Suir Dragon Paddlers helps breast cancer survivors

The Suir Dragon Paddlers rowing their boat back to Clonmel Rowing Club last Friday where it was officially named, the Lady Catherine, and blessed.
A group of breast cancer survivors, who have formed a rowing group in Clonmel, will compete in an international regatta in Dublin next month.

A group of breast cancer survivors, who have formed a rowing group in Clonmel, will compete in an international regatta in Dublin next month.

The Suir Dragon Paddlers are busy training for the Dubin Dragonboat Regatta at Grand Canal Dock on Saturday and Sunday, September 14 and 15 that will feature teams from China, Italy and New Zealand.

It will be the second major competitive challenge for the group since they took up their oars for the first time in the spring. Their first was a regatta in Carlow earlier this summer.

The rowing group was set up by cancer surgeon Tino Castineira, who is based at Waterford Regional Hospital.

It comprises about 28 women ranging in ages from 40s to 60s who have survived breast cancer. Most are rowers on the dragon boat that requires between 26 and 28 on the oars. The boat is steered by a helmsman and there is also a drummer who keeps the rowers in rhythm.

They have taken on this new challenge to improve their fitness but also as a social outlet to meet with others who have gone through the same battle with their health.

Elaine Van Der Wal, one of the Suir Dragon Paddlers, said she didn’t even like the water before joining the group but decided to give it a go and is delighted she did.

“I absolutely love it. You have little chats on the boat with the women. We have great fun and I have made great friends.”

Elaine paid tribute to Tino Castineira, who coaches them; physiotherapist Roisin Kiely, who helped prepare them for their new sport; and Clonmel Rowing Club’s Paul Kelly, who trained members as helmsmen.

The Suir Dragon Paddlers had a big celebration at Clonmel Rowing Club on Friday, August 16 when their dragon boat was officially blessed and named The Lady Catherine.

A large crowd turned up to watch the women row the boat upriver to Sandy Banks and back. It was then blessed by Fr. Billy Meehan, PP of St Mary’s Parish and given a Chinese blessing.

The boat is named after the benefactor who kindly donated the money for the vessel. The group are deeply grateful to her.