Dragon boaters defy downpour

CHIP MARTIN -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 12:29 PM ET

There was nearly as much bailing as paddling yesterday at the 14th annual London Dragon Boat Festival.

Steady rain poured down on participants -- a record 42 entries, 1,200 paddlers and a crowd of about 5,000 in all -- in the event at Fanshawe Lake.

But the hardest working of the 50 volunteers had to be those whose job it was to bail out the boats after each race.

Teams came from as far away as Windsor and Durham region and included breast cancer survivors, health-care workers and community agency representatives.

The event, which has raised $50,000 to date, topped this year's $5,000 goal by raising more than $8,000 for the Children's Health Foundation in support of Children's Hospital of Western Ontario, the festival website said.

The Chinese link to the dragon boats was underlined as the Chinese Canadian National Council staged a lion dance and demonstrated calligraphy and painting.

"We are one of the few dragon boat festivals that retains its Chinese content and connection," said event chairperson Ken Ross.

Breast cancer survivors have adopted the sport and, in addition to two teams fielded by Rowbust of London, six other teams of breast cancer survivors took part.

"Thunder and lightning and they're to come off the water," said Ross.

"Otherwise we go on."

And on they went.

Ross said the dragon boats -- each with 22 paddlers, a steerer and drummer -- ordinarily require bailing to remove splashed-in water, but yesterday stretched his volunteers' ability to keep the boats race ready.

Each team was entitled to two qualifying races and one final race on the 500-metre course. Alongside the course were stationed police and other rescue vessels in the event the bailers couldn't keep ahead of the water or in case of some mishap.


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