21 October 2019

Birthday regatta to celebrate beating heart of dragon boating

| Michael Weaver
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The Dragons Abreast Canberra dragon boat club

The Dragons Abreast Canberra dragon boat club will celebrate its 20th birthday with a special regatta on 9 November. Photos: Michelle Kroll, Region Media.

They have been paddling Lake Burley Griffin for more than 20 years and could easily be described as the beating heart of Canberra.

Their beating hearts are also closely connected with breast cancer, but they use their connection with the water to form a group that’s now the oldest active dragon boat club in Australia.

On 9 November, Dragons Abreast will celebrate its 20th birthday. And it will be a party!

Dragons Abreast Canberra coordinator Jeannie Cotterell said they are inviting all of Canberra to help them celebrate in a regatta on Lake Burley Griffin.

“We’re inviting social and corporate groups to paddle and party like its 1999 for our 20th birthday regatta on November 9,” Jeannie told Region Media, before embarking on a training run.

“We’ve got people of all ages and sizes and abilities and everyone gets a go to do their thing, but the bottom line is that we get together and engage with each other,” Jeannie said.

Of the 53 paddlers, 43 are breast cancer survivors and the others are supporters.

Regular paddlers Lenyss Snellen and Marion Leiba are both in their 80s and have been with the group for almost 20 years. They say Dragons Abreast is their fountain of youth and they’re grateful for what the group gives them.

“We don’t talk about breast cancer very often, but we all have a shared experience and we can support each other,” Lenyss said.

The group gathers three times a week for a training run, rain, hail or shine.

“You get wet a lot,” says paddler Dianne Bradshaw. “You freeze in winter and you fry in summer, but it’s the joy of being with the other ladies who share this common love of dragon boating.

“The lake is beautiful and I don’t think many people realise how lovely it is, as we’re always seeing things out there that you don’t see from the land.”

Jeannie says they regularly compete in regattas in Australia and overseas, and since joining the group only two-and-a-half years ago, she’s hooked.

“I had no idea I would love it this much. I’m on every committee that we have. I’ve learned how to sweep and couldn’t pick a better hobby,” she says.

“It’s so much fun and it definitely keeps you fit. But it’s the community and camaraderie of 20 people in a boat all moving as one – that’s what this is really about.”

Funds raised from the group’s 20th birthday regatta will allow Dragons Abreast Canberra and Dragons Abreast Australia to continue their work promoting dragon boating to breast cancer survivors as a beneficial exercise.

“The event will celebrate wellness, fitness, fun and camaraderie for all regatta participants, breast cancer survivors and their supporters,” Jeannie said.

There will also be some serious competition, too.

“We’re more about participation than the competition until we actually get in a race, and then we want to win,” says Jeannie.

Organisers are expecting around 500 people on the day, with registrations from local businesses, hotels, consulting firms, government departments and European embassies. They are also hosting a number of Dragons Abreast teams from around Australia.

“Dress up in your favourite 90s gear. Choose a theme for your crew or just pull out that 90s band t-shirt and cargo shorts and join in the fun.

“A full crew consists of 20 paddlers, if you don’t have 20, just register yourself or a small group and we’ll match you up with other fun-loving fundraisers,” Jeannie says.

Dragons Abreast Canberra 20th birthday regatta is on Saturday, 9 November from 7:00 am to 2:00 pm. Meet at Grevillea Park, Moreshead Drive. Registrations close on 23 October via the Dragons Abreast website or email dragonsabreastregatta@gmail.com for more information.

Dragons Abreast training

The Dragons Abreast Canberra crew during their regular training runs on Lake Burley Griffin.

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