Drummers help dragon boat paddlers stay synchronized. Teams came from all over the United States and Canada to compete in the Victoria Dragon Boat Festival.

Story by Nhien Nguyen
Photos by Richard Cranor

It’s a hot summer day in Victoria, B.C., and you take a break from the heat with a cup a tea at The Fairmont Empress Hotel. Feeling regal, you peek out the lobby windows of the majestic hotel and see several lanes of dragon boats racing down the glistening water of Victoria’s Inner Harbour.

If you come to Victoria in the middle of August, you’ll be able to enjoy the annual Victoria Dragon Boat Festival, now in its 11th year. Thousands of onlookers have gathered to watch 85 teams compete during two days of races on Aug. 13 and 14.

The teams have come from all over Canada and the United States, including two teams from Seattle’s very own Club Sake.

Though the 24-paddlers-per-boat make the travel on the water look like a leisurely float down the harbor, the pounding beat of drums and the screaming coxswain tell another story of the physical strength and synchronization required to race 500 meters to the finish line.

Charlene Wee, one of the coaches of Club Sake, says their team will train two to three times a week in the summer, and at least once a week during the rainy Seattle winter.

Hai Tran from Club Sake says he does dragon boat racing for the exercise and the camaraderie, as well as the fresh air and being close to the water.

Wee, who began paddling in dragon boats in 1998, enjoys the diversity of the teams. Club Sake itself has Chinese, Vietnamese, Japanese, Romanians, Germans, among other paddlers of various ethnicities.

Of her trip in Victoria, Wee said, “It was very, very fun.”

The annual festival also included on-shore cultural events such as an entertainment stage with live music and dance, a children’s activity tent and food fair. For information on the festival and to plan for next summer’s visit to Victoria, go to www.victoriadragonboat.com or www.tourismvictoria.com.

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