Hornets from the Peninsula set to buzz in Dragon Boats

443 Maritime Helicopter Squadron take up paddles in Victoria's Inner Harbour this weekend.

  • Aug. 14, 2014 6:00 p.m.

The RCAF Hornets dragon boat team is seen racing at the 250 metre Gorge Super Sprint in May. The team is busy training for the upcoming Victoria Dragon Boat Festival on Aug. 15-17.

Andrea Peacock

News staff

Dragon boaters from the Peninsula and the rest of their team are hoping to row their way to victory at the 20th Victoria Dragon Boat Festival on Aug. 15-17.

The RCAF Hornets is a first-year team made up mostly of members of 443 Maritime Helicopter Squadron, Royal Canadian Air Force, based at the Victoria International Airport.

Hornets’ team manager Dan High, 54, had never dragon boated until this year. The first time he saw a dragon boat race was at the Victoria Dragon Boat Festival last year and now his team will be competing in that same event.

The team currently consists of 21 members, six of which are from the Saanich Peninsula.

“It looked like a lot of fun,” said High, the squadron’s chief warrant officer. “I didn’t realize how much work it was.”

High, a Central Saanich resident, found learning how to paddle to be the hardest part of dragon boating.

“A lot of people think it’s all arm strength, but it’s all leg and core strength,” he said.

The Hornets participated in the Nanaimo Dragon Boat festival at the beginning of July, where they placed third in their division — jade — the third of five divisions.

High said they were surprised to do as well as they did for their first year.

Participating in the festivals is the best part of it, said High.

“On the water it’s all business, but off the water it’s a very friendly community.”

Andrew Noris, 24, first started dragon boating about five months ago when the team was put together.

Noris, an engineering support officer at the squadron, lives in North Saanich.

He said he enjoys the competitiveness of dragon boating and the camaraderie of working together with members of his squadron, which he said comes naturally for them.

“The biggest thing is the technique and to get that right,” said Noris.

Noris said he thinks they have a good chance of doing well at the Victoria Dragon Boat Festival because of their success so far.

“Even some of the other teams told us they’re really impressed with how well we’ve come just with our first season,” he said.

Bonnie Leung, supply technician with 443 Maritime Helicopter Squadron, only moved to Brentwood Bay just over a month ago from North Bay, Ontario, and yet she has already practiced with the team around half a dozen times.

She joined the team because she had never dragon boated before and wanted to give it a try.

“Pretty much I was hooked after the first time,” said Leung, 47, adding she enjoys the workout.

While keeping up with some of the younger people on team can be a challenge, Leung said that is also the fun part.

Leung is excited for the upcoming festival in Victoria because it will be her first race.

“It’s a good chance to get to know other people too,” she said.

For Les Hayter, storesperson at the squadron’s headquarters, the hardest part of dragon boating has been practicing on nights when the weather has not been good.

The team started practicing at the end of March when the weather was dry, but that did not last.

“We kind of hit a colder, wet spell in April,” said Hayter. “That weeded out the people that weren’t quite so motivated as some of the rest of us.”

Hayter, 52, said he most enjoys the physical aspect of dragon boating. Living in Sidney for the past 15 years, Hayter often goes to the Saanich Peninsula Crossfit.

“[Dragon boating] was another aspect of fitness for me,” said Hayter.

He also said he enjoys building team spirit with people from work in a more relaxed, social environment.

“You get to see people from work that you normally don’t see during the day,” he said.

The Victoria Dragon Boat Festival starts on Friday, Aug. 15, with the races happening on the Saturday and Sunday at the Inner Harbour in Victoria.

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