The third annual Bellingham Regatta, hosted by the Bellingham Canoe and Kayak Sprint Team, took place Saturday, June 20 under clear skies and in near-perfect flat water conditions.
The BCKST team took home 15 first-place ribbons, 12 second-place ribbons and seven third-place ribbons.
Bellingham’s coach Dan Baharav was proud of his team as they competed in high spirits race after race.
“This is what it is all about, the teamwork,” Baharav said to a group of four boys who had just returned from their first kayak race together. “Very nice, good work.”
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Jenica Barrett, BCKST assistant coach and Western student, was running around all day making sure the racers were at the starting line when they needed to be and keeping score.
Nineteen BCKST team members competed in 29 of the 40 races held on Saturday. For eight of the children on Bellingham’s team, this was their first race, Barrett said.
“We (host this regatta) mostly for the kids under 10 years old because there are not many races in the Northwest for that age group,” Baharav said.
The racers were in a nearly constant rotation from 9 a.m. until after the final race was scheduled to finish at 5:30 p.m. Competition was separated by age, gender, boat and length of race. Single-person kayaks, two-person kayaks, four-person kayaks, as well as single, double and four-person canoes were laid on the grass, waiting to be launched. Volunteers in safety boats were on the water during every race, ready to help when a boat would flip over, which a few did.
Toward the end of the day, two BCKST racers flipped right before the finish line.
“It always amazes me how the kids are never deterred when they flip over,” Barrett said. “They just get back in and are ready to race again.”
When the boats flip, the ousted paddlers, called swimmers, are picked up by the safety crew and placed back in their righted boats to complete the race.
Five teams came to the regatta this year, from Gig Harbor, Seattle, Kenmore, Bellingham and Burnaby, British Columbia.
“Bellingham is becoming a strong team in the Northwest,” Baharav said.
Not all of the paddlers were children. This year BCKST has welcomed a new member who previously paddled with the Seattle Canoe and Kayak Club. Sandy Gilliard, a member of the United States Olympic Kayaking team that competed in Mexico City in 1968, enjoys living in Bellingham because the lakes and numerous paddling clubs make it the perfect place for her to continue practicing the sport she loves, she said.
“Dan is really good at being a coach and he is going to have some top competitors,” she said.
Michelle Huizenga has been volunteering with BCKST since the team was formed. Her son Tate Huizenga, now 10, began paddling when he was 8 years old.
“This has been great for his self esteem,” Huizenga said.
Tate recently completed the Barton Bantam Challenge at the silver level, paddling over 300 kilometers in six weeks. He completed the challenge alongside three other teammates, two of whom set national records, Elena Wolgamot and Sierra Noskoff.
Michelle is thankful for the team of parents and racers who have made being a part of BCKST and competing in the Bellingham Regatta such a positive experience for her and her son.
“This group of parents are amazing,” Michelle said. “They are so dedicated and Tate has learned so much from doing this alongside supportive older peers.”
This regatta was preparation for the USA National qualifier, which takes place from July 30 to August 3 in California. Six BCKST members will be going, Baharav said.