Dragon Boat Racing has its roots in competitive racing between villages in China more than 2000 years ago. It has re-emerged in modern times as an amateur international sport.
Dragon Boats are long elaborately decorated canoes with a dragon’s head and tail attached. There are wooden benches for the crew, a drummer at the bow and someone steering at the stern.
The Rotary Club of Bristol Breakfast started a Dragon Boat Festival in Bristol Docks in 2001 using professional event organisers ‘Gable Events’ who are the largest dragon boat event organisers in the UK.
Six 40 foot dragon boats are used with decorative dragon heads and tails. Each boat accommodates 12 to 16 paddlers plus a drummer to beat the stroke and a helm (the helm is provided by Gable Events). Up to 36 teams take part in a full day’s racing.
Heats with 3 boats at a time compete to establish the 6 teams with the fastest times who then compete in the semi-finals and final. Every team races 3 heats and their two fastest times will count. The race distance is about 200 metres.
Gable Events provide the boats, paddles, buoyancy vests, qualified race officials, helmsmen and instruction on racing and safety. They call teams and announce results on a PA system and regularly update a display board to show how teams are doing against each other. All this results in a very competitive and fun day.
No previous experience is necessary and the event is open to all subject to a minimum age of 16 and being able to swim 50 yards in light clothing.
Team Captains will be provided with detailed instructions to cover all aspects of racing and safety and will be issued with a programme and racing timetable before the day. Teams need to arrive in plenty of time before they are due to race.
Heats start at 10am and the final takes place about 5pm. After the final, prizes are awarded to the winners and the team with the best fancy dress.