Ornate and colourful dragon boats are not exactly a familiar sight on the calm waters of Lough Lannagh.
However, a group of women who share the common bond of surviving cancer, are hoping to make the Castlebar lake a vibrant hub for the ancient Chinese sport.
So far 56 women from across the county have signed up for the west of Ireland’s first dragon boat racing team in Mayo.
The novel initiative aims to get more women who have survived cancer involved in the sport because of the health benefits, particularly for women who have had breast cancer.
One of the organisers of the team, Louise Killeen, said women are at an increased risk of developing a condition called lymphoedema after breast cancer.
“It can be painful and it can lead to a swelling of the arm, which a lot of women are very conscious about,” she explained.
“The gentle paddling motion involved in dragon boat racing can help to prevent lymphoedema.”
There are some 150 dragon boat teams for women cancer survivors around the world.
The Mayo womens dragon boat team is hosting an event at Lough Lannagh on May 30 from 10am to 1.30pm to showcase the boats and the associated health benefits.
The event is sponsored by the Irish Dragon Boat Association, supported by Europa Donna Ireland and the Coca Cola Thank You fund.
The new team is open to any woman in Mayo who has had a cancer diagnosis, said Ms Killeen.
“In Castlebar we have a fantastic facility at Lough Lannagh, which would be ideal for training on, and also at a later stage, running our own regattas, bringing all other teams to Castlebar,” she added.
Ms Killeen said she believes Lough Lannagh could become a hub for dragon boat racers from all walks of life.
“There are teams other than cancer teams in Ireland, so with the exposure on Lough Lannagh to the public, it might give other groups of people the incentive to set up their own team,” she said.
Anyone interested in getting involved or going along to the event on May 30 can contact Louise Killeen on (087 ) 2250704 for further information.