One of the oldest competitive boat races in the world is back in the New York groove.
The Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival in New York (HKDBF-NY) returned to Queens with its first official practice of the season on Meadow Lake in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park on June 18.
The 21st annual event, set for August 13 and 14, brings together teams of professionals and amateurs in a test of endurance, technique and teamwork as they compete for Dragon Boat immortality. Henry Wan, chair of HKDBF-NY, said that winners of this competition become Dragon Boat legends in the community, but the festival itself is about much more than victory and defeat.
The HKDBF-NY is a multicultural festival featuring music, dance, food and other celebrations of the diverse communities of Queens.
“This multicultural gathering is one of the largest Asian-American festivals in the world,” he said. “And it keeps getting bigger and better every year.”
While many of the attractions at this year’s festival have yet to be announced, the competition level among the dragon boaters is already ramping up to the ferocity of these mythical creatures.
While thousands will attend the event, hundreds will compete. New York Community Bank, which assembled a team for this year’s race, takes to competition like a dragon to water – sore muscles and all.
“Some of us need to get back into racing form and work out our lungs,” said team captain Luisa Lozano. “We definitely need a lot more work.”
And that work doesn’t necessarily mean lifting weights or toning up their six-packs – success in these races is built upon a polished technique. Team member Donna Candiles said that while strength is important, a team’s synchronicity is the determining factor between winning and losing.
That is why she believes other organizations should consider assembling a Dragon Boat team, as it can be a great way to foster workplace camaraderie.
“It’s a great team-building exercise. A lot of the work we do here with synchronicity can transfer into our everyday lives,” she said. “You have to be in shape, but it’s more about technique within the group.”
A true Dragon Boat champion, according to Wan, must possess the will to win in their heart.
“You need to have heart,” he said. “It is about who is willing to sacrifice the most and put in the most energy to achieve their goal. And to get there, participants need to have extreme determination.”