Dragons will soon descend on the Inner Harbour.
The 20th anniversary of the Victoria Dragonboat Festival boasts a fleet of more than 90 dragonboats from across the Pacific Northwest and Canada making their way to Ship’s Point. Festival general manager Glenys Haskins said the picturesque backdrop paired with the arrival of some of the best paddlers could make for the most exciting festival yet.
“It is not an event to be missed. We have the best grandstand you are going to see on the West Coast for watching races,” she said. “The paddlers and teams (also) blow me away every day, some with their commitment for the competition, some for coming together for those who face similar struggles.”
One of those paddlers is Sue MacSporran, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis 26 years ago and had trouble walking without support. She helped start the MS Warriors team seven years ago and credits the sport with giving her a new lease on life.
“(When) we started the MS Warriors team … I was walking with two canes and the neurologist wanted me in a wheelchair,” MacSporran said. “If you saw me (today) you wouldn’t think there is anything wrong with me.”
She calls herself a “paddling addict” and says not only did the sport help improve her life physically and mentally, the camaraderie and fellowship has shaped her life.
“A lot of people don’t know what a dragonboat is, but when you watch the racing … you are glued to these races because they are so close and so exciting,” she said.
Haskins, who also started off as a paddler in 2009, moved on to volunteering and working part-time to eventually become general manager, couldn’t agree more, and said she, too, still gets excited about dotting the dragon’s eye in 2014 to kick off the family-friendly festival once more.
“You don’t get to see these boats in the Inner Harbour every day. This is the only event where they allow (it). It is a stunning venue; the stunning backdrop of the Inner Harbour far surpasses that of any other event,” she said.
The 20th annual Victoria Dragonboat Festival runs Aug. 15-17. See victoriadragonboat.com.
VICTORIA DRAGONBOAT FESTIVAL BY THE NUMBERS:
• 90 teams
• 80 races
• 2,500 paddlers
• 80,000 spectators