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Self-Improvement & Hobbies

Enter the dragon

Get into the team spirit of dragon boat racing
CATS Classified In The Straits Times - April 21, 2011
By: Goh Mei Yi
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Enter the dragon

Dragon boats are usually associated with rice dumplings, but dragon boat racing itself is not a leisurely pursuit for couch potatoes. Dragon boat racing is a flat-water, sprint paddling team sport. It has gained popularity in Singapore as a team-building and recreational exercise.

Dragon boat races are traditionally part of the annual Duanwu, or Double Fifth Festival observance in China, celebrated on the fifth day of the fifth month of the Chinese lunar calendar.

Closely tied to the festival is the legend of Qu Yuan, a patriotic Chinese court official and poet in the state of Chu who was sent into exile by his corrupt ruler. When Qu Yuan learned that his home state was defeated, he was so distraught that he drowned himself.

On learning the news, the common folk rushed out in their boats to look for his body, making loud noises to scare away river creatures while throwing rice dumplings to deter fish from eating his body.

Traditional wooden dragon boats come in different designs and sizes, but as dragon boat racing developed into a “modern” sport, the International Dragon Boat Federation decided to standardise the specification of the boat and paddle for use in competition.

The standard boat is around 10 to 12 metres in length and designed for a crew of 22 people – 20 paddlers sitting side-by-side, one drummer in the front facing the paddlers and one sweep or steersman at the back.

The drummer controls the stroke pace while the steersman navigates the boat. The lead rowers, together with the drummer, will set the pace for the rest of the team. All other rowers synchronise their strokes to the rowers in front of them and to the pulse of the drum beat.

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