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VCKC Guts & Glory Dragon Boat Festival

Updated on January 29, 2015

The Victoria Canoe and Kayak Club Guts & Glory Dragon Boat Festival

VCKC knows how to party! From the boats to the BBQ, their "Guts & Glory" dragon boat festivals are rockers!

The innovative 2500m race offered paddlers a change from the usual 500 meter events so common to the sport, particularly on British Columbia's Vancouver Island.

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Gorging Dragons Men's Team competes in Victoria's Guts & Glory 1250 meter race.Twenty-paddler teams race in two 1250 meter (just over 3/4 of a mile) heats, and the combined time for both is used to determine final placement. Strategies in play Victoria's "MS Warriors" dragon boat team quietly awaits their participation in the first event featuring IDBF-certified racing hulls on Vancouver Island.Champion G3 Model 912 dragon boat - VCKC Guts & Glory, 2010
Gorging Dragons Men's Team competes in Victoria's Guts & Glory 1250 meter race.Twenty-paddler teams race in two 1250 meter (just over 3/4 of a mile) heats, and the combined time for both is used to determine final placement. Strategies in play
Gorging Dragons Men's Team competes in Victoria's Guts & Glory 1250 meter race. Twenty-paddler teams race in two 1250 meter (just over 3/4 of a mile) heats, and the combined time for both is used to determine final placement. Strategies in play
Victoria's "MS Warriors" dragon boat team quietly awaits their participation in the first event featuring IDBF-certified racing hulls on Vancouver Island.
Victoria's "MS Warriors" dragon boat team quietly awaits their participation in the first event featuring IDBF-certified racing hulls on Vancouver Island.
Champion G3 Model 912 dragon boat - VCKC Guts & Glory, 2010
Champion G3 Model 912 dragon boat - VCKC Guts & Glory, 2010

My morning began when I arrived at the VCKC clubhouse, at 355 Gorge Road West in Victoria, where I found a cup of Starbuck's coffee and a donut waiting... hey, if you gotta get up early, it's best have a decent cup of coffee and a light snack waiting.

Most of the festivals I've enjoyed over the years have food vendors providing refreshments; for a coffee lover, however, the boiled floor sweepings most of them offer is too wretched for human consumption. Having real coffee available just made my day.

I would encourage paddlers to drop in at the nearest Starbucks and thank them for their support, not only for "Guts & Glory," but also because they sponsor Vancouver's Starbucks Waverunners, an outstanding team.

The Origins of the Dragon Boat Festival

Qu Yuan, an ancient Chinese statesman in the pre-imperial Warring States period ( 475 - 221 BC ), was banished from his state by the emperor, who fell under the malicious influence of corrupt, slanderous bureaucrats. In exile, Qu wrote some of the greatest poems in Chinese literature expressing his love for his state, and his concern for its future.

When Qu Yuan learned of the impending invasion by a neighbouring Warring State, he waded into the Miluo River, tethered to a rock in order to commit ritual suicide as a protest.

The common folks, upon learning Qu's suicide, rushed out on the water in fishing boats and tried desperately to save Qu Yuan. In despair, they beat drums and splashed the water with their paddles in order to keep the fish and evil spirits from Qu's body. They sprinkled rice dumplings in the river to feed the fish, to keep them from consuming the poet's body.

Year after year, generation after generation, in commemoration of Qu Yuan, people in China hold boat races annually on the day of his death, the fifth day of the fifth month in the lunar calendar. The boats are traditionally very long and narrow, canoe-style vessels, adorned with carved ornamental heads and tails of dragons, which are believed to be rulers of rivers and seas and dominate the clouds and rains of heaven.

What's a Dragon Boat?

A dragon boat ... is a human-powered watercraft traditionally made... of teak wood to various designs and sizes. Dragon boats are one of a family of traditional human-powered long boats found throughout Oceana. Dragon boats are the basis of the team paddling sport of dragon boat racing, an water sport which has its roots in an ancient folk rituals of Southern China. While 'competition' has taken place annually for more than 20 centuries as part of religious ceremonies and folk customs, dragon boat racing has emerged in modern times as an international sport, beginning in Hong Kong in 1976.

For all practical purposes, a dragon boat is an elongated canoe of sorts, designed with varying numbers of seats wide enough to accommodate two paddlers per seat. The most common dragon boats raced today are designed to comply with the specifications set by the International Dragon Boat Federation (IDBF).

For our purposes, then, a dragon boat is a human powered water craft designed for a crew of either 12 or 22, and either 9 meters (30') or 12 meters (40') in length. There are many variations, but racing boats are designed to an international standard in the same manner as Formula One racing cars.

I've provided a link (towards the end of the page) to the IDBF specifications for those who want to read them).

Paddles Up!

