Killarney Secondary School in Vancouver now has a dragon boat team. Teacher sponsor Stuart Mackinnon joined the Gung Haggis Fat Choy dragon boat team earlier this year, and he fell in love with dragon boat racing…. big time! When Stuart found out about the junior team races, he asked how to start a junior team, and we hatched a plan to gift Killarney with a dragon boat team. How fitting that a dragon boat team, with Scottish inspirations that has put dragon boats into the St. Patrick's Day Parade, help to found and coach a junior dragon boat team for a high school with an Irish name
On June 3rd, Killarney raced its first dragon boat race. The first race was full of excitement and anxiety. I told the team to expect to come last or second last as we were racing against better teams that would gradually end up in the A and B finals… while hopefully we would end up at the top of the C or D final. Stuart has written up a wonderful summary of today's adventures on the Killarney Cougar Dragons website (which I am reprinting down below – but check out all the other glorious pictures and stories on it!)
But first I have to share with you that nobody before April 15th had ever been in a dragon boat before. But on that day, 10 Killarney students came out to a Gung Haggis Fat Choy dragon boat practice, and went back to school on Monday with the message to tell all their friends about how much fun they had had. Then we had to wait until we had enough paddlers signed up (20) and whether or not the funding requests through the school would go through. Finally everything was in place and the first official practice took place on Tuesday April 24th.
Every practice was a learning experience. Many of the students had never before paddled a canoe, let alone a dragon boat. The students had to learn how to hold a paddle, how to use it in the water, how to paddle in time, and how to paddle with power. We had one very very challenging practice when the wind and the white capped waves threatened to push us around, but the students stayed focused and met the challenges with vigor.
Here are Stuart Mackinnon's pictures and his account of the Killarney Cougar Dragons' first race regatta!
With Justin Yee in the drummers seat and Coach Todd Wong steering, the Cougar Dragons hit the water for the first heat.
good effort, especially as the Cougar Dragons were racing against older
and more experienced teams. Re-grouping, captains Chi Hsi and Garvin
Pang, encouraged the team, while Coaches Todd Wong and Mr. Mackinnon
offered sage advice and refocused everyone.
re-energized the Cougar Dragons showed their metal and improved
tremendously in the second heat. Michele Shi had taken the drummers
chair and inspired the Cougar Dragons to stay focused and finish fast.
incredible effort in the second heat gave the team the incentive they
needed. After a very brief break it was on to the 'D' division final.
fabulously exciting race from start to finish, the Cougar Dragons
exceeded all of our wildest dreams, gaining 7 seconds on the previous
race and placing an unbelievably close second.
Killarney! We have shown what we are made of. We have practiced and
been successful. Can we improve? Sure, but we can now proudly bear the
honourable title of a Dragon Boat Racing team.
Aleck Pham, Caitlin Allum, Cherry Chen, Chi Hsi, Deborah Gee, Dipa
Barua, Eddy Ha, Garry Ly, Garvin Pang, Irene Peng, Jenny Tan, Jordan
Lee, Jordan Wong, Justin Chow, Justin Yee, Krystal Han, Michele Shi,
Sally Chan, Stanley Tsia, Taylor Yee, and Wayne Li. Thanks to Linda
Chen, and all the parents who came out to support us. An extra big THANK YOU to coach Todd Wong– without you, we wouldn't be here!