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Dragon boat teams race through bay waters

on September 27, 2010

Saturday’s sunny skies made for good weather by any standard, and in the calm waters between Treasure Island and Yerba Buena, it was a perfect day for a dragon boat race. The Bay Area hosted its 15th annual Dragon Boat Festival this weekend. It was the largest event of its kind in the country.

The festival, which celebrates a Chinese sport more than 2,000 years old, was both a race–the U.S. championship, in fact–and a chance for West and East Bay residents to enjoy the Bay Area’s rich Chinese heritage.  Over 120 teams vied for glory in their respective classes, and planners estimate the attendance approached 40,000.

Dragon boats take their name from the carved wooden dragon mastheads that adorn their bows.  Each boat is powered by 20 paddlers, with a pace-setting drummer and steersman to guide them.  Races are only 500 meters long, so spectators are able to watch entire contests from a single vantage.

“It’s very exciting,” Lee said. “It’s probably like a two-minute or three-minute race, that’s all it is.  You just pour your heart and soul in and you paddle.”

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Photo by Basil D Soufi
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