Archived Story

Are you up for a challenge?

Published 9:17am Friday, July 24, 2009

Teams are being sought for the annual Dragon Boat races which will be held during Riverfest 2009.

Boats will race simultaneously throughout the day, powered by a dozen or more crews rotating in races on Saturday, Aug. 8, from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

Spectators on shore in Riverfront Park may view the short two minute sprints over a 250 meter course.

The two Taiwan dragon boats used in the Niles Dragon Boat race are the first two Taiwan dragon boats in North America, and are named “Wu-Wen-Ta” and “Tourism.” They were originally handcrafted out of jasper wood and hand painted by dragon boat makers in Taipei, Taiwan. They were gifts to Mississippi River Adventures, Inc. (MiRA), used to initiate the first annual international dragon boat races in North America in 1988, held at Navy Pier in Chicago. The Taiwan style boat, with it’s large dragon head, is spectacular to watch.

Trained steersmen from Iowa and Illinois will steer each of the boats from the back of the boat as 18 paddlers provide the power, stroking to the beat of the drummer in the bow.

If you have questions, would like to sponsor a boat or enter a team, please contact Lisa Croteau, Niles DDA Main Street at (269) 687-4332 nilesmainstreet@nilesmainstreet.org.
Dragon Boat racing began in China more than 2,000 years ago. Legend has it that Qu Yuan, a Chinese poet and scholar in the fourth century BC, took such umbrage to the corruption within the Chu Dynasty he flung himself into the Mi Lo River. Qu Yuan was very beloved by the people, and local fisherman paddled furiously from shore to try to save him. To prevent his body from being eaten by the fish and to appease the river dragons, the fishermen scattered rice dumplings into the water. They couldn’t save Qu Yuan, but this attempt to save Qu Yuan is re-acted in the form of dragon boat racing every year.

Now more than 2,000 years later the sport of dragon boat racing has really taken off.

Dragon boat racing is one of the fastest growing water sports in the world.

A friendly, easy to learn activity that appeals to both young and old alike, dragon boating is a great team building and family sport. And it’s a sport open to men and women (mixed crews required) over the age of 14 and any level of ability.

A ‘crew’ consists of 18 paddlers, a drummer, and a trained steer-person (provided). Teams race along a straight course in an assigned lane of approximately 250 meters with an average time of under two minutes.

The object is to have all 18 paddlers working together at top speed with well-timed strokes of the blade hitting the water as horizontally as possible.  The goal is to generate enough speed to cause the boat to rise high and smooth above the water by a cresting wave beneath the bow. The benefits of racing will become immediately apparent; from the health perspective to the camaraderie and spirit the sport Invokes.

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