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Sprint races at Deas Island a forerunner to world championships

CORA is hosting the Canadian 2024 OC Sprints Championships on April 27 and 28 at the Delta Deas Rowing Club venue
Athletes race in an ARE Matahina V6 outrigger canoe, the model that will be used in the April 27 and 28 Deas Island races. Steve Pither Photo

If you’ve never attended an outrigger race before, there’s one thing you should know when you’re cheering on the competitors at the upcoming national sprint regatta at Deas Island.

Never, ever shout out “Go, rowers, go!”

“Rowers go backwards; paddlers go forward,” says Ronald Chin, president of the Canadian Outrigger Racing Association, lightheartedly.

CORA is hosting the Canadian 2024 OC Sprints Championships on April 27 and 28 at the Delta Deas Rowing Club venue. It’s free for spectators to attend.

Given the shorter course length, these will be fun races to watch, Chin says. The 500-metre race has no turns, much like a dragon boat race. The 1,000-metre race is in four 250-metre lengths, with three turns per length.

There is a good clearing on the Millennium Trail at the 250m mark of the course that will provide a full view of the three to five lanes of the 500m course and the excitement of the turns on the 1,000m course.

“The sprint races are important this year because the International Va’a Federation — Va’a is the Polynesian word for canoe — is holding the IVF World Va’a Championships in Hilo, Hawaii this August,” Chin says. “CORA has already held time trials and qualifying events for Team Canada, and we’ve got a large contingent this year.”

Because outrigging is traditionally a Pacific sport, most of the 60 race crews are from British Columbia. The races at Deas Island will also attract athletes from Eastern Canada as well as Washington State and, it’s hoped, California. The canoes are being provided by ARE World Outrigger, a Tahiti-based company.

Chin says that Canadians do well at the worlds, especially in the master’s categories.

“All the young Tahitians and Hawaiians grow up in the sport from high school, so the open category is occupied by all these really experienced younger athletes,” he said.

CORA hopes to make the Deas Island races an annual event. The location is ideal because it’s sheltered. The Delta Outrigger Kanu Association hosted outrigger sprint races in the slough in the early 2000s so it’s good to have the races return, Chin says.

CORA is partnering with DOKA and DDRC to put on the races.

Boaters are asked to avoid the Deas Slough during the event.

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