In 2000, Riverfront Recapture held its 1st Dragon Boat Festival and attracted over 30 local teams to compete in a 1-day community-based competition. Over the years the competition has grown and the festival has developed into a culturally rich and vibrant event that showcases the Asian community that thrives in the Hartford region.
Now after 13 years, the downtown Hartford riverfront is widely recognized as one of the premier dragon boat venues in the country. We produce a very well-run competition accompanied by a high quality, action packed festival. If you haven't been to Hartford lately, you will be pleasantly surprised. Hartford has become a desirable vacation destination with great restaurants, clubs, accommodations, entertainment, history, art and theater venues, and natural beauty. We invite your team to what will surely be the best dragon boat event of your season - The Riverfront Dragon Boat & Asian Festival on August 17th & 18th.
The standard crew complement of a contemporary dragon boat is around 22, comprising 20 paddlers in pairs facing toward the bow of the boat, 1 drummer or caller at the bow facing toward the paddlers, and 1 steersperson at the rear of the boat.
The pulsation of the drum beats produced by the drummer may be considered the "heartbeat" of the dragon boat. The drummer leads the paddlers throughout a race using the rhythmic drum beat to indicate the frequency and synchronicity of all the paddlers' strokes (that is, the cadence, picking up or accelerating the pace, slowing the rate, etc.) The drummer may issue commands to the crew through a combination of hand signals and voice calls, and also generally exhorts the crew to perform at their peak. A drummer is mandatory during racing events, but if he or she is not present during training, it is typical for the sweep to direct the crew. The drummer's role is both tactical and ceremonial, unlike that of a coxswain of a rowing shell such as an 'eight'. Whereas paddlers face forward and the drummer backwards, it is reversed in rowing shells where all the rowers face backwards with the coxswain the only one in the boat facing forward and able to view the straight ahead course of the craft as it makes its way down the regatta course lane towards the finish line.
Good drummers should be able to synchronize the drumming cadence with the strokes of the leading pair of paddlers, rather than the other way around. As a tail wind, head wind or cross wind, may affect the amount of power needed to move the boat at hull speed throughout a race, a caller should also be aware of the relative position of the dragon boat to other boats, and to the finish line, in order to correctly issue commands to the crew as to when to best surge ahead, when to hold steady and when to peak for the finish. An expert level caller will be able to gauge the power of the boat and the paddlers through the sensation of acceleration, deceleration, and inefficiencies which are transmitted through the hull (i.e. they will physically feel the boat action through their feet and gluteus maximus muscles).
The paddlers sit facing forwards (unlike aft-facing seated rowers), and use a specific type of paddle which (unlike a rowing oar or sculling scull) is not rigged to the racing watercraft in any way. Therefore, Dragon boaters are paddlers not rowers or oarsmen/women. They paddle in a general canoe style since canoes, dragon boats, proa's and rafts are all distinctly differing paddle craft all paddled similarly variations exist due to the size and seating position in the boat. Note that the steersperson is not a helmsman or 'coxswain', which are British-based naval and competitive rowing terms (coxswain is also a Canadian War Canoe racing term) for the person in charge of the boat. In dragon boating, the drummer and the steersperson may both take charge, however if there is only a steersperson and no drummer, the sweep generally takes charge.
The steersperson controls the dragon boat with an oar rigged at the rear of the boat, generally on the side and off centre, which is used both for ruddering as well as for sweeping the stern sidewards. The word "starboard" is Scandinavian in origin and refers to the wooden board for steer(ing), that is, the sweep oar. On some sailboats, an arm attached to a rudder is used to control the rudder and is known as a "tiller". Dragon boaters in Portland OR USA first used Taiwanese dragon boats fitted with sweep oars for steering that were mounted over the centre line or keel line of the boat, rather than of to the side and off centre. They referred to these centre-mounted sweep oars as "tillers" (even though they were really sweep oars) and the people who manned them also as "tillermen". However, the sweep oars are used for both ruddering and sweeping wherein the blade can come out of the water for an out of water recovery unlike a rudder to which a tiller control arm is secured. The term "tiller" is therefore misapplied.
The responses of the boat to the steersperson's oar are opposite to the direction of the oar grip - if the steersperson pulls the oar grip right, or into the boat where the oar is mounted on the port quarter (left rear), then the boat will turn left, and if it is pushed out, or left, the boat turns right. During a race, an experienced steersperson in a well balanced boat (paddle power wise) will be able to steer the dragon boat with the oar out of the water or with only minimal blade area immersed to minimise drag.
The steersperson must constantly be aware of the boat's surroundings. Since the steersperson is the only person in the boat who is able to con the boat looking forward (the drummer is seated facing backward or aft) he or she has the obligation to override the caller at any time during the race (or the coach during practice) if the safety of the crew is threatened in any way such as an impending collision with another boat or a fixed or floating obstruction in the water.
The international standard racing rules call for each boat to steer down the center of her respective lane and to not ride the bow wave (wash ride) of a boat in an adjacent lane by coming along side close aboard to take advantage of the bow wave induced surface current. Wash riding is considered to be cheating under international competition regulations and is subject to sanction by on water referees or course umpires.
In the year 278 B.C., upon learning of the upcoming devastation of his state from invasion by a neighbouring Warring State (Qin in particular), Qu is said to have waded into the Miluo river which drains into Dongting Hu (lake) in today's Hunan Province-near the provincial capital city of Changsha and south of the city of Yueyang on Donting Hu - site of the first IDBF World Dragon Boat Championship in 1996 - holding a great rock in order to commit ritual suicide as a form of protest against the corruption of the era. The Qin or Chin kingdom eventually conquered all of the other states including Chu and unified them into the first Chinese empire. The word China derives from this first dynasty of empire, the Qin (or Chin) Dynasty, under imperialist unifier Qin Shi Huang.