1250 Meter Racing on Victoria's Gorge Waterway

Victoria, BC's Gorging Dragons Men's dragon boat team preparing for their first 1250 meter heat at the VCKC Guts & Glory dragon boat festival, August 27, 2011. The boat is one of VCKC's two Canadian made Six-Sixteen dragon boats.

Gorging Dragons dragon boat team preparing for their first 1250 meter heat, VCKC Huts & Glory dragon boat festival, August 27, 2011

The boat is one of VCKC's two Canadian made Six-Sixteen dragon boats.

The Gorging Dragons leave the dock on their way to the start line.

The Sweep's ("Stern" or "Tiller," the crew member steering the dragon boat) "Paddles Up!" command tells the crew it's time to settle down and get serious as the boat heads for the start line.

"Starter Has The Race!"

Hearts pumping and minds focused like lasers, members of the VCKC Grand Dragons waiting for the horn that will signal the start of the first 1250 meter Guts & Glory heat on a gorgeous Saturday morning on the Gorge.

Seconds after the sound of the starting horn echos across the Gorge, the Gorging Dragons Men's dragon boat team gives it all they've got... 50 meters down, 1200 meters to go!

VCKC's Grand Dragons heading for the buoy turn at the 625 meter point during their first Guts & Glory" heat.

"Finish NOW!"

Gorging Dragons drummer shouts encouragement to the Men's team as they near the finish line in their first 1250 meter heat.

The Gorging Dragons Mens went on to win well deserved Gold in this event.
The Gorging Dragons Mens went on to win well deserved Gold in this event.

The Gorging Dragons Mens went on to win well deserved Gold in this event.

Champion Model 912 Dragon Boats waiting for the racing to begin
Champion Model 912 Dragon Boats waiting for the racing to begin

The Champion Sprints

200 Meter Drag Racing on the Gorge

Victoria's MS Warriors Dragon Boat team heading to the staging area for the start of the first race using IDBF-certified dragon boats to be held on Vancouver Island. (Check the YouTube video below to learn more about these amazing athletes.)

Roman Mathieschyn prepares directs Victoria's MS Warriors to the staging area for their first 200 meter sprint of the day.

VCKC Blue Herons Women's team about to head to the staging area to take on the MS Warriors in the first sprints of the day.

Victoria's MS Warriors Dragon Boat Team - An introduction to courage

And they're off!

The first 200 meter heat's under way!

The MS Warriors fall inches short in their first heat, as timing issues took their toll.

What a day! - Everyone Had A Great Time!

Gorging Dragons Women
Gorging Dragons Women

Gorging Dragons Women

Gorging Dragons

Aquaholics Dragon Boat Team
Aquaholics Dragon Boat Team

Aquaholics Dragon Boat Team, Nanaimo, BC - These folks bill themselves as "A Drinking Team With A Paddling Problem."

Beer & Burger for Five Bucks?

Now THAT was a deal!

Meanwhile, back at the clubhouse, paddlers flocked to purchase their $5 "beer and burger" tickets. At that price, who could resist? The bbq'd cheeseburgers and pulled pork sandwiches (hey, it was HARD to choose!) were provided by Montana's Cookhouse, and I gotta tell you they did an awesome job! (Psst! That's why I'm giving 'em a plug!)

The beer was a bargain... hey, it was like the awesome burger was free. Dragon boat teams often hold "beer and burger" events in local pubs in order to raise funds - festival entry fees can eat up thousands of dollars a year - and most of the tickets routinely go for $10 to $12 a pop. Guts & Glory paddlers and volunteers enjoyed an obvious bargain at $5!

Champion 912 dragon boats racing to the wire
Champion 912 dragon boats racing to the wire

Photo Finish

(Why 200m sprints are so exciting!)

Awesome Beer & Burger Deal

You have to give VCKC credit for that one - what a brilliant way to make sure all the paddlers come back!

The Angela Hehr Trio

...a delightful afternoon on the Gorge

Angela Hehr & Band

Angela provided the afternoon's entertainment, to the delight of the paddlers, volunteers and spectators.

Related Sites - The Fascinating Sport of Dragon Boat Racing

Some of my favorite dragon boat sites, including those of some of the teams represented here.

Age no barrier to dragon boat racing

Take a quick look at my photographs again...check out the ages of the paddlers. Notice all that gray hair? One of the reasons dragon boat racing is so popular is that virtually everyone can compete...wheelchair-bound victims of disease, kids not yet in their teens, and Seniors looking for something better to do than sit around watching the tube.

One of my first paddling partners joined the team in February of 2006. I was 66, her was 84. His name was Len, and he paddled with the team for 3 years, until discovering a fetching lady at the Seniors' Home and deciding to get married at the ripe old age of 88.

Teens compete against teens, Seniors compete with Seniors...you not only paddle against your peers, but you party with them, too. Dragon boating brings people together, and creates incredibly strong bonds.

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