As anyone who has gazed out across Tai Pak Beach recently will know, dragon boat season is upon us once again. Every weekend, determined teams gather to head out on the water and train for DB’s ultimate test – the Discovery Bay Dragon Boat Races & Carnival, sponsored by Hong Kong Resort (HKR).
With roots tracing back over 2,000 years, the holiday, also known as the Tuen Ng Festival, officially takes place on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month to commemorate the death of renowned Chinese poet and high-ranking official Qu Yuan, who drowned himself after being banished by a corrupt king. The story goes that locals went out onto the river with drums to try and find him and threw rice dumplings into the water to prevent fish from eating his body.
Here in Hong Kong, dragon boating only really took off in 1976, when the government decided that it would be a good way to boost tourism. DB got in on the act a few years later thanks to HKR, and the event has grown over the years to become one of the most anticipated races on the dragon boat circuit, with teams from across Hong Kong coming to battle it out for glory on the water.
This year, the DB races take place on Sunday June 17, one day before the festival’s official public holiday. A real highlight on the DB calendar, the 29th edition of the event is set to feature approximately 40 teams, with local entrants including Lantau Boat Club, the Sea Cucumbers and the DB Pirates. Proceedings on the day kick off at 10.30am and the fun goes on until 6.30pm.
For Lantau Boat Club, the DB event is one they very much look forward to. “Lantau Boat Club has been involved in the dragon boat races in DB in some form or another for as many years as they have taken place,” explains team captain Anthony Said. “Not only is it our home race, with our club being based at the far end of Tai Pak Wan, but this event is always the final race of our dragon boat season before we pack the dragon boats away for another six months and jump into our six-person outrigger canoes for the rest of the year.
“It is special, as it is an opportunity for our friends and family to watch us racing in what is a culmination of many months of early morning training sessions, which started way back in the colder months of January. The teams that enter are a great mix of social teams, who are looking to have a fun day out, up to the more serious teams like Team Mushu, who are arguably one of the best dragon boat teams in Hong Kong, ensuring competition is fierce and the level of fun and laughter is high.”
Making the event even more special this year is the introduction of two brand new teams to the lineup, both of which are made up entirely of domestic helpers. With full support from HKR and local residents, the teams will compete in the open and ladies races – yet another example of the great community spirit we enjoy in DB.
A true day of community celebration, the DB festival is popular among locals and visitors alike, and while the dragon boat action is, of course, the main focus of the day, this year’s carnival is set to offer spectators even more, with HKR sponsoring entertainment booths and giant inflatable slides on the beach – providing entertainment for young and old alike.
“I love going to the dragon boat festival,” says DB resident Emma Wilkes. “DB really comes alive with all the colourful flags and booming drums. It’s a great family day out.”
And when it comes to family fun, there’s even more to enjoy this time round, with a special race to celebrate the fact that the festival falls on Father’s Day – the inaugural Father’s Day Kayak Race. Free to enter, the event is open to father-and-child teams of two (the minimum age for child entrants is 11 years) and is aimed at creating wonderful memories for DB dads on their special day.
So, head on down to Tai Pak Beach on June 17 to cheer on the teams and savour the incredible atmosphere that the town enjoys on race day. And if you’re competing in the heats yourself, good luck – your fellow DBers are right behind you!
Photos by Baljit Gidwani – www.evoqueportraits.com
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