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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Dragonboat Racing

Susan Rittenhouse, Wellesley
'66, with a racing shirt.
 The Wellesley Class of 1966 had a mini reunion in East Hampton hosted by Joan Hass and my wife Alice Tepper Marlin.

One of the participants in the event was Susan Rittenhouse, who was getting ready with other "senior warriors" to participate in a Dragonboat Race in Europe later this month.

That's her at left with one of the shirts she wears as a dragonboat racer.
Dragonboat with full complement of 20 paddlers, drummer and steerer.
Some of the 22 teammates required for a Dragonboat.
The boat has a drummer at front and a steerer - someone who wields an oar at the back to steer with, much like a gondolier.

The paddlers are in ten rows of two per row. The lead paddler in front of the drummer maintains the pace and the drummer follows the rhythm that the lead paddler establishes.

Susan recently participated the Nine Annual  Dragonboat Festival on Lake Champlain, at Burlington's Waterfront Park. There were 64 slots. Each team has 21 paddlers and a drummer who "race" over a 200-meter course. 

For her group it was not a race but rather an exhibition of local community and corporate teams, many of which are new to the sport and trained during a practice weekend in July. 

The Festival was a fund-raiser for Survivorship NOW, a cancer wellness program that is free service initiated by Dragonheart VT. It includes courses in subjects like yoga, art, finance, fitness and nutrition available to all cancer survivors in Vermont.

Dragonheart VT will have at least four teams (including two Senior teams 60+) representing the USA at the World Club Dragonboat Championships in Italy. The teams are setting off 
 on August 30. 

This is a sport that older paddlers can compete in because technique and teamwork have a lot to do with winning. Susan told me that her team of mature paddlers has defeated boats with much younger competitors.

There is a camp at Melbourne, Fla., and races are held in places like Princeton, NJ and Montreal. The festivals and races raise money for charity such as breast cancer research. Winning boats travel to Europe and Asia to compete.

Participants in one of the many dragon boat races.
Closer to home in NYC, the Hong Kong Dragonboat Festival in Queens last week drew nearly 200 teams in dragon-headed boats. They race across Meadow Lake in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park.

The all-female team known as the Dragon Queens competes in a variety of heats during the two-day festival.

The first day includes a competition for the Municipal Cup — a co-ed race for NY City agenciesThe winning boat in this race is usually the NY State Chinese Auxiliary Police Association. The Dragon Queens were hoping before the race to come in second.