No experience or equipment is needed to join a team and you don’t have to be an athlete. The Machestic Dragons will supply all equipment needed and teach you how to paddle a dragon boat.
Below are some facts about dragon boat racing. Once you become part of a team, the captain will give you more information about how they run their team and handle practices.
What is a dragon boat?
It is a Chinese canoe about 40 feet long with 10 bench seats for 2 paddlers per seat (one paddling on the left and one paddling on the right). A full boat has 20 paddlers working together in synchronized paddling. A steerer/coach is in the back of the boat calling out the strokes while the paddlers are silent, listening and paddling. A drummer, sitting on an elevated seat in the front of the boat facing the paddlers, beats on a large drum to keep the paddlers in rhythm.
The boat is “fully dressed” with a dragon head on the front and a dragon tail on the back. Dragon boats have been around in China for over 2000 years and in the last 20 years the sport has gone
worldwide with new teams forming every season and even include youth and senior divisions.
What is a dragon boat race?
An event for people to get together and have some fun on the water, join in good natured competition and in the case of Paddle for Pink, raise funds to support breast cancer programs and research. Boats, Life jackets and paddles are provided, so participants don’t need to bring any special gear, although hats, sunglasses and sunscreen are recommended. A steerer/coach and drummer are provided if needed, so no special skills are required to form a team to compete.
Consistent with Chinese tradition, there will be an eye-dotting ceremony (paint a dot on the dragon head eyes) to “awaken the dragons” and bring good luck to the paddlers. Some races have teams that have been together for a few years and travel from other areas to participate. However, many participants/teams are newcomers, live relatively local and have formed a team just for this event. These groups are in the Community Team divisions and will compete against other community teams. Other divisions are the Breast Cancer Survivor (BCS) division and Club Team division.
What happens at a race?
Community Teams (those with 5 or fewer practices) may enter one of the community divisions (i.e. Open, Educators, Fitness Clubs, Women, etc.) to compete on a fair level in 250m races.
Club Teams (those who practice 5+ times a year) may enter as a mixed team of men and women if they have the minimum number of female paddlers to compete in 500m races.
Additional race divisions can be formed if there are at least 3 teams related to that division.
Your Team Captain attends the Team Captain meeting with the race coordinators at the beginning of the race day to get the details of their races along with important event and safety information. The Team Captain then holds a short team meeting and communicates the information and is responsible for getting the team to marshalling in the racing area before their heat/race. A race schedule will be determined and each Community Team will race in two or three 250m races during the festival.
BCS and Club Teams are a different division and compete in at least three 500m races.
A medal awards ceremony will take place at the end of the race day at the entertainment stage.
Teams usually bring a canopy tent, prepared food (no cooking allowed), non-alcoholic beverages, a table and chairs to “set up camp” where they relax, socialize and watch the races. All attendees are encouraged to check out the festival entertainment, silent auction, vendors and activities at the site.
Important tasks in the boat
The coach will be in the boat during practice to teach you the cadence of paddling; different strokes and strategy used in racing and instruct you on dragon boat water safety.
The steerer guides the boat during practice, but on race day will be your steerer/coach and give you the on water stroke commands for warm up and during the race.
The drummer sets the timing for the team and can be an excellent source of motivation and inspiration during practices and on race day. At the team’s first practice, the coach assigned to your practice will explain how to drum and keep the pace for the team.
The key positions in the boat are the paddlers who are “the engine” of the boat. Races are won often by the team that is best at keeping in sync with each other (meaning your paddle enters the water at the same time as the person in front of you) and not necessarily by the strongest team.
When you arrive at the practice site, a Machestic Dragon greeter will have you sign a waiver, get you fitted with a PFD (personal flotation device) and paddle, run a group warm up of stretching exercises, introduce you to the coach/steerer and set you with a paddler partner in the boat.