We practice hard to learn our craft so that we can race against other teams. The racing makes all the hard work and time put into the practices and in the gym all worth the effort. There is nothing better than the nervous excitement and the anticipation you feel while sitting at the starting line waiting for the the race to begin. The adrenaline rush that flows through your body when you here the starting horn is like nothing else in the world.
The sport of dragon boat racing is one of the fastest growing water sports in the world. You will find teams from all over the planet that race at events located all over the planet. Though it may be cool to travel to some exotic location to race, most racing is done locally.
A large number of great events are located within BC and Washington State to the south. Some of the best racing is within a 3 hour drive from Chilliwack. Vancouver, Victoria, Nanaimo, Penticton and Harrison Hot Springs are among the larger events hosted yearly. Vernon, Salmon Arm, Kamloops, Inlet Springs and Steveston are also great locations.
The team will usually decide on which regattas to attend during the yearly AGM held 4 to 6 weeks before the start of the season. Each team member will have an input into which events they may or may not be available for. The team will then decide based on numbers.
About The Races
The standard racing distance at most regattas is 500 meters. The average time for a race is usually between 2 to 2.5 minutes. Stronger teams are able to complete the course quicker compared to a novice team. Though the 500m race is the standard there are other venues that will offer up a shorter course (200m sprinters) or maybe a longer course (like 1000m or 2000m). Course length and equipment used will be outlined at every event before hand.
All of the larger regattas and most of the smaller events will offer 4 races per event for each team. These 4 races could be in a single day (Harrison Regatta) or spread out over two days (Victoria, Vancouver, Penticton). The results from the first two races will place your team into a division of similar quality teams. The 3rd race will place your team into the medal round or the consolation round and the 4th race is the final. Medals for the top 3 teams in the medal round and ribbons or other consolation prizes for the top 3 teams in the consolation round.
Get in the Boat
There is 7 stages to each dragon boat race. They consist of:
The Pre Race Warmup. The boat captain or designate responsible for your warm up with gather the team and start a series of warmup exercises created to warm the body, loosen the joints and get the blood pumping in the boat. Once the warm up is over (or at times during the warmup) your coach will go over the team line up, race strategies and any last minute words of wisdom. Your captain will assign you a place to sit in the boat and a partner to sit with well before each race.
Pre-Marshall/Marshalling. After the warmup is complete the paddlers will get their equipment and make their way to the marshalling. Some regattas may offer a pre-marshalling area to help move the races along. Once in the marshalling area the team will line up in the same order that they are assigned in the boat. Depending how the boats are to be loaded will depict whether you board back to front or in from the side.
Loading The Boat. The marshalling director will give each team the OK to move from the marshalling area to the boat. Once at the boat loading crew will help the paddlers get into the boat. Once in the boat take it upon yourself to move your body close to the gunnel and help your partner if needed. Please keep talking to a minimum and listen to your caller for direction.
Paddle To The Start Line. Keep chatter to a minimum. Listen to your caller for directions. The boat will move away from the loading area and the team will begin to paddle to the start line. Your caller may stop the boat at anytime on the way out to check on paddlers, the check boat balance and to instruct paddlers on the upcoming raise.
At The Start Line. Once the boat arrives at the start line your steers person will be paying attention to the on-water marshalling director. The director will be issuing orders to different teams based on what the director needs from the team to have the line up alone the start line. Heavy winds and water currents can make it difficult for the steers to keep the boat straight. Please pay close attention to what the steers needs from you all and perform what is needed when it is needed. Now get ready to race.
Finish Line. The team has crossed the finish line and the race is over and you have given all you had. The steers will give you a moment to catch your breath and yell out a cheer for yourselves and the other teams if time permits. The steers will then be instructed to bring the boat back to shore. Pay close attention the the steers at this point. All hands are need to make sure the boat gets to shore without hitting other teams or other obstacles. Paddlers will then be instructed on how to get out of the boat. Do so and them make your way back to the designated meeting area for a debrief.
Debriefing. Once the team is back on land and back to the debriefing area the coach will usually ask how the race went. The steers and caller will usually have the best insight and will say a few words about how they saw the race. All paddlers will have a few minutes to talk and express their experience with the race. The coach will then go over what was said and talk about the placement, the race time and when the next race is. The coach may also talk with individual paddlers after the briefing and or adjust the roster if needed.
On Race Day
They say that the early bird gets the worm. Well the same can be said about parking spaces. The earlier you get to the regatta, the better and the closer the parking space. This can be important if you are bringing a large amount of stuff to the event. Those that are responsible for bringing the tents, paddler holders, chairs, etc will want to be able to park as close as possible to the event. Those that just show up to paddle can arrive a bit later. Always check with your coach to make sure what time they want you onsite.
What To Bring
What you bring to the regatta will depend on the location of the regatta, the weather and the regatta itself. Some events are centered around a city, town or village where there is easy access to all the amenities. Other events may be isolated with limited access to creature comforts. Most events will have washrooms and food onsite.
Make sure to pack all your equipment including life jacket, paddle, gloves and butt pad. The regattas will supply life jackets and paddles but the quality and feel of event equipment is usually quite generic and heavy.
Don’t forget to pack food and drinks for the day. Keeping your energy up will require that you fuel the body regularly and you keep your liquid levels topped up. Pack clothing that is weather dependent. A change of cloths is also recommended. Oh and a folding chair of some sort is a necessity.
If you have questions about what to bring you can ask the boat captain or your coach. They will be able to answer anything that you toss at them (mostly).