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Ice Dragon Boat Festival races in Ottawa cancelled due to warm weather

Organizers of the Ice Dragon Boat Festival say the annual races on the Rideau Canal Skateway have been cancelled for the second year in a row due to high temperatures.

The event was scheduled to take place on the Rideau Canal Skateway at Dow’s Lake this Friday and Saturday, but the ice condition is too poor to hold it.

“This heartbreaking news comes as the festival was set to host the 2nd IIDBF World Club Crew Ice Dragon Boat Championships with competitors from Pakistan, Netherlands, United States and Canada,” organizers said in a news release on Monday.

“The races were scheduled to welcome over 1,600 participants representing 80 teams, with 65 per cent of participants traveling to Ottawa from around the world. These outdoor enthusiasts were set to brave the cold and travel an average distance of 440 km to Ottawa, for a total combined distance of 270,013 km, for this truly unique Canadian winter sport experience.”

A 1.9-km section of the 7.8-km Rideau Canal Skateway was open from Jan. 21 to Jan. 24. It was closed the night of Jan. 24 due to a coming freezing rain event and has not reopened since. Environment Canada’s weather forecast for Friday and Saturday call for temperatures of 4 to 5 C, roughly 10 degrees warmer than average for this time of year.

“The Skateway will reopen to the public when a sufficient thickness of good quality ice has formed. Once the Skateway surface freezes to a minimum thickness, the maintenance crew starts removing snow and/or flooding the surface to speed up and maximize further ice formation,” the National Capital Commission said in a statement to CTV News Ottawa last week.

The Ice Dragon Boat Festival was cancelled in 2023 because the Skateway did not open at all that year.

“In spite of the best efforts of the team at the National Capital Commission, Mother Nature has other plans as the unseasonably warm weather has once again forced the event’s cancellation,” organizers said.

There were efforts to hold the races at an alternate location or reschedule them, but organizers said that the unique size requirements of the race course combined with the weather forecast made it impossible to continue.

“So many people put there hearts and souls into it, including the Ottawa Dragon Boat Festival staff,” said Ottawa resident Richard Martin in reaction.

Martin has been participating with his team the “Chinatown Showboats” for the last few years. 

 “It’s a let down, but the question is how do we evolve to more mild winters more and more these days?” 

Participants who registered for the BeaverTails Ottawa Ice Dragon Boat Festival races will receive a full refund. 

The festival’s free indoor concert series “Live @ The Rainbow” presented by Scotiabank, which began with capacity crowds and spectacular performances by Aysanabee, JJ Wilde and OMBIGIIZI, will continue throughout the 46th Annual Winterlude, organizers said, with performances still to come from Born Ruffians, Dizzy, Elliot BROOD, Sloan’s Chris Murphy, Joel Plaskett and more.

The Foundation will continue its ODBF Shiver ‘N Giver Fundraising Drive in support of local partner charities, Lotus Centre for Special Music Education, Ottawa Therapy Dogs, and Tim Hortons Foundation Camps (Camp des Voyageurs). Donations can be made in support of the organization’s charitable efforts at ODBF.CA.

–With files from CTV News Ottawa’s Jackie Perez.

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