Picture 20 paddlers in a 14 metre boat attacking the water in an adrenalin-charged sprint race… this is dragon boat racing.

Dragon boating originated out of the tormoil of China in the 4th century BC. Qu Yuan, a poet and statesman, threw himself into the river in protest against corrupt government. Fisherman raced in thier boats to save him but all was in vain. To commemorate this event boats were odorned in decorative dragon heads and tails and raced in his honour.

From its beginnings as a traditional Chinese festival, dragon boat racing has become one of the fastest growing sports in the world with top athletes from Europe, Asia, America and Australia fighting it out for the ultimate prize at the biennial World Championships.

Crews are drawn from and represent corporations, cultural clubs, schools, universities, lifesaving and kayak clubs, and dragon boat clubs such as Pacific Dragons. Participation is open to men and women of all expertise.

Races are predominantly sprints in nature with distances ranging from 200 to 2,000 metres. Crews made up of 20 paddlers, a sweep and drummer compete in 14 metre boats featuring the traditional brightly coloured dragon heads and tails.

After being introduced to Australia in 1982 dragon boating with over 1,400 participants attending a recent corporate event. One of the highlights, however, is the Chinese New Year Dragon Boat Festival attracting thousands of spectators and media exposure to Sydney’s Darling Harbour every year.

Sheer physical strength, aerobic fitness and great technique are not the only winning ingredients in a dragon boat crew. Teamwork is at the heart of dragon boating as crews must work together in perfect synchronisation to propel their vessel forcefully to the finish line. No other sport demands such unified and cooperative performance from such a large group of athletes.