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Irish BCS Paddling Season

A summary of the Irish season submitted by Fiona Slevin

As 2022 is ending, it is a suitable time to reflect on the year, and a wonderful year of paddling it was too!

The removal of pandemic restrictions resulted in a very joyful return to full paddling in Ireland.

The sport of Dragon boat racing is thriving on the island of Ireland. There are currently 20 Dragon boat clubs. Of these, one is fully BCS, seventeen have a combination of BCS survivors, supporters, other cancer survivors and family and friends, and the remaining two are mixed clubs.

In July, many BCS paddlers travelled to Donegal town for the Donegal Dragons Regatta. There was a very enthusiastic response to the inclusion of a BCS category for the first time at the event.

BCS teams from Ireland, Italy, and the UK, as well as composite teams comprising paddlers from Ireland, Australia, Canada, and Europe joined together to form teams at the regatta. It was wonderful to be able to see friends from foreign shores and from throughout Ireland, after three years of being unable to see each other due to the pandemic restrictions. All those who travelled to Donegal for the very professionally organised regatta received a very warm welcome from the ever-hospitable Donegal Dragons.

Despite the relaxed and fun atmosphere, the competition at the regatta was fierce. Two Italian teams and the Plurabelle Paddlers made it through to the final. Following a hard-fought race, which resulted in a photo finish, the Plurabelles just managed to cross the line ahead of Italia 1; a result that delighted the Dublin-based team.

Established in 2010 as a 100% BCS club, Plurabelle Paddlers was the first Dragon Boat club in Ireland. As the club’s ten-year anniversary occurred during the pandemic, Plurabelle Paddlers were unable to properly mark the occasion. However, in 2022, the club decided to belatedly celebrate its milestone birthday by holding the Pink Regatta - Ireland’s first ever BCS regatta.

The event, which took place on 9th of October, saw BCS paddlers from all the dragon boat clubs in Ireland travel to Dublin. Plurabelle Paddlers were delighted with the very enthusiastic response from paddlers to their invitation. Over 100 BCS paddlers travelled to Dublin from every province and corner of the island. In addition to the BCS teams, Plurabelle Paddlers also put together teams and races for the many supporters who travelled to Dublin for the day.

The Pink Regatta included a flower ceremony that remembered BCS teammates from all Irish clubs who had lost their lives in the previous three years. The dignified ceremony was very moving and touched the hearts of all those in attendance.

In organising the Pink Regatta, Plurabelle Paddlers decided to do things a bit differently. All participants were allocated to composite teams. This meant that everyone got to paddle alongside paddlers from other teams, offering the chance to make new friendships and to learn from each other. It was a day filled with fun, friendship, participation, competition, laughter, singing, remembrance, and hope. The winners of the gold medals were Nora’s Barnacles; Shannon Dragons took home the winning trophy and will pass it on so that the trophy can tour around the country for the next year! Everyone got to take home the gift of a t-shirt to commemorate this special and memorable day.

Here’s to 2023 and to many more adventures for the Irish BCS dragon boat community.

Fiona Slevin, Plurabelle Paddlers, Dublin, Ireland.

Below is from the Plurabelles Facebook page of 10th October 2022:

What a fabulous day!

Despite the lack of fabulous weather, the Pink Regatta was a huge, huge success.

The Plurabelle Paddlers came together and showed their wonderful team spirit by organising and managing a regatta that ran like clockwork.

Take a bow: event organisers, race officials, team managers, helms, boat and clubhouse cleaners, tea-makers and bakers, registration staff, the organisers and sellers of club merchandise… the list goes on and on….

Makes you wonder… If only the Plurabelles were ruling the world…

Well done ladies and a huge thank you to the many BCS paddlers and supporters who travelled to Dublin to join us today at the Grand Canal Dock. It was so lovely to see you all.

Photos courtesy of Plurabelle Paddlers including Mary, Mairead, Anna, Angela, Emer, Barbara and Jackie.