Several dragon boat teams hit the water Saturday and Sunday, getting some practice time on Budd Inlet’s East Bay before the real races begin Saturday (April 29) as part of Saint Martin’s University’s Dragon Boat Festival.
Among the teams that practiced Sunday — under gray skies and a steady drizzle — were the Hawaii club of Saint Martin’s and the Olympia Fire Department, undefeated the past four years, said Debbie Powers, captain of the team and a longtime firefighter for the department.
Powers said she knows other teams are gunning for them.
“They’re really good,” said Jase Kugiya about the firefighters. Kugiya, a junior at Saint Martin’s, is captain of the Hawaii club and is its president. The team is made up of students from Hawaii and other Pacific islands, he said.
He said they came close to beating the firefighters last year. He recalled they were beat by a matter of seconds, something like 1 minute, 8 seconds to the firefighters’ 1 minute, 5 seconds, Kugiya said.
It’s all about synchronized strokes, he said.
“You keep your eyes in the boat and watch the strokes, because when you’re not in sync, you feel the boat jerk,” Kugiya said.
Each team spent about an hour on the water Sunday, rowing up and down East Bay near Swantown Marina.
Five years ago, Powers used to race with the city of Olympia team, but then formed her own team with a combination of firefighters and their wives. What makes them successful is they know each other, they work together and they don’t mind yelling at each other to get the job done, she said.
Battalion Chief J.D. Young said they can cross 250 yards of water in about a minute.
Ideally, the team wants to be “one body moving together,” he said.
The teams practiced on East Bay on Sunday, but Saturday’s race will take place on West Bay near the Port Plaza dock, which is at the end of Percival Landing.
The festival begins at 9 a.m. Saturday, with races starting at 9:30 a.m.