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Sunday, Jan. 20, 2019
Yet another trip to Welland for Sprint Kayak crew
by Randy Pascal

It’s the second of three August weekend treks to Welland for the Sudbury Canoe Club (SCC) Sprint Kayak team this Saturday, and coach Dan Welch is excited.

“I want to see the kids progress, I don’t want to see them fall back from where they’ve been, I want to see them improve,” stated Welch, preparing to travel with seven local youngsters competing in the U13/U15 Western Ontario Divisional Championship.

“I look for technique,” he continued. “This is a late age development sport. You have to be a little older to do really well.” In that sense, there remains a great deal of growth potential in the young Sudbury crew that includes Ben Pilon, Abbey Krawczuk, Evan Volpini, Emily Dodge, Paris Macey, Justin Burke and Joël Lachapelle.

“I’ve been paddling for the past five or six years, but started with the sprint team just a couple of months ago,” said Lachapelle, who travels from his home on the far side of Lake Ramsey, by motor-boat, to the six or seven weekly practices of the SCC paddlers.

“I came to the "Grand Opening" for the Northern Water Sport Center and wanted to join something here for the summer. Dan (Welch) let me come to a few practices to see if I liked it, and I did.” Since then, the 15 year-old has built on a solid base borne of steady summer access to the water, mixed in with an introduction to the Canoe Kids program in years gone by.

“The boat that I started in, this year, was the slowest boat, but less tippy,” explained Lachapelle. “The tippier it is, the faster it will go, because of the hull.” Very gradually, Lachapelle has seen his technique improve, as he expanded his kayak knowledge from rudimentary paddling skills, to beginning to feel more and more comfortable in a race setting.

“You need to keep your hands up, keep your arms up,” he said. “If you let them drop, you work more. Even though it seems easier, you will get tired faster. My back is definitely straighter, and I’ve moved up quite a few boats lately.”

This weekend represents the third regatta already for Lachapelle, having competed in North Bay in June, and joining the SCC senior paddlers last weekend in Welland. Still, he is demonstrating patience as he looks to work his way up the ranks.

“Since it’s my first year, and there are people out there who are a lot bigger than me, I’m just trying to do my best, and not tip the boat. I like being in the middle of the pack.” Lachapelle will be competing in the K1 Division, but is also sharing a K2 entry with Sudbury teammate Justin Burke.

Also 15 years of age, the Valley East resident has been a regular with the local Canoe Club scene for the past few years. “My paddling technique is better, and I have more strength now, because I’m older,” noted Burke, comparing to an initial chat we enjoyed back in 2013.

“I’m keeping my hands up, and leaning around 45 degrees forward. I get more of a glide on the water.” He will take to the water this weekend in a dolphin K1, a craft he describes as “slightly tippy”. Simply staying afloat remains top of mind for Burke, even with a few years of sprint kayak competition already on his resumé.

“I’m just focusing on my rhythm of paddling,” he said. “I don’t want to go off rhythm and lose my balance. But I’ve gotten used to the dolphin boat. I used it last year.” Interestingly enough, the two young teenagers differ on their preference in terms of paddling solo, in tandem, or as part of a quartet.

“I like K1 (solo),” said Lachapelle. “You can go at the speed you want, you’re not depending on anyone else. If you lose, you lose alone, which kind of sucks. But I’m definitely more comfortable just on my own.”

“With K2 and K4, you get to work with other people, and meet new people,” countered Burke. “If you’re in front, you try and keep up the stroke rate. If you’re behind the person in front, you focus on putting power in the stroke, and keeping the same pace as the person in front.”

In either case, coach Welch is overjoyed with the improvement he is witnessing. “I’ve seen these kids go from beginner boats, to probably level three or four boats (there are five levels in all),” said Welch. “They have really progressed up, in terms of their abilities.”

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