So yesterday was the first Spice National Dragon Boating Championship weekend of the year at Pershore, Worcester. The Pershore Dragon Boating Racing Team (the Fallen Angels) organise the event for spice every year, and do a great job (despite the rain!)
The weather wasn’t overly kind, having rained pretty much most of the evening before, overnight, and all morning, the mud was thick, deep and pretty much everywhere.. Although the turn-out was pretty good considering the monsoon that lasted most of the morning..
Dragon Boat Racing has its origins in ancient Chinese history more than 2000 years ago. The first dragon boaters were superstitious Chinese villagers who celebrated the 5th day of the 5th lunar month in the Chinese calendar by racing long boats along the river. The racing was held to avert misfortune and encourage the rains (which we did wonderfully well this weekend!!)
The object of their worship was the dragon, The Asian dragon has traditionally been a symbol of water. It is said to rule the rivers and seas and dominate the clouds and rains.
As time went on a second story was integrated to give the festival a dual meaning – the saga of Qu Yuan. Legend says that the poet Qu Yuan was banished from the kingdom of Chu after the King fell under the influence of corrupt ministers. Qu Yuan spent many years wandering the countryside and composing great poetry until, on learning of his kingdom’s defeat, he leapt into the Mi Lo River holding a great rock in a display of his heartfelt sorrow.
The people loved Qu Yuan so much that they raced out in their fishing boats to the middle of the river in a vain attempt to save him. They beat on drums and splashed their oars in the water, trying to keep the fish away from his body. This is where the modern Dragon Boat racing now is, involving teams of up to twenty paddlers in a 40 foot boat with a drummer and helm, paddling frantically to beat the other teams down the course.
The Asian Dragons brought rain, rain and more rain so the barbecues were a little damp and smoky, everyone had mud up to their knees, but about 120 of us stood damp and very cold along the river Avon to cheer on the Spice dragon boaters.
There was some serious paddling going on from the Thames Valley team, recording the fastest time ever on the course, and rocking home with a winning time of 1 minute 58 seconds in the finals.
Its the first Spice dragon boating weekend I’ve been on, and it was very very enjoyable, even with the rain.. Hopefully the next session in July will be a little warmer and sunnier..
The photos are up on my Flickr account here