Kapiti Women Survivors Take National Title

It is a dream come true, team captain Carolyn Stephens

Breast cancer survivors win dragon boat national championships

By Bette Cosgrove

Dragon Boat

Two Kapiti women have put in many hours of training and made the twice weekly journey to Wellington harbour for the past 6 months to train with the CanSurvive Wellington Dragon Boat team.

Their dedication has finally paid off as their team of 29 breast cancer survivors, put everything on the line to take the 2014 New Zealand Breast Cancer Champions title at the National Regatta held on Lake Hood, Ashburton.

Amber celebrates

Amber Bellamore, (above), in her 5th season of paddling, and Betsy Booth who has competed for the past 7 years, are both dedicated members of the Wellington team who have had this goal in their sights for the past eleven years, since the club was founded.

Amber described the feeling of elation at winning gold. It was just so exciting coming together with this team of women, because we worked so hard all season. It was a huge thrill to finally get that National Championship title and we danced all night to celebrate.

The national regatta on March 29 brought together the best of New Zealand’s high school and adult teams and was the highlight of the Dragon Boat season.

Plenty of medals

The CanSurvive women took the lead from the start of the final in the premier event, the 500m race, and kept control to win the gold medal. It was an emotional finish as they beat the reigning champions. The women also added silver medals to their haul in the 200m and 2000m races during the course of the regatta. Ranging in age from 42 to 72, they have all overcome breast cancer and treatment to now celebrate their survival by training hard in their dragon boat through all weather and conditions.

Hard work pays off under the new coach

CanSurvive celebrate

In the past twelve months the team, lead by new coach Jacob De Feijter made the commitment to step up their fitness regime and teamwork, including winter training on Wellington Harbour.

In this season’s regattas around New Zealand, CanSurvive has collected a number of silver medals; the focus however was always the National title.

  • We knew we had it in us, we just had to find that extra ‘second’ of effort at the finish said coach Jacob de Feijter who added that he could not be more proud of the crew.
  • It is a dream come true, said team captain Carolyn Stephens at the trophy ceremony where the team was given a standing ovation by the other 34 teams.

The Breast Cancer Survivors division is now a highlight of all national and international regattas.  The 500m final is followed by a moving flower ceremony on the water, to celebrate the lives of survivors and those lost to the disease.

Now on to the world event

As New Zealand champions, Amber and Betsy will now turn their focus onto the team’s goal to compete at the International 2014 International Breast Cancer Paddlers Commission (IBCPC) Dragon Boat Festival held at Sarasota, Florida in October this year, where over 2000 international paddlers will gather to compete. This event will test CanSurvive’s skills against their equals from around the world.

For this team the enormous sense of pride and achievement in winning the national title becomes a celebration of survival. The women and their supporters have been planning and fundraising to compete at this regatta for the past two years, and will continue training throughout winter to maintain their competitiveness.

They will juggle training with ongoing events and sponsorship drives to raise the $140,000 required to get the team to Florida.  Further sponsorship is very welcome for this unique team representing Wellington and New Zealand at the global event.

The benefits of dragon boating

Dragon boating offers multiple benefits in physical rehabilitation following disease and treatment, as well as huge camaraderie and support working as a team, which keeps the women focused on their well-being.

Heartiest congratulations from the KIN staff!


Oh! my beautiful sister Amber and the team I am so proud of you. Congratulations!!!!!! I think you guys are “SIMPLY THE BEST” and wish you all awesome health and another big win in Florida, YOU GIRLS CAN DO IT. and best wishes to your coach! Oh! my gosh I feel so proud you are all amazing. Love and best wishes to you all. Amber I love you my dear dear little sister.