The Way of the Dragon – CBR’s dragonboat race

TaraBy Tara Fernandez, PDF at Conway Lab

On Thursday, an enthusiastic group of CBR members took to the water to learn the ancient art of dragonboat rowing. Dating back to 2500 years ago, dragonboat races were originally a part of water festival celebrations in China. Today, this exciting sport involves 20 paddlers using explosive strokes in unison to power their way to the finish line.

DSC00544_1It is well known that lab work (such as vigorous pipetting) gives most scientists the upper body strength of a professional weightlifter. Armed with that knowledge, we made our way to the False Creek Racing Canoe Club, on Granville Island. The weather on the island was perfect for being out on the water – warm and sunny, with a light breeze. We felt mildly sorry for our friends back in the lab as we put on our life-jackets and split into two dragonboat teams. The rowers were led by club volunteers to instruct and steer the large boats between the many yachts and kayakers out on False Creek.

The expert dragonboat guides proceeded to take us through a variety of training exercises to master the rowing technique. It quickly became clear that sheer strength alone was not enough to propel the dragonboat efficiently. Rowing in sync with the others in the team and keeping to the rhythm set by the pacemakers was key, but admittedly, took some practicing to get used to. The CBR dragonboaters, always up for a challenge, tackled the gruelling training with high spirits and before long, were swiftly making waves. The teams were overheard spurring each other on to pick up the pace and paddle more aggressively. Not even getting splashed with water teeming with E. Coli nor the occasional taunt from the opposing team could slow the rowers down.

DSC00548_1Finally, the time had come for the ultimate showdown. A battle for dragonboating supremacy between the two CBR teams. Tensions were high as we lined our boats up at the starting line, trying to steady our paddles with sweaty hands as the adrenaline levels skyrocketed. Our instructor reminded us not to look at the opposition during the race, but to calmly focus on the timing of our strokes. As soon as the race started, both boats took off in a blaze of flying paddles. The 45-second race felt like an eternity and we rested our burning shoulders while the winner was announced – the boat led by Tony Fang and Bryan Lin had won the close fight. A rematch saw the tables turn and the opposing boat with myself and Victor Lei at the helm soar to a victorious finish.


There were smiles all round as we eventually got back onto dry ground. The camaraderie and enthusiasm shown by the CBR members from Conway, Devine, Bromme, Kizhakkedathu, Hancock, Leitch, Pryzdial, Rossi and Strynadka labs who attended the dragonboat afternoon made for a fantastic day out. Everyone is eagerly awaiting next year’s dragonboat races and have vowed to start training early to gain a competitive edge.