A dragon boat (龙舟 chin. lóng zhōu or 龙船 lóng chuán) is an especially long, open canoe, originally from China. Mostly it represents a stylized Chinese dragon through painting and/or carving as well as a decorative dragon head and tail.
In 1970s Hong Kong Tourist Association decided to promote the country by organising the Dragon Boat Festivals, which a first festival held in 1976. The festivals gained impressive popularity and became the annually held events as Hong Kong International Races.
The clubs that took part in the HKIR members became a foundation of the International Dragon Boat Federation in 1991, European Dragon Boat Federation and Asian Dragon Boat Federation. These three Federations are now govern the Dragon Boating over 60 countries.
Nearly 50 million paddlers in China
Over 300,000 in the UK Europe, including Hungary, Poland and Russia
90,000 in Canada and the USA
The Dragon Boat
The new boats are made of plastic and are about 14 m long. At the bow a dragon head decorates the boat at the stern a dragon tail finishes to give the impression of a mystic creature.
The boat offers space for 20 paddlers in 10 rows of two. From the special drum the paddle stroke is amplified and helps paddlers to unite in single motion together with a boat.
The dragon boat is steered by a long rudder in the stern and plays a significant role not only in controlling the direction, but securing the balance. Races are mainly run over sprint distances (200/500/1000m).
But there are also long distance races 2000m, 9000m and more. Fast teams need less than 2 minutes for the king discipline 500m. In the racing area there are the categories open, women and mixed (at least 8 women).
Pairs of paddlers are sitting alongside the boat, and generally chose their stronger side (left or right) in the beginning of the training; during which paddlers swap sides sometimes stationery or also on a go, which is often useful during long timed races.
Paddlers use the special paddle, equipment unlike rowing it is not rigged to the boat. The IDBD (read more here) has set up the parameters for the size of the paddle -202a (PS202a, defining the shape- straight edges, circular shoulders, based geometrically on an equilateral triangle positioned between the blade face and the neck of the shaft, and the length.
Dragon boat paddlers do not row, but paddle. Fist pair of paddlers are called “pacers” or “timers” , that are setting the initial strokes, that are followed by the rest of a crew and the “pacers” responsibility to ensure stable strokes to synchronize all paddlers.
There are typically 20 paddlers on the boat, or 8 paddlers in a smaller boats; these include mixed, female or male only teams.
Steerer is an important crew member for controlling the direction of the boat, the steerer also called “sweep”, “steersperson”.
Steerer using the 9-feet in length equipment called “oar”, which is attached to the upside-down U-shaped oar lock, secured to the top of the steering arm perpendicularly on the left side of a boat.
Steerer either pulls or push the handle away /towards, which results boat going right or left respectively.
The drummer as a crew member, is synchronizing the of all paddlers strokes, especially for the “pacers” – where drummers must ensure their harmonization with “pacers” .
The drum beats resembles the “heartbeat” of a dragon, the drummer beats throughout all race the rhythm to indicate frequency of strokes – cadence, speeding up, slowing down). Drummer is located facing the “pacers” in the top of the boat.