The common people, upon learning of his suicide, rushed out on the water in their fishing boats to the middle of the river and tried desperatedly to save Qu Yuan. They beat drums and splashed the water with their paddles in order to keep the fish and evil spirits from his body. Later on, they scattered rice into the water to prevent him from suffering hunger. Another belief is that the people scattered rice to feed the fish, in order to prevent the fishes from devouring the poet's body.
However, late one night, the spirit of Qu Yuan appeared before his friends (that is, he resurrected from the dead) and told them that the rice meant for him was being intercepted by a huge river dragon. He asked his friends to wrap their rice into three-cornered silk packages to ward off the dragon. This has been a traditional food ever since known as zongzi or sticky rice wrapped in leaves, although they are wrapped in leaves instead of silk. In commemoration of Qu Yuan it is said, people hold dragon boat races annually on the day of his death.
Today, dragon boat festivals continue to be celebrated around the world with dragon boat racing, although such events are still culturally associated with the traditional Chinese Duen Ng Festival in Hong Kong (Cantonese Chinese dialect) or Duan Wu festival in south central mainland China (Mandarin Chinese dialect).
"I want to congratulate you and your organizing team on running an enjoyable and well run Dragon Boat Festival. The racing was very fair and the teams that won were deserving winners. The marshalling and the race starting was very good and the teams clearly heard the starter, the starting sound and instructions. The race course was marked better than in the past because of the double buoys between lanes. Your team of security and maintenance were very accommodating to allow teams access to unload and load the clubs gear and food. On the second day it was very nice to spread out the Premier teams and use some of the vacated space for the club's vehicles. The large number of garbage cans and the routine pickup kept your ground looking nice and manageable for traffic. I especially want to thank you for the help you provided to my Wall Street Dragons (WSD) team. Both WSD teams enjoyed this Harford Dragon Boat Festival and look forward to next year's festival especially our young paddlers." - Ben (ERDBA / Wall Street Dragons)
"We had a most excellent time in Hartford. The festival was beautifully run, the people were all very warm and helpful, and the competition was fabulous! I'm sure you'll be seeing us again next year! Thanks for your help and for a great weekend." - Cindy (Philadelphia Flying Phoenix Dragon Boat Team)
"Thanks for all your work and preparation into planning and running the festival this past weekend. We all thought that it was well organized and everyone had a good time despite the heat." - Vince (Hope Afloat, USA)
"Had a blast in Hardford! Winning 2 silvers and some cash was a great deal. My team is still talking about it and we have great pictures to prove it. Awesome venue, well run and great hotels! Will definetly be back next year." - Michele (Schuylkill Dragons)
"My team had a great time, very clean and very well run venue. One of the smoothest we have done so far. Thanks again for your quick responses when I had questions." - Otto (President, Xtreme NY)
" I would like to thank you and everyone else who worked so hard to make this past weekend's festival so much fun. All of us on Hope Afloat really appreciate all your efforts in including BCS Division Racing and for including a lovely Flower Ceremony. The Hotel Accommodations (The Sheraton) and the Tent Village Area were wonderful. - Vilma (Hope Afloat, USA)
"All the BCS teams felt honored by the event organizers and enjoyed the festival as well as the races. Thank you so much for all the communications and details." - Annie (Machestic Dragons, VP)
"The Pittsburgh Paddlefish had a wonderful time at the Hartford races. Our steering committee is making plans to include this venue in our races for next year. It was a real treat to have everything so close and convenient." - Judy (Pittsburg Paddlefish)
"The Hartford Hospital dragon boat crew and I would like to thank you for allowing us the privilege of representing the hospital and participate in this year's race. Everyone had a great time." - Ed (Hartford Hospital)
"Just wanted to thank you and congratulate you on a great weekend. Our team had so much fun. We've already started planning for next year. Thanks again! - Julio (MetroHartford Alliance)
"Thanks again for having us as part of the Dragon Boat Festival :) We had a great time!" - Kate (Classical Magnet School)
" I definitely enjoyed my first time Dragon Boat Racing this year! Very excited to have our same team compete next year! - Jennifer (Paddler - team unknown)
"It was a great event and a huge amount of fun. Thank you for putting it together so well!" - Charlie (Paddler - team unknown)
"I had an amazing time and I cannot wait for next year!!" - Jamie (Paddler-team unknown)
"I had the time of my life and I am very glad that you decided to add the BCS division. Good job! Thanks for the opportunity." - Mary (Hope In The Boat)
"It was such a blast. Have a healthy, happy year." - Marg (Paddler - team unknown)
"Your event was well organized and run. I look forward to returning and working with you and Craig." - Mario (Great White North)
"Again, thank you for a wonderful festival. Kudos to your Riverfront team and to GWN. Thank you." - Eileen - Paddler (team unknown)
"Thanks and I look forward to next year's races!" - Smita (Pratt & Whitney)
"The Swashbucklin' Scallywags will show up where ever, when ever." - Cody (The Swashbucklin' Scallywags)
"Our team love the event, thanks." - Steve (GSK Fire Dragons)
"The Team (DBCB - Boston) and I enjoyed the events on this weekend and we all had a very good time. - G Chin (Dragon Boat Club of Boston)
"We were impressed with the competition." - Brandi (Booz Allen BetaFish)
2. Recruit about 25 team members (20 paddlers, a drummer, and a few alternates)
3. Come up with a really cool name that has something to do with dragons
4. Register for the competition
5. Sign up for your practice