Sarasota, July 2022
From Betty Solly, IBCPC Board member and representative at the IDBF Council meeting.
I arrived in Tampa, Florida at 9:30 on Friday morning, July 22nd. Renting a car, I drove straight to Nathan Benderson Park in Sarasota, picked up my credentials (listed as a race official) which would allow me to enter the athletes’ village. I spent the morning touring the site, amazed at the growth and development of the facilities since my original trip to Sarasota in 2012. Back then, the IBCPC had received bids for the next IBCPC festival from several countries, one of which was from Save Our Sisters (SOS) of Miami, Florida. I was appointed by the IBCPC Steering Committee, of which I was a director, to visit the site to see if it would be a feasible venue for the 2014 IBCPC festival. Kim Bonomo, SOS President, met me on the site of what was to become Nathan Benderson Park. All I could see from dusty Cattlemen’s Road was a vast stretch of water. I was told it supplied drinking water for the city of Sarasota and that the empty area surrounding it had been a stone quarry.
Back in 2012, Kim and I met with the architects and planners in a double wide trailer on the empty site. I confirmed the site would be “okay” provided there would be enough shade for participants and spectators. The IBCPC breast cancer festival of 2014 was the first regatta to be held on the site. It was a fabulously successful festival with thousands of participants and spectators in attendance. Seeing what the site had become was amazing! The continued growth of Nathan Benderson Park was very much visible on Friday as I viewed the long lines of team tents and marveled at the six- floor race tower with all the bells and whistles one could imagine. NBP has recently received a 30 million dollar grant to build a boat house and recreational facility on the site.
On Friday afternoon, I wanted to see the development of the area around NBP. I had been told there would be a shopping mall constructed, and I expected to see a glamorous strip shopping center. Instead, I beheld a shopping mall on steroids, filled with all the major upscale department stores, boutique shops, restaurants, high end hotels and more. The mall known as UTC went on and on. It was the venue for the end of festival celebration, and many hundreds of people enjoyed the air conditioned and visibly beautiful indoor spaces the mall provided. Knowing what had been and seeing what had been developed was a real treat for me.
For this 13th IDBF World Club Crew Championships there were 80 teams on hand representing 10 countries from across the world. These numbers do not reflect the scope and depth of IDBF membership as many countries were unable to attend due to COVID and financial considerations. Saturday was the first time I had the opportunity to meet the paddlers from the Breast Cancer division. There were four teams in the standard boat group: Nathan Benderson Park -Survivors in Sync (NBP); Knot Abreast of Canada; Empire Dragons of NYC, USA; and Dragon Boat Charleston of Virginia, USA. Three teams participated in the small boat BCP division: Pink Dragonistas of Germany; Dragon Heart Vermont, USA and Hope Afloat, USA.
I visited the tents of the BCP paddlers and quickly discovered I needed to don my KN95 mask. Paddlers were succumbing to COVID to the point where teams had to pull their boats from competition to halt the spread of the disease. Linda Dyer’s husband John had become quite ill, and Linda soon followed. Both have now recovered. The Hope Afloat boat was unable to continue racing. The other BCP teams were fortunately not affected and continued racing with the Nathan Benderson BCP team winning gold for the standard boats and Pink Dragonistas of Germany coming in first for the small boat division. The NBP team completed a 200- meter race in 54 seconds! Quite an accomplishment!
While I have attended both IDBF Council and Congress in the past, it was always as an observer. This time, representing the IBCPC President, I was given a seat at the table. We met on Monday at 8:00 AM and it wasn’t until mid-afternoon that the day’s business was complete. The first order of business was to discuss the plight of the venue for IDBF World Championships in 2023. Due to COVID lock downs other venues will need to be considered. Council members made several suggestions that will be undertaken by the Executive Committee. The options were complicated.
Next on the agenda was a discussion of a plan to dissolve the GAISF which represents sports federations not under the IOC umbrella with Sport Accord. There are advantages and disadvantages for voting either yay or nay to the dissolution and these were discussed with follow up to be continued.
IDBF Statutes and Bylaws were discussed including three areas where Council’s input was sought: Individual memberships; Weighted voting and Elections to Council. Individual memberships had been tried and failed in the past; however, some Council members cited a financial need which these membership funds could fill. U.S. now mandates individual membership for National and International participation and that program has been successful. Weighted voting included the topic of proxy voting and Council members discussed the pros and cons. Council members concurred that Council size had become unwieldy and 8 commissions and/or other subgroups may be removed from Council representation.
A brief discussion of boats and paddles turned on a suggestion by Matt Smith that a “super boat” (longer and faster) should be introduced, perhaps to the premier teams at IDBF Worlds to heighten interest in the sport. Finally, in speaking about succession planning, it was announced that both President Mike T. and Treasurer Alan C. will need replacement as neither will run for office next time. Council members were directed to think about potential replacements.
Meri Gibson’s report to Council had been given to each member and President Mike Thomas referred to it at the conclusion of the meeting. He read the words of Mahatma Gandhi that Meri had referenced and felt they reflected what had been his objective of this first face to face Council meeting since the start of the pandemic.
My impression of this group of dragon boat club and federation leaders from around the world was favorable in that people listened carefully and respectfully to one another. In this meeting of approximately 15 – 20 people, I had the opportunity to hear from everyone. While I do get the impression that there is much politicking going on outside the meetings, the hearing of issues and speaking to possible solutions was apparent. I was able to meet Wendi Zhou, chair of the youth division. I emailed her a dragon boat documentary being developed by a friend of one of the young girls in our own Philadelphia Flying Phoenix and PDBA clubs. Bridget Walter, Council member from Switzerland and I have been in touch to see if there is interest in a breast cancer group, she knows of who might want to become IBCPC members.
Mike Haslam approached me to discuss the need for managing organizations to be connected to oversight organizations (IDBF) who provide recognized authority in the event of casualties during dragon boat practices or competitions. Claudio Schermi vocally praised the inclusion of the breast cancer paddlers in IDBF membership and Sue Hollaway, Hall of Fame Chair, spoke fondly of her association as former coach of a breast cancer team in Vancouver. At the Hall of Fame celebration, Dr. Don McKenzie had contacted JoAnn Moore to accept his Hall of Fame induction memento and JoAnn spoke highly of him and recalled her own breast cancer experience.
Thank you for the opportunity to experience the joy of teams coming together to compete after the isolation of the pandemic and for being able to connect with the leaders of the organizations that make our sport possible, and our lives enriched.
** Photos from Linda Dyers email 27/8
** Photos from JoAnn Moore’s email 27/8
Photo Credit: Linda Dyer
Knot A Breast, the longtime World first Place BCP team, finally met their match as Sarasota’s Survivors In Sync took Gold in the standard boat division at this year’s Club Crew World Championship! JoAnn Moore and Coach Kathy Levy share a happy moment comparing their Gold vs Silver medals!
The Hanover Pink Dragonistas took Gold in the BCP small boat division and the Sarasota Survivors In Sync won Gold in the Standard boat division at the beautiful sunny Florida USA venue.
Alissa Ritter from The Dragonistas and JoAnn Moore from Survivors In Sync share a special
celebratory moment at the after party before heading home.