Dragons On The Lake

Posted: September 4, 2019

Once you hear about dragon boat racing and become involved in this world of sport, community and fun, there is no turning back. There is much more to it than a great day on the water. There are different and interesting ways to experience the sport for both team members and spectators. From the moment you pick up a paddle, or see the colorful spectacle, you’ll love dragon boat racing! The Worcester Dragon Boat Festival has become a huge event in only three years, boasting 40 teams and a waiting list. Come see what the hype is all about in Worcester!

Traditional Hong Kong style dragon boats are 46-feet long, with 10 seats and 20 people. A seat in front holds a drummer. Most teams want the smallest, loudest, most rhythmic person drumming. A steerer guides the boat with a steering oar in back. These 22 people make up a dragon boat team.

With origins dating back 2,300 years, dragon boat racing is a fun, unique cultural event featuring adrenaline-pumping action. Teams rave about the excitement, friendly competition and community spirit surrounding the sport. All ages, skill levels and physiques perfect their stroke and timing for the ultimate teamwork experience!

Every paddler plays a specific role. They sit next to each other, and against the gunwale to balance the boat as they paddle. The strokers occupy the front three seats of the boat, while the fourth seat is a transition place where, ideally, the paddlers have rhythm and power. Then, seats four, five, and six consist of the “engine room,” where the largest and strongest team members sit. The last four rows of a dragon boat are filled with strong paddlers who are also typically shorter and able to paddle faster. Paddlers at this location in the dragon boat are considered “rockets,” because the water is moving faster to them, since the first fourteen seats are scooping back water. 

The paddlers are taught to observe the middle of the boat and two seats across. When that paddler has his or her paddle up in the air, ready to engage the water, it’s the cue for the person watching to get his or her paddle up, as well. Teams have to follow the strategy, and then execute: the team members in the front must paddle in perfect timing as an example for the back half of the boat. When the power from the middle is mixed with the speed and capabilities of the athletes in the back, a dragon boat can glide quickly through the water like a bullet while the crowd cheers. Fans who support their favorite team can be spotted on shore screaming and running alongside the 200 meter racecourse as they encourage a win.

Dragon boaters are passionate about this sport, as are their supporters. People love it: the thrill, the teamwork, the rush, the interaction in the boat, everything about it. People are drawn to this sport, and to each other in a festival like atmosphere with food vendors, performances, cultural activities and costumes. It exemplifies human connectivity on a level comparable to nothing else. What happens in a dragon boat, stays in the dragon boat. People who never thought of themselves as athletes can thrive in a dragon boat. People who are athletes discover a challenging alternative to general sports. Teams feel a connection to the racing. Everyone feels connected to the community, and to the experience.

40 teams from all abilities compete for Gold, Silver and Bronze medals, plus bragging rights, in several divisions. Fans and spectators of all ages are welcome to attend for free. The Worcester Dragon Boat festival is sponsored by Fallon Health, hosted by the Telegram & Gazette and supported by Worcester Railers, Coghlin Companies, Atlas Distributing, Greater Good Brewery, Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce, Discover Central MA and Fidelity Bank.

Come out and enjoy a date on Lake Quinsigamond at Regatta Point Park on September 21 from 8am – 4pm and cheer on the teams at the 3rd annual Worcester Dragon Boat festival.