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A dragon boat is a human-powered watercraft. They were traditionally made in the Pearl River Delta region of China’s southern Guangdong Province out of teak wood to various designs and sizes.

What is dragon boating?

A dragon boat is a long (approx 12 metres) and narrow human powered boat used in the team paddling sport.

For racing events, dragon boats are always rigged with decorative Chinese dragon heads and tails and are required to carry a large drum aboard.

The crew

The standard crew 22, comprising 20 paddlers in pairs facing toward the bow of the boat, one drummer or caller at the bow facing toward the paddlers and one steerer or sweep at the rear of the boat

The paddlers sit facing forwards, and use a specific type of paddle. The leading pair of paddlers, called “pacers,” “strokers,” or “timers,” set the pace for the team.

It is critical that all paddlers are synchronized. Each paddler should synchronize with the paddler diagonally in front of them. This ensures that the paddling pace is balanced and all energy is spent on moving the boat forward. The direction of the dragon boat is set by the helm, not the paddlers. The lead paddlers are responsible for synchronizing themselves.

There are several components to a dragon boat stroke:

If paddlers are not synchronized, each successive pair of blades hits the water a fraction of a second behind the blades in front of them. To an onshore observer, this effect resembles the movement of a many-legged caterpillar or centipede; thus, a coach may discipline a team for “cater pillaring.” During a race, it is difficult to stay in sync as the sounds of other drums make it confusing or unreliable to time off the drumbeat.

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