As you may or may not know, and depending on which story you believe, the sport of dragon boat racing can directly trace its roots back to a real person who existed in China over 2,300 years ago. There are many versions of the story but the underlying belief is that Qu Yuan, an important minister in the Chu government, was a man of wisdom and was firm to his own beliefs. He was exiled by corrupt and jealous advisors to the king. In 278 BC, when his capital of Ying was captured by the state of Qin, he committed suicide by wading into the Milo River in the ultimate act of political protest. Now we don’t advocate suicide, but we realize that sometimes a well worded opinion piece will at least start discussion, and in some cases it may even result in change.
The Spirit of Qu Yuan lives today throughout the world and we respectfully pay homage to him by allowing for the publication of paddlers’ own firm beliefs.
Why do so many people feel that there is only one way to race dragon boats?
Sure, I understand about standardisation and appreciate the need for rules and regulations, but here’s the bottom line. As long as you have at least two dragon boats you can have a race. They don’t even need to match! The more the merrier but don’t get all hung up on having a huge festival with entertainment and food on a stick, just get out there and race! In some places the boats are used once a year and then sit unused for 11 months. To me this is pitiful. The boats should be loved and used and the dragons need to be fed with regular competition.
What is your organisation’s excuse?
Too much work… not enough people? It is great if you want to put in all the work and make the event special, but don’t let that stop you from just holding a race! Let’s review what you need to hold a successful race.
1. Water – it does not have to be a fancy race course, any body of water will do.
2. Boats – two dragon boats is enough for head to head competition
3. Teams – they don’t even need to be full teams! If one team is short, share paddlers and just get out there and have fun.
That’s it. The rest is just an excuse for making it more complicated. I know what you are thinking – no one will show up for just a race. There must be a sound system and a race course with buoys and tents and a matched set of dragon boats and we just can’t hold a race without food stores and entertainment, for what will we do between races?
Personally, I feel the best races are those where the paddlers are just having fun. It doesn’t even matter if you have two different brands of boats; a boat is a boat is a boat. Figure out a way to handicap them, like by weight and move on. What does matter is that you have a good time paddling, be it in practice or in competition. The sport is based on friendship, family and fun. Do not lose sight of the fun side of the sport.