The Sandy Smith Global Race is an important tradition at International Breast Cancer Paddlers’ Commission (IBCPC) Participatory Festivals. Here is the story of how it came into being.
Sandy Smith was a major reason many of us from around the world were at the first of the Participatory Festivals in Vancouver, Canada in 2005, in Caloundra, Australia in 2007, Peterborough, Canada in 2010, and Sarasota, Florida, USA in 2014.
Sandy joined Abreast In A Boat in Vancouver, where breast cancer dragon boat paddling began in 1996, in its second year, 1997. By then there were five such teams—all in Canada. Sandy was the first person on the AIAB Board to hold the position of Global Liaison. In this role, she became the contact person for other women wanting to start their own breast cancer dragon boat team. It was a role she fell into by accident, one that became her passion and eventually almost a full time job. If she got so much as a hint that someone might be interested in starting a team she would pursue that lead; for example, the first breast cancer team in England began paddling in April 2005 as a direct result of Sandy introducing a British paddler she had met in Philadelphia in 2001 to a British coach she met in Singapore in 2003! Similarly, teams in Australia, New Zealand, the United States, Singapore and other parts of Canada benefited from her unstinting efforts. She would be thrilled to know that in 2013 there are now more than 150 breast cancer dragon boat teams in the following additional countries – Ireland, Italy, South Africa, Hong Kong, Malaysia, France, Israel and Turkey.
Sandy passed away in February 2005. For several years, she quietly and bravely fought her recurrence and continued her Global Liaison work as long as her health permitted. She was a woman of incredible courage, perseverance and conviction. When she spoke it was from the heart and she was the most beautiful paddler.
Lauren Keating (Smith)
To recognize the worldwide nature of breast cancer dragon boat paddling and to acknowledge and honour Sandy’s contribution, the last race of IBCPC festivals will be The Sandy Smith Global Race. Representatives from each of the participating teams from around the world will paddle together in this race as they did in Vancouver, Caloundra, Peterborough and Florida. It is a sight to see; all the teams in mixed crews paddling as one – a truly international gathering. This will always be a highlight of the festival and a fond memory for paddlers, supporters and spectators. Sandy’s legacy lives on.