Houseboats, rowing boats, riverboats, punts ….. all every day traffic on the River Cam. On Saturday 8 September, they’ll be joined for one day only by a slightly different type of vessel as the Cambridge Dragon Boat Festival returns to the city.
More than 40 teams of up to 10 people each – groups of friends, sports clubs and companies – will battle it out along a 200m course at Ditton Meadows, Fen Ditton. Team spirit and enthusiasm are essential, previous experience of dragon boat racing is not. Each team is guaranteed a minimum of three races and race organisers, Gable Events, supply the 30′ dragon boats, all the necessary racing equipment and qualified helms to steer a straight course.
Carol Lester of Gable Events tells me that dragon boat racing originated in China over 2000 years ago. Legend has it that poet Qu Yuan was cast out by the government and, in his devastation, jumped into a river. He was revered by the people and fishermen raced out to save him, beating their drums and splashing their oars to keep fish and evil spirits away from him, but to no avail.
Today, dragon boat racing takes place around the world and is a popular group/teambuilding activity. The dragon heads on the boats symbolise a warding off of evil spirits while a drummer beats out a pulsing rhythm to help pace and synchronise the paddlers’ strokes.
Dragon boat racing is also a terrific spectator sport. There’s free parking and free access to Fen Ditton Meadow from where you can see all the action on the water. There’ll be plenty of entertainment on the riverbank with children’s activities, inflatables, food trucks, a bar, Chinese lion dancing and tai chi demonstrations.
Now in its 14th year, the Cambridge Dragon Boat Festival raises money for Addenbrookes Charitable Trust, to provide technology, specialist services, research and extra comforts for patients at Addenbrookes and the Rosie Maternity Hospital, over and above what would be possible through NHS funding alone. Last year, the Festival raised the amazing sum of £20,000. There’s still time to get a team together and be part of this. For more details, including information on how to enter a team, check out these websites.
Ditton Meadows, Feb Ditton, Cambridge CB5 8ST