between five and 10 per cent of the population of the town was at False Creek. That’s a claim no other town could have made.

Usually the young dragon boaters would take a break from competing until the Kelowna races in September, but this year, with the recent decision to relocate the World Junior Dragon Boat Championships from China to Poland, the Canadian National Junior Crew is now focusing its energies on the World Championship title.

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