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Auckland Anniversary Regatta welcomes the return of Dragon Boats

by Zoe Wilde on 15 Jan 2013
Dragon boats will make a welcome return to the Auckland Anniversary Regatta . ..
Just like the city itself, Auckland Anniversary Regatta is a melting pot of cultural experiences, and the regatta is pleased to welcome the return of Dragon Boating to the Waitemata Harbour.

It's the Chinese year of the Water Dragon, and Dragon Boats will take to the water, for Auckland Anniversary Regatta, on Monday 28 January.

Crewed by ten paddlers, plus a drummer to set the rhythm, and a sweep or helm to guide the boat in a straight line, the boats, which are from Auckland, the Bay of Plenty and Hamilton, will be based at Waitemata Plaza, and will race from approximately 10am-4pm in the Viaduct Basin.

Chris Stone of the Auckland Dragon Boat Association, says that these particular boats are manufactured in Fuyang, China, close to the birthplace of dragon boating itself.

'The story goes that political activist Qu Yuan drowned, and the people would paddle out into the river to throw rice and feed his spirit,' explains Chris. 'A dragon was apparently eating the food, and Qu Yuan's spirit returned and asked supporters to wrap the rice in leaves and bamboo.'

This, he says, was the origin on the famous dragon rice cake, and dragon boat racing came about as organised celebrations of Qu Yuan, beginning in the fifth or sixth century A.D.

Modern Dragon Boat racing began in the 1970s in Hong Kong, and made its way to New Zealand on the backs of Olympic Kayak gold medallists Ian Ferguson and Paul MacDonald.

Today there are over 3,000 paddlers in New Zealand, and the sport is popular in many other countries.

'Though this is a fun event and medals won’t be awarded, competition, as always, will be fierce,' says Chris.

The best place to view Dragon Boat racing is on the walk around the southern edge of the viaduct, or from Te Whero Island or at one of the fantastic waters edge restaurants in the Viaduct area. Waka Ama and sailing activities will also be taking place in the vicinity.

Full details for spectators and competitors can be found at www.regatta.org.nz. Organisations supporting the event are the Royal New Zealand Navy, Classic Hits 97.4FM, the Spirit of Adventure Trust, The Southern Trust, The Lion Foundation, and Ports of Auckland Ltd.
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