About the Sport
Dragon boat racing is an amateur paddle team water sport. Its roots lie in ancient Chinese folklore with annual competitions of local villagers held in China for more than 20 centuries.
The Dragon Boat festival, or Duān Wǔ Jié, celebrated on the fifth day of the fifth month of the Chinese lunar calendar, is one of the oldest and most popular traditional Chinese festivals. This year, it fell on June 12.
Today, dragon boat racing can be great fun for anyone, young or old. It is among the fastest growing of team water sports, with scores of thousands of participants in various organizations and clubs in over 60 countries. The sport is recognized for the camaraderie, strength and endurance fostered among teams, and is a very popular corporate and charitable sporting event. Crew members may be of any level of fitness and quickly adapt to and develop a passion for this sport.
About the North Beach/Anne Arundel/Calvert County Event
The power behind our North Beach-based dragon boat teams comes from God-inspired community members who want to have fun and #givewhereyoulive to help End Hunger in Calvert County. Each team sponsoring a crew of about 20 will be racing on the Chesapeake Bay on Saturday, June 22 from 9 a.m. to
3 p.m. You can see our teams practicing their teak wood watercraft propelling and maneuvering skills evenings this week from Tuesday-Friday beginning at 6 p.m. at the beach. First efforts videoed by Robert Hahn, Chair of End Hunger in Calvert County, aptly display the need for practice and help us anticipate the fun to be had by all on Saturday, race day.
The Legend that First Inspired Dragon Boat Racing
The saga tells of a Chinese court official named Qu Yuan, (phoneticised as “Ch’u Yuen”) who lived in the pre-imperial “warring states period” 475-221 BC. We know this area today as central China. Back then, the area was divided into seven main states or kingdoms battling among themselves for supremacy at the conclusion of the Zhou (Chou) Dynasty, (China’s classical age during which Confucius lived).
Qu Yuan was a minister in Chu, one of the seven warring state governments. He was a champion of political loyalty and integrity and eager to maintain his state’s imperialistic autonomy over all others. As the legend goes, the other state ministers were jealous of Qu Yuan and successfully conspired to have him exiled.
In his exile, Qu Yuan was said to produce some of China’s greatest early poetry and literature that expressed his love and concern for his state and its future.
As the story goes, in the year 278 B.C., upon learning of impending devastation of his state by neighboring states, Qu Yuan waded into the Miluo river in today’s Hunan Province. There, he committed ritualistic suicide as a form of protest against the corruption of the era. The Qin or Chin kingdom eventually conquered all the states and unified them into the first Chinese empire. [The word China derives from this first dynasty of empire.)
The fishermen, upon learning of Qu Yuan’s suicide, raced in their boats to the middle of the river and tried desperately to save him. They beat drums and splashed the water with their paddles to keep the fish and evil spirits away from him. Later, they scattered rice into the water to prevent Qu Yuan from suffering hunger. Hence, this Saturday, our community’s first annual dragon boat event where we will be beating our drums and splashing our waters with paddles to help end hunger in Calvert County.
But, to conclude Qu Yuan’s legend, late one night his spirit appeared before his friends. He asked his friends to wrap their rice into three-cornered silk packages to ward off dragons. This has been a traditional food ever since known as “zongzi” or sticky rice wrapped in leaves. Since then, people have commemorated Qu Yuan through dragon boat races, eating zongzi and other foods, and participating in other festival activities on the anniversary of his death.
Today, Dragon Boat Racing is one of the fastest-growing international water sports in the world. For competition events, dragon boats are generally rigged with decorative Chinese dragon heads and tails. The decorative regalia are removed for training but a drum remains aboard for practice by drummers.
The World Championships of Dragon Boat Racing have been held annually in Hong Kong since 1976. In 1991, the International Dragon Boat Federation (IDBF) was formed in response to the explosive growth of the sport. Based in Hong Kong, the IDBF boasts over 100 member organizations in more than 60 countries. Since 1995, World Championship events have been awarded to Canada, China, New Zealand, England, Australia and the United States. A Commission was developed to oversee the standardization of equipment, rules and regulations.
Backed by a strong sprint canoeing background, North America emerged in a relatively short time as an international Dragon Boat Racing powerhouse, shaking the foundations of a sport that historically was dominated by Asian countries.
Abridged Chronology of Dragon Boat Festivals and Races
A festival race is typically a sprint event of several hundred meters, with 500 meters being a standard distance in many international festival races.
Orlando, Florida’s International Dragon Boat Festival was the first time for a dragon boat racing event (1998) to be held within a major world class amusement park property–Walt Disney World.
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania hosted the IDBF World Championships in 2001 and now sports over 150 teams. The championships and festival are held on the famous Schuylkill River rowing regatta course.
In 2005, the IDBF introduced a Corporate and Community World Championships (WCorcom) designed for crews that normally race in Festival Races and aimed at the ‘weekend warrior’ type of competitor.
In 2006 under the patronage of the IDBF, the 1st World Championships for Breast Cancer Survivors (BCS), – the ‘Pink Paddlers’ – were held in Singapore.
The 2006 Club Crew World Championships (CCWC,) took place at the Western Beaches Watercourse, in Toronto’s west end. Spectators and dragon boat fans came from across North America and the world. Over 2000 competitors took part in that event that generated over 2 million dollars Canadian for the local economy.
The Missouri River 340 (545 kilometers) is open to canoe, kayak and dragon boats. Team Beauties and Barnacles took third place overall in August 2010, setting the current Guinness World Record for longest distance travelled in a dragon boat with a time of 38 hours and 5 minutes.
A new Guinness World Record was created on December 30, 2011, for the Greatest Distance by Dragon Boat in 24 hours (relay) – 227 km–held by the Hong Kong Dragon Boat Association.
The biggest racing events among dragon boat festivals attract about 200 25-person crews or 5,000 participants.
Every year more states are getting involved with this sport. Most festivals feature different race categories, vendors and entertainment. You can be sure our Annual Dragon Boat Races to End Hunger Calvert County will be as exciting as the examples included in this article and will include vendors and entertainment, too. Help us make Calvert County’s event the first of many exciting dragon boat events to come.