Gold, Silver, Bronze! Verdun Cleans Up at the Montreal Challenge

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Photo: Mission Dragon Boat 

A sunny day greeted paddlers as we headed to the Olympic Basin for the Montreal Dragon Boat Challenge (July 6-7) – a welcome change from the previous year of torrential rains and thunderstorms!

Verdun geared up its four competitive teams – V- Force (formerly Verdun Women), Brute Force (the men’s team), and two teams of Force, competing in the small boats division in preparation for the Pam-Am races.

Setting up shop under the signature blue and white Verdun tent, we reviewed game plans for the three 500m races and the infamous 2K (with three turns). We were ready to race!

Sheri and Force

Photo: Marian Pinsky

And what an exciting two-day competition it was! The Montreal Challenge is a joint event with the Chinese Cultural festival, so teams representing communities from various parts of China were in attendance accompanied by flags, Chinese lion dances, and the solemn eye-dotting ceremony of the dragon boats.  

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Photo: Marian Pinsky

“V-I-E, V-FORCE!”

Armed with Verdun-blue bandanas, a clear game plan, and a new strategy for effective turns ominously called, “The Pivot,” (inspired, perhaps, by a certain memorable episode in a popular 90s show), Verdun’s women’s team are fierce contenders on the water.

PivotPitted against some very high performing teams such as True Grit, Senior A, and Premier Women, we were in good company in the Division One Sport Women. There must have been some magic in those blue bandanas as the team steadily improved with each race, incorporating  Coach Sheri Cameron’s feedback for an “ExplOSive start!” for each subsequent race – and making podium with bronze!

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Photo: Mission Dragon Boat

Verdun’s Women’s team have a reputation for some pretty ferocious performances in past 2K races (see our Grit, Guts, and Glory!: Verdun Women Make Dragon Boat History article from last year’s Quebec Cup!), and this year was no exception! A full nine boats out of thirteen received penalties for hitting fellow boats, overtaking when they were not granted right of way, or for other technical infractions. This is compared with only three boats out of eleven in the men’s sports division!

Allow me to describe a typical 2K race at the Montreal Challenge – anywhere between ten to sixteen boats are on the water simultaneously, racing around buoys designating 500m sprints, interspersed with intricately organized turns. Officials’ blow horns signal the entry of each boat divided by 10 seconds in between, and it is truly a sight to behold!

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Photo: Marian Pinsky

Paddles clashing, boats crashing, paddlers yelling menacing threats, and coaches bellowing out instructions to their respective teams – it is an exhilarating experience both on and off the water!  

V-Force gained confidence in its prowess as they were granted the ‘right of way’ for two out of the three turns. We locked paddles with two boats, each furiously struggling to surge ahead! Forging past teams, who literally heckled us with yells of, “Gonna get you, Sheri!” and “Don’t let them pass us, girls!”, we earned a respectable timing of 12min37s.  

Presenting the Men’s 2K – Getting in… Sink?

The men’s races proved to be even more interesting. Speaking with Brute Force captain, Emir Morena, Verdun’s men’s team hit a new level of determination, finishing the last stretch of the 2K almost completely submerged in water…

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Photo: Alex Boros

A combination of heavy boats, with cascades of waves created by neighbouring teams resulted in many of the men’s boats taking on water. Paddlers valiantly bailed as they paddled (and raced and pivoted around tight turns and tried to outpace their competitors), with one team in fact capsizing…

Sinking

Photo: Marian Pinsky

But let the record show! In spite of all the odds and some furious bailing of water, they made it past the finish line (rumours had it that if Ira had had a whip, he would have used it…) Quite an exciting end to the race after having earned a silver in the men’s 500m!

Men's race

Photo: Mission Dragon Boat

Force Making Podium in the Small Boats Division!

The two divisions of the Force team showed some serious mettle as they competed in the small boats division in preparation of the upcoming Pan-Am competitions in Trinidad and Tobago. Small boats with only 10 paddlers are unstable relative to the conventional 20-paddler boats, and take quite the skill on the part of the steerer. Coaches Sheri Cameron and Ira E. Lax took on this challenge masterfully with Force White and Force Blue, respectively. Challenges aside, this did not faze them in the least, earning Force Blue a gold in the 500m small boat races!

Foerce - White

Photo: Marian Pinsky

Small Boats Division: History in the Making at the Montreal Challenge!

Force made its mark in the 2K, being among the only small boats on the water dwarfed by the massive standard ones! That’s a first in Montreal Challenge history! Watching the 2k race in which over 14 large boats and 4 small boats competed on the same water was an exhilarating and nail-biting experience! The audience went wild seeing the small boats being rocked by the massive waves produced by the larger boats, yet valiantly forging ahead, undaunted in their pursuit of the end objective.

Ira and Force

Photo: Mission Dragon Boat

 

See you at the Rawdon Dragon Boat Races on August 11th!!

Medals

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