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Popular Dragon Boat races draw crowds, volunteers to Bell Park

By: Sudbury Northern Life Staff

 | Jul 13, 2014 - 2:57 PM |
More than 50 teams – each with 22 rowers – took part in daylong races Saturday morning and afternoon at Bell Park. Now in its 15th year, the Sudbury Dragon Boat Festival has raised $1.4 million for local charities over the years. Darren MacDonald photo.

More than 50 teams – each with 22 rowers – took part in daylong races Saturday morning and afternoon at Bell Park. Now in its 15th year, the Sudbury Dragon Boat Festival has raised $1.4 million for local charities over the years. Darren MacDonald photo.

Unique festival a cultural, sporting and fundraising event

The 15th edition of the Sudbury Dragon Boat Festival was as popular as ever Saturday, with hundreds of Sudburians turning out at Bell Park to watch more than 50 teams race on Ramsey Lake.

When times from three races were combined, the fastest overall team was the Old Chiro Dragons, whose average time clocked in at 02:02, followed by a three-way tie between SCC Phoenix, Rio and Dragon R Oars, which each averaged a time of 02:11. Each team includes 22 people, led by a drummer who keeps the rowers in sync.


The sport is based on an ancient Chinese legend of Qu Yuan, a poet and statesman who tied himself to a rock to protest an impending military invasion. Legend has it that residents rushed to their fishing boats to try – in vain – to save Qu. The event has been commemorated in China for generations.

“Today, dragon boat racing is a global sport,” according to background information on the Sudbury Dragon Boat website. “People all over the world are embracing the sport like never before. Dragon boat regattas now attract a wide range of recreational and competitive teams which represent clubs, communities, corporations, and nations.

“There’s even a movement to have dragon boat racing become an Olympic sport.”

In Sudbury, the race has become not only a popular cultural and sporting event, it is an important fundraiser for local charities. Not including this year, the festival has raised more than $1.4 million for such charities as the Sudbury Regional Hospital Foundation, Alzheimer Society Sudbury-Manitoulin, Multiple Sclerosis Society, Independent Living Sudbury Manitoulin, the Sudbury Food Bank and Meals on Wheels Sudbury.

For the second year in a row, the races in 2014 will raise money for the Northern Water Sports Centre. The goal this year was $100,000, compared to the $70,000 raised last year. The final total for this year was not yet available Sunday.

The $4.2-million centre is being built on Ramsey Lake. It's expected to be ready for next year's rowing and canoeing season, and will offer 50 per cent more space than the boathouse currently being used by the Sudbury rowing and canoe clubs.

“That building is going to allow us to expand the programs, improve the programs and diversify the programs that the partner clubs are offering,” Thomas Merritt, the Northern Water Sports Centre's chair, told Northern Life recently.

In addition to fundraising, the event also promotes physical fitness. Organizers estimate that since the event began, “127,102 hours of physical exercise have been put in by our paddlers.” The festival also relies on help from about 125 volunteers each year.

Paddlers raise pledge money as part of their participation in the races. All funds raised by the paddlers go to that year's beneficiary. In addition to a top overall winner, teams are also broken down into categories.

The Old Chiro Dragons took top spot in the community category. Other winners included Dragon R Oars (mining), FCR Sinking Fund (financial services), Arms of Steel (industrial), JLR Jets (corporate), Tutor Doctor Brain Waves (education), CTV Blazing Paddles (media), Northern Water Sports Centre (charity), Red Hot Chili (youth), Fear.Less (survivors), Lowes Red Vested Dragons (retail), Optimum Health Centre (health services) and Y's Guys (mayor's challenge.) Detailed results are available at http://sudburydragonboats.com/

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