Sights on alpine podium

France team: Lynette Jones, Maxine Raitt, Bets Thomas, Trish Boocock, Heather Marks, Helen Hunter and Julie Fox.

A team of Bay of Plenty dragon boaters is proving age is no barrier by competing in the 12th IDBF Dragon Boat Club Crew Word Championships 2020 in August.

The women’s Senior C team (60+) will compete in three events at the six day competition, which will be held on the Lac du Bourget at Aix-les-Bains in the French Alps.

Team member Bets Thomas, who has been paddling for 13 years, says there is a lot of excitement amongst the 12-strong team.

“I attended the last Club World Champs in Adelaide in 2016 and I was blown away by the experience.

“It was like the Olympics; the atmosphere was amazing.”

The team, predominantly made up of members of the local BOP Dragons women’s competitive team, will be coached by Stephanie Mott.

“We are absolutely delighted to have Stephanie onboard as our coach,” Bets says.

“She’s very experienced, having paddled and coached overseas for three years.

“She’s going to work us hard, and we welcome that; our goal is to finish on the podium.”

The team will arrive in France on August 21, and will have the opportunity to undertake one training on the water before competition starts.

With 217 clubs taking part in the competition, which runs from August 25-31, it is a busy race schedule; approximately eight boats will leave the start line every seven minutes over the six days.

The team will compete in three events: the first two days of competition will include the 2000m race, with no heats; days three and four will include the 500m race, with heats; and days five and six will include the 200m race, with heats.

Prizegiving will be held at the end of each category.

But before the team starts training for the event in earnest, they have the Regional Championships on March 14, and the National Championships on March 27 to get through first.

Bets says as there is no official Category C racing in New Zealand, the team had to be granted a dispensation from Dragon Boating New Zealand in order to race.

“This is the first time ever we’ve been in competition in our own age group.

“We’ve competed in the category down, in which we won gold and bronze at Nationals last year, but we are hoping the category will become part of New Zealand’s schedule.

“There is an increasing number of people in the 60+ category, and dragon boating is a great sport for all ages.

“There is an element of muscle memory and strength required but it’s not as high impact as running or other similar physical activity.”

The Bay of Plenty Dragon Boat Club has around 110 members in four teams: The BooBops, a breast cancer survivor team; the BOP Dragons, an all-women, competitive team; the BOP Dragon Flyers, a competitive mixed team; and the Free Dragons, a social non-competitive team.

Bets’ own team, the BOP Dragons, has members aged from their late 20s to 70s, and is a cross section of women from all different walks of life.

“I’ve met so many great people through dragon boating that I would have otherwise never met,” Bets sys.

“There’s a great social aspect to dragon boating as well.”

The National Competition season starts at the end of September, with the NZDBA National Dragon Boat Championships ending the competition season in March/April of the following year.

During the competition season, teams may paddle up to three times a week at Sulphur Point in Tauranga.

During the off season, the club stays fit by paddling on a Saturday morning and at night time on occasion.  

With dragon boating having become the fastest-growing sport world-wide, Bets says the club would love to form some secondary school teams.

The Bay of Plenty regional club now includes the Bay of Plenty down to Whakatane and the East Coast, inland to Rotorua and up to Thames.

Anyone interested in forming a team, or sponsoring the Senior C team on their trip to France in August, please contact the Bay of Plenty Dragon Boat Club at


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