With the bang of a drum, Ballarat’s dragon boat racing regatta kicked off on Sunday morning, as teams from across the state took turns to race down Lake Wendouree.
- Ballarat’s Lake Wendouree held a dragon boat racing regatta on Sunday
- The sport has roots in ancient China, dating back more than 2,000 years
- It is the fastest-growing water sport in Australia
The event, supported by Ballarat City Council, saw groups race in boats with golden dragon heads and tails, sometimes scales, and a large drum.
It is the first major sporting event to be held in Ballarat in months due to the pandemic, with guests enjoying their first weekend under the state’s eased restrictions.
Ballarat Golden Dragons coach and founder Magie Guy said, with all the disruptions over the past two years, it is a relief to be back on the water.
“COVID has served a bit of a halt to a lot of [racing] because clubs haven’t been able to train,” she said.
“So, this regatta is really exciting because we haven’t been able to get together for so long.”
An ancient practice
Dragon Boat racing is one of the fastest growing water sports in Australia, but its origins date back more than 2,000 years.
It has been a major part of Chinese culture, with the races traditionally taking place on the fifth day of the fifth Chinese lunar month.
Legend has it that the sport originated in China after poet and statesman Qu Yuan threw himself into the Mi Lo River to protest the corrupt political power at the time.
It is said that when word was shared of his death, local fishermen raced out in their boats to be the first to recover Qu Yuan’s body — so the racing of dragon boats began.
The boats themselves symbolise the dragon, with the paddles representing the claws and the drum representing the beating heart.
Dragon Boat Victoria chief executive Craig Ryan said in the modern day, dragon boat racing attracts a diverse crowd, with participation being around 60 per cent female and an average age of 49.
Racing to raise awareness
There are now three dragon boat racing teams in Ballarat, one of which is bringing breast cancer awareness to the game.
Dragons Abreast has teams all around the state and is made up of survivors and their friends and family hoping to raise awareness of breast cancer.
Helen Dorning, a paddler with the club, says the sport is about more than just competing.
“I’m a breast cancer survivor. I’ve been diagnosed for 20 years, so it’s pretty awesome that I’m still upright and smiling and it’s a gorgeous day,” Ms Dorning said.
After the 350 paddlers finished competing in the 36 races in Ballarat, the day ended with awards presented by Ballarat Mayor Daniel Maloney.
“We’d like to make this an annual event for everyone to come watch, but also for dragon boaters all around Victoria,” Mr Ryan said.
“It’s a great event, great location and we’ll be back next year.”