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Dragon boat Regatta - Vancouver July 2005

The Abreast of Life (ABOL) trip to Canada to compete in the 10th Anniversary Abreast in a Boat dragon boat Regatta is over!!

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

To everyone who helped us achieve our goal of Canada - we hope you will think that we did you and New Zealand proud!

We achieved silver in our division, and seventh overall, just missing out by a whisker on making the final for the Scotiabank Cup.

The winner of each of the six divisions competed in the grand final, won by the team that beat us in our minor final - Survivorship.

We departed for Vancouver via Auckland and Los Angeles on June 14, and competed in the Alcan Festival the first weekend as a warm up for the Abreast in a Boat 10th Anniversary Festival the next weekend. 62 teams (1,550 breast cancer survivors, plus their supporters!) from Canada, USA, Australia, Singapore, Italy, Poland and New Zealand took part.

What a fabulous time we had! The instant rapport with women who have faced the same trauma of diagnosis and treatments is something quite special: From the harbour cruise on Thursday evening, to the opening ceremony on Friday night, then the pink parade of teams and full day of competition on Saturday, followed by a night to remember with teams' dinner and pink Saturday Night Fever dance party, and then the final day of competition on Sunday, with closing ceremony and medal presentation - this really was a dream come true to be meeting, sharing, partying and fiercely competing with all those wonderful women.

Some of the special or memorable moments included:

  • pink, pink and more pink - women, flags, feather boas, wigs, you name it! The city of Vancouver certainly knew there was a pink party going on to celebrate life after breast cancer!

  • having the three Wellington Can Survive team members, Patsy Watt, Mary McAvoy and Julia Bracegirdle, join us to complete our squad. We couldn't have got any better fantastic women to paddle and party with.

  • meeting Dr Don McKenzie, the doctor who started it all 10 years ago with a bunch of brave women who were basically guinea pigs who were going to prove or disprove his theory that upper body physical exercise would benefit women who had undergone axilla surgery performing our specially choreographed haka/waiata to enthusiastic applause on the cruise and at the Saturday Night party meeting the beautiful women of Abreast in a Boat at Barnet Park, who loaned us their boat for a practice (they are very different to ours!) and then shared a wonderful picnic tea with us. And on top of all this they buddied us up with their team members to bring us lovely packed lunches on both days of the Alcan Festival.

  • our trip across to Nanaimo on Vancouver Island, to meet our sister team of the same name. What a fabulous group of women, who not only shared a practice with us and a BBQ tea afterwards, but also billeted us for the night before we split off for a couple days of R & R before regrouping again for more serious training. We know that we have made friends for life.

  • having original team member Julie Pease from Portland, Maine, on the east coast of USA, join us for a week, and give huge support and assistance to the team.

  • the generosity of Coach Audrey Campbell's parents, May and Davie, and their friends Margaret and George, in surprising us with a booking for four huge limousines for a magical city tour, complete with champagne, before we boarded the harbour dinner cruise.

  • the fiercely competitive racing, with every woman on the water giving their absolute all to the competition.

  • the flower ceremony after the last race, with a raft of 12 boats, plus thousands of paddlers and supporters lining the harbour, all simultaneously casting their pink carnations into the water in remembrance of all those team members, family and friends who have lost their lives to breast and other cancers.

  • being presented with our silver medals at the closing ceremony - all that hard training was worth it for that moment!

  • and we have to mention Samesun backpackers where we stayed in Vancouver for 2 weeks! Four women to a room no bigger than my bathroom, with all their paddling gear, party gear, shopping bags, suitcases etc was quite an experience. The favourite call in every room was "I can't find..."

But ultimately, the biggest reward for all of us was knowing that we were actually able to go to Vancouver. That we ARE survivors and we were able to celebrate being alive and participating in this fantastic event. That is what it is all about - celebrating life, sharing this experience with women from all around the world, and living this and other of life's experiences to the full!

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