River Spirit is organizing Race the River along with the BraveHearts team. Photo, Thomas Photography

Dragon boaters compete at Campbell River’s Race the River

Event returns after cancelling last year due to low tides

With a little more water to paddle in, Race the River is back on this year after a one-year hiatus.

The event is hosted by local teams River Spirit and BraveHearts. Last year, the organizers learned close to the event that because of the tides, they would not have enough water for the dragon boats.

“We historically have always done Race the River on the second-to-last weekend of June,” says Karen Chappell, a River Spirit member and one of the organizers.

They typically try to avoid competing with the July 1 long weekend.

“We scheduled it for that,” she says with a laugh, “but nobody thought to check the tides.”

As the event got close in 2017, someone checked the tides and found the levels would be too low near the finish line.

“We would’ve been hitting the sand bars,” Chappell says.

While the tides still won’t be high this coming weekend, the water level should be enough for the competition to go ahead.

“We checked the tides this year. It’s going to be low, but we can do it,” she adds.

This Saturday will mark the seventh time the races have been held in the last eight years. Part of the dragon boat event is to support breast cancer research as well as people who have had or currently have the disease, as Chappell says, everything River Spirit does is primarily breast cancer dragon boat team. They formed a partnership with BraveHearts, which used to be a mixed team but is now a women’s team.

There is no shortage of competitive spirit to the event, as 19 other teams will be coming, primarily from around Vancouver Island, to take part in the races for mixed and women’s teams. Chappell says when the drum in the boat starts to beat, the racing gets intense.

“I can’t even speak at the end of a 500-metre race,” she says.

Every team runs three races to try to come up with the best combined time.

“Everybody’s raising themselves, technically,” she adds.

There will be food avaiable and music on site as part of the festivities, which runs from 8:3o a.m. to 3 p.m. At noon, there will also be a concession selling carnations donated by Quality Foods. Sales will support breast cancer research.

Chappell encourages people to come watch the event at Tyee Spit. An area near the finish line will be set up with bleachers.

“The best viewing area is Dick Murphy Park,” she adds. “You get to see the finish, which is exciting.”

For more information, see racetheriver.ca or email teamriverspirit@gmail.com.