Extract taken from: “Team Captain” – dragon-boat.blogspot.com
Like I discussed earlier, dragon boat is a team sport, where costs are incurred as a team. No matter if you have 12 people or 30 people on your dragon boat team, it’ll still cost the same amount of money to book your practice, hire your steersperson, or enter your race. The only “individually-incurred” costs are for personal things like life jackets, paddles, or team shirts.
So how do you budget for all of these things? I will review the biggest items on our team’s budget this year and go over how much you should expect to pay and what you should expect to get.
Well, the biggest cost, by far is entry fees for festivals. Entry fees range from $700 to $1500. Usually the small, newer races will be cheaper, and the older, more established races are more expensive. By “small”, I mean anything from about 30 to 70 teams. These are usually one-day festivals, and are under 5 years old. The “large” festivals are the 100 plus teams and span two days. The GWN Challenge, for example, has 180 teams competing annually and is currently in its 13th year.
When looking at your race fees, you should consider what your team wants out of the racing experience before deciding what your budget for races should be. When considering a festival, find out how many races you get at the festival, if your team can do a one day festival or would like two days, and how far the festival is from where you live or practice. Find out how many free or discounted practices you get included with your race entry. With Oakville, you get two free practices. At GWN, you get 50% off your first two practice but no freebies at all.
And finally consider what kind of “experience” you want your team to have. I think that the bigger races are great for a first-time competing team. There is a lot of hype at a big race, with 1,000s of paddlers, spectators, and action happening. It’s definitely a fun way to celebrate the end-of-season and get your team feeling excited. Plus the money is worth it in the way the festival is organized and presented to you. (Read my reviews of past races by clicking older links on the right hand side).
The second biggest item on the budget is practice fees. This year, the total came to $727.31 for 7 practices at Sunnyside beach in Toronto. That’s just over $100/practice after taxes, but breaks down to $65 for the one-hour boat rental (which includes paddles and life jackets for everyone) plus $33 per hour for a steersperson. Mind you, if we had a teammate who could steer for us, then we would’ve saved over $200. And in my Vancouver days, we didn’t even have the option of hiring a steersperson—we had to learn how to do it on our own!
Anyway, a brand new team can get away with 4 practices and still perform decently on race day although an ideal number would be 6 total practices. When you’re budgeting for your race entry fees, and find a race that includes 2 free (or discounted) practices in the fees, then that’s great because it will help you save on your practice budget.
These top two expenses are actually all you need to commit to for a proper dragon boat season. At the cheapest, four practices and a small race would only be about $900. Not too bad if you split it amongst 22 members.
But to look like a REAL team, your team needs to get team uniforms. You’ll notice at the festivals that some teams go all out, dressing head-to-toe in coordinated outfits. It’s rare to not have a team uniform, so you should get, at the very least, a printed t-shirt. These days, silk-screened shirts are pretty cheap, and can probably be found for $15-$20 each. Our dry-wicking, athletic shirts cost $25 each, with print on both front and back of the shirt. Not bad at all, and we added the cost of the shirt into the membership fees at the beginning of the year so we would have money up front.
So overall, with careful budgeting and early planning, you can do a lot with a little. And with some fundraising or sponsorship support, you can charge your members less, enter a couple extra races, or get decked out in a really fancy dragon boating outfit!