By Mick Jensen
Dragon boats roared up the course at the two day New Zealand Dragon Boat Association (NZDBA) nationals held at Lake Hood last Friday and Saturday.
The event drew around 800 paddlers from around the country.
Crews competed in standard (17-20 paddlers) and small crew (8-10 paddlers) races.
Day one was raced over a 500m course, while day two races were over 200m and the blue ribbon 2000m distance.
All crews carried a drummer, who after the first 50 metres was required to actively drum for the entire race.
Boats were steered by a sweep, whose skill was particularly tested in the 2000m race, when boats needed to turn three times.
NZDBA president Meri Gibson said the event had once again gone very well, despite some rain on day one.
Lake Hood had hosted both the South Island championships and nationals on a number of occasions and was a very good venue for dragon boating.
There was plenty of space to set up marquees and the lake had an even depth when full of 3m, which was ideal for paddlers.
Mrs Gibson said local accommodation had again booked out quickly and the event had brought an estimated 800 paddlers and a couple of hundred more supporters to town.
Mrs Gibson is a paddler and co-captain of the A Breast of Life team from Christchurch, which is made up of breast cancer survivors.
Breast cancer survivors made up four teams in the standard boat and seven more in the small boat divisions.
Dragon boat racing was a fast growing sport for women in particular and for breast cancer survivors “it was about taking back the control lost when they were diagnosed”, said Mrs Gibson.
Some 140 women attended a survivors dinner at Hotel Ashburton on Friday night, where the special guest was Gemma McCaw.
An after party was held for all competitors at the same venue on Saturday night.