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Photography by Charlie Waring

Written by Barb Hogan

What does a fearsome fire-breathing creature, a drum, and the River Arun have in common? All are essential elements in the fabulous sport of Dragon Boat Racing. And, this year, you can join in the fun with your own team.

What is Dragon Boat Racing?

In this adrenaline-fuelled water sport, teams compete in boats, shaped like a large canoe, with beautifully carved ornate dragons’ heads and tails. Teams of rowers sit in pairs and paddle like mad, while the team’s drummer beats time to keep everyone in the same rhythm. Although that doesn’t always happen – which just adds to the fun!

Dragon Boat Racing is almost as exhilarating to watch too, and spectators along the banks of the river shout and cheer to encourage their favourite team to paddle even harder.

Where is Dragon Boat Racing held in Arundel?

In Arundel we have the perfect waterway for Dragon Boat Racing as the River Arun The River flows majestically right through the town. Every year during the Arundel Festival of the Arts, Arundel Festival the beautifully decorated Dragon Boats take to the water carrying teams of people who all want to cross the finishing line first. The Arundel Festival Dragon Boat Race is a favourite among charities and corporations because it is a great way to team-build and raise funds for charities. The race is about 200 yards long and takes place to the south side of Arundel Bridge, where the boats launch from the pontoon by the quayside.

What is the history of Dragon Boat Racing?

Dragon Boat Racing began more than 2,000 years ago in the river valleys of southern China. It was originally a fertility ritual thought to bring good luck for the coming crop season. During one of these festivals, legend has it that the great warrior Qu Yuan threw himself in the river to protest against the political corruption of the day. The local people loved Qu Yuan and wanted to save him, so they raced out in their fishing boats. As they paddled, they beat on drums and splashed their oars in the water to ward off the dragons that lived in the river.
As far as we know, there are no dragons in the River Arun. We just have ducks and swans, who may spend the day further upstream when the Dragon Boats take to the water this August.

When is the Arundel Festival of the Arts Dragon Boat Race this year?

The Dragon Boat Race will be held on Saturday 27th August. Race times will be announced nearer the date, as the times depend on the tide.

Who can enter the Dragon Boat Race in Arundel?

Anyone can enter a team and crew a Dragon Boat! This year the event will raise funds for the Home-Start charity, which supports families with young children through challenging times. 

The event is being organised by the Arundel Lawn Tennis Club , a registered sports charity. You don’t need any experience and you will be provided with the Dragon Boat, lifejackets, oars, full safety briefing/instructions and a helmsman to guide you. The minimum age for a crew member is 12 years old. A minimum of 13 people are needed for each boat, with a maximum of 17 in a crew, including the drummer.

What do I need to do to take part in the Arundel Festival Dragon Boat Race?

Simply sign up, raise money for your Dragon Boat and just turn up on the day! You don’t have to wear fancy dress but it’s highly encouraged and adds to the fun, plus there will be a prize for the best dressed team. So, let your imagination run wild!

For further information please contact Sue Meredith – 

Good luck to everyone who enters. Paddle well and keep your eyes peeled for dragons!

Find out more about the Arundel Festival of the Arts here.