The Fort Langley Canoe Club was well represented at the Pan American Club Crew Championships in Ponce, Puerto Rico March 17 to 19, with senior women's teams Titanium (60-plus age group) and Fast & Furious Lite (50-plus) competing.

Senior Dragonboaters shine in Puerto Rico

Paddlers bring gold to Fort Langley from Pan Am Club Crew Championships

What a weekend it was in Puerto Rico for a pair of Fort Langley Canoe Club senior women’s Dragonboat crews.

Fast & Furious Lite (50-plus age group) and Titanium (60-plus) each paddled to gold medals at the Pan American Club Crew Championships, held Friday, March 17 to Sunday, March 19 in the city of Ponce.

Titanium paddlers won won all seven of their heats en route to capturing gold in all three of their distances, including the 200m, 500m, and 2000m.

“Although a senior C team, 60-plus, our times were often better than much younger teams,” noted team member Sharlene Brunjes.

“It was an exceptional championships and gorgeous venue,” Brunjes added. “We were treated like dignitaries throughout.”

Team captain Gwen Simpson said the Titanium crew had “an awful time — lots of adversity — getting to Puerto Rico.”

Although a few team members travelled early, they were all supposed to arrive in Puerto Rico by “just after midnight late Tuesday/early Wednesday on the 14/15th,” Simpson told the Times via email from Puerto Rico.

“A few arrived late Wednesday, a few more on Thursday, and one not until 3 a.m. Saturday morning and our first race was Saturday (at) 8 a.m.”

Simpson said this was “all very stressful, and some of the eventual flight pairings (three-to-five legs) were very convoluted, and it was “all due to the storm in Eastern U.S. exacerbated by spring break.”

Eventually all the team members arrived in Ponce.

Once there, the opening ceremonies were spectacular and the race site quite beautiful in a state park, Simpson noted.

There was one other senior C team –– WAM or Washington Masters, a “good, very competitive” crew which was tough to beat, Simpson said.

“Because the heats have three to four teams in our heats we were also racing premier teams (under age 40), and in some of those heats we also beat one of the premier teams, so we really did well,” Simpson related.

Leading up to the Pan Am event, Titanium had only been practising in a 10 person boat for a few months, although most of the paddlers are also members of a 20 person boat.

Titanium has been together for a few years and was very successful in the World Club Crew Championships in Australia in 2016.

Titanium consists of: Jaye Barbour, Anne Charlton, Maureen Spencer, Linda Dickey, Connie Thompson, Anne Vanderlaan, Sharlene Brunjes, Suzanne Waddell, Manuela Novello, Gwen Simpson (captain), Joyce May (steersperson), Susie Tuttle (caller/drummer), Ben Lee (coach), and John Spencer (manager).

The Langley business community stepped up to help the Titanium women.

JD Farms Turkey paid for the members’ championship jerseys, Aldergrove Credit Union provided support, while Aldergrove Powerhouse Gym was the team’s official training facility.

“Powerhouse has generously given all team members free annual memberships and provided group strength and conditioning training for the past two years,” Brunjes said.

Fast & Furious

The FnF Lite DB10 team was formed with seasoned paddlers — but only three had ever experienced competition at an international level.

“There were many cold practices over the winter but the prospect of paddling in Puerto Rico was very exciting,” FnF Lite captain Joan Taylor said.

The winter storm that blew through the east on the Tuesday before the Pan Am event was a transportation challenge as some of the FnF Lite paddlers were stuck getting out of Vancouver and were the last arriving on Saturday afternoon.

Once together in Ponce, the team competed in Senior B, the largest division with eight teams, and fared very well.

The first medal FnF Lite won was the gold in the 500m with a come-from-behind win, making up a 2.7 second deficit. The team then took bronze in the long 2000m, a distance many of the team had never raced in competition.

Taylor said the team was “extremely pleased with the outcome,” which positions the paddlers well to reunite with the rest of the Fast and Furious team to compete at the Canadian National Club Crew Championships in Welland, Ont., later this year.

“Many thanks to our coach Ben Lee for his support and dedication to the team,” said Taylor, who also, on behalf of the team, thanked their sponsors PowerHouse Gym and Dr Glenn Chu.

The team consisted of: Alison McSeveney Goertzen, Karen Ciebian, Trish Beck, Susan Hay

Susan McCurdy, Gail Snarr, Lynda Matilda, Patricia Coates, Joan Taylor, Lorraine Winteringham, Janice Prato, Joanne Ironside, Ruth Eden, and Debbie Gillis.