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Dragon boat festival returns to Qatar.

Dipti Nair Doha The fifth edition of the most popular water sport event on Qatar's calendar, the dragon boat festival, is back at the Grand Hyatt Doha and it's bow bigger and better. This year's edition is sponsored by the Saracen Community Initiative and is titled 'The Saracen Winter Dragon Boat Festival 2017'. "This is the fifth time we are organising the festival and we have experienced growth at each successive competition," said Qatar Dragon-Boat founder Jeff Ching, who has been instrumental in bringing the sport to Qatar in such a big way. "This will be our largest festival to date and we are expecting over 500 athletes to compete in the Premier and Recreational dragon boat leagues." Dragon boat-racing goes back over 2,000 years to the southern provinces of China and is one of the most popular forms of boat-racing. It is one of the fastest growing international team water sports, and each year races are held in different places around the world. In Qatar, the sport took off after the first dragon boat was shipped here in 2013 by Ching, an ardent dragon boat racer. He went on to form the community group Qatar Dragon Boat, a member of the International Dragon Boat Federation. Today, there are multiple teams participating in the Qatar Dragon Boat Festival to be held at the Grand Hyatt on November 24. A dragon boat gets its name from its bright colours and the dragon head and tail decorated on it. The dragon boats in Qatar have been shipped in from China. A dragon boat used in the race has 20 paddlers, a drummer and a person to steer. Traditionally, the drummer sets the rhythm for the paddlers but in practise the timing of the boat is normally set by the front two paddlers and the other paddlers just follow them. There are over 20 teams, participating in this year's competition, which including a youth team and an all-women's team. One of the amazing things about the teams is that they are made up from a number of nationalities. Angry Dragons, one of the groups racing in the Premier League, is a diverse team, representing over 15 different nationalities. "Being expatriates in Doha, we have found a home away from home on our dragon boat," said Angry Dragons co-captain Ai Tanimizu. "I was first introduced to dragon boat-racing a year ago through a colleague who also races with the Angry Dragons. The Qatar Dragon Boat Festival is a unique event that brings different communities in Qatar together. It is a great experience since most participants come from different backgrounds and cultures, and come together for a day of team work and fun racing. The races here have a more community feel than some of the other international races I have participated in, as most of the teams here know each other. Angry Dragons participated in a race in Boracay Philippines in April 2017, my first international dragon boat race outside Qatar." The teams in the Qatar dragon boat festival are divided into Recreational and Premier League. The Recreational League, also called the Corporate League, sees participation from major corporate houses, whereas the Premier League is represented by the different professional dragon boat clubs. Paddling vigorously in sync with other members of your team requires a lot of coordination and this is one of the reasons more corporate entities are getting interested in the sport. One of the corporate teams to join the festival this year is QIS Dragon Warriors. The team is a combination of primary and secondary school teachers from the UK and Ireland who will be representing the Qatar International School (QIS). This is their first dragon boat race. "We only heard about the race this year when a colleague told us about forming a company team to participate in the competition. This is our first dragon boat race ever and it seems to be very well organised," said QIS Dragon Warriors co-captain Kam. The aim of Qatar Dragon Boat is to promote the sport of dragon boat-racing in the country and to do this they have taken another new initiative this year, to introduce the first youth dragon boat team. "We are starting with just one youth team as part of our pilot programme. Next year, we hope to introduce a youth league," said Ching. The Dragon Fly has 20 teens in the age group 14 to 18 who will be monitored by experienced paddlers. The team will be participating in the Recreational League and have been practising during the weekends to get ready for the race. Pascale, the captain and teacher of the Dragon Fly team, says that the Saracen Winter Dragon Boat Festival 2017 will be the first time that most of the youngsters will be racing a dragon boat. "We found out about dragon boat-racing through a mutual contact and I thought this would be the perfect activity for youngsters. This will be the first time the young racers will be participating in a dragon boat race, and so the excitement is high. Based on the quality of the training and the positive feedback from the youths we expect a fun team building experience for the whole team." Catch a piece of the action at the Grand Hyatt on November 24 and immerse yourself in the colourful extravaganza and high energy of the Saracen Winter Dragon Boat Festival.

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Publication:Qatar Tribune (Doha, Qatar)
Geographic Code:7QATA
Date:Nov 23, 2017
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