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Butts in a Boat dragon boat team takes on tugboat simulators

Butts in a Boat was founded in 2016 as a way to improve the physical and mental health of men diagnosed with prostate cancer

A cancer diagnosis doesn’t have to mean a death sentence, but if you ask Richard Wassersug, a North Vancouver man, it could even give you a new lease on life.

Wassersug, an honorary professor of physiological sciences at the University of British Columbia, founded the dragon boat team Butts In A Boat in 2016 as a means to improve the mental and physical health of men diagnosed with prostate cancer, and to raise awareness for the most common forms of prostate cancer. diagnosed cancer among Canadian men. Wassersug itself was first diagnosed more than 25 years ago.

Over the course of the past eight years, the team has practiced twice a week throughout the spring and summer, competed in a handful of regattas each season, and competed in adventure-focused events.

On Sunday, the crew of Butts in a Boat entered uncharted territory and traded in their traditional dragon boat for a new kind of ship. From the comfort of the British Columbia Institute of Technology’s maritime campus in North Vancouver, the 15 members tried their hand at tugboat sailing through the virtual tugboat experience.

The simulators combine large wraparound screens with all the controls and instruments of a real ocean-going vessel. The screens displaying interactive images of Vancouver Harbor allow aspiring boaters to navigate local waters just as they would in real life.

“The complexity was fascinating,” Wassersug said. “You can have multiple boats in the harbor at the same time that can interact with each other, so you have to worry about your fellow students, and they can do things like an iceberg popping up in the harbor, which you would have to do as a workaround.”

Wassersug said it is difficult to imagine two ocean-going vessels that are more different from each other than a dragon boat and a tugboat, which is why the experience was a new and unique learning experience for many members of the team.

“A tugboat can go in any direction, while with a dragon boat you need a lot of space to turn around. They’re so long and thin that they need a really big radius to make a turn, and all you have is a paddle, instead of all these instruments,” he said.

The experience was fun and adventurous for the team, Wassersug said, which is a requirement for all Butts In A Boat activities.

Dragon boat riding was a journey that began for the team eight years ago, when Butts in a Boat was created in response to the increasing use of the sport by breast cancer survivors. The very first dragon boat team, Abreast In A Boat, was founded in 1996 as a registered charity to demonstrate that those diagnosed with breast cancer can live full, active and healthy lives.

Now there are more than 100 breast cancer teams worldwide, while Butts in a Boat remains the only prostate cancer team in the world to compete regularly in regattas.

“Our mission is to help men with prostate cancer stay fit, accept that this is their situation and show them that they can continue to live,” Wassersug said.

Mina Kerr-Lazenby is an Indigenous and civic affairs reporter for North Shore News. This reporting is made possible by the Local Journalism Initiative.

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