Racing Dragon Boats



Marko Vallius, via Flickr

Liz Waid and Nick Page look at dragon boat racing. Why has this ancient sport become popular around the world?

Transcript


Voice 1 

Welcome to Spotlight. I’m Liz Waid.

Voice 2 

And I’m Nick Page. Spotlight uses a special English method of broadcasting. It is easier for people to understand - no matter where in the world they live.

Voice 3 

“Time seems to slow down during the race. There is a lot of noise from the other teams. Every team has a drummer on the front of the boat. As she hits the drum we push through the water in time with the drumbeat. Many teams use whistles as a signal to speed up or slow down. And there is a lot of shouting.”

Voice 1 

These are the words of Jacob Hamstra. He lives in Hong Kong, where he races dragon boats. In this sport, teams in special boats race through the water. Today’s Spotlight is on the sport of dragon boat racing. Hamstra told Spotlight more about his favourite sport:

Voice 3 

“Everyone in the boat is excited and a little worried while waiting on the starting line. The team has trained for many hours every week. But the dragon boat races are usually only 500 meters long. This takes a good team about two minutes.”

Voice 2

Dragons are creatures that look like large snakes with legs and wings. A dragon boat is long and narrow. One end is shaped like the head of a dragon. The other end is shaped like a dragon’s long tail. In stories, dragons can fly and even breathe fire. Dragon boats seem to fly as they move very quickly and smoothly over the surface of the water.

Voice 1 

Each dragon boat usually has 20 people in it. They sit in pairs - so the boat has ten lines of two people each. Each person uses a paddle. She holds the top of the paddle. She reaches forward and pulls the water back with the paddle’s wide end. This moves the boat forward. When many people move this way at the same time, the boat goes very fast!

Voice 2 

Working together like this is the most difficult part of dragon boat racing. Each person must paddle at exactly the same time. To help them do this, each boat also has a drummer. The drummer beats the drum to signal when to paddle. Each person must quickly paddle over and over again. Some teams move their paddles up to one hundred times in only one minute. Jacob Hamstra tells Spotlight how this feels:

Voice 3 

“By the end of the race, everyone is too tired to talk for a few minutes. Sometimes we lose feeling in our legs or arms because they are so tired. Or our legs get so tired that we cannot move them for a while. But there is a moment of pure joy after you cross the finish line. That feeling makes it worth all the work.”

Voice 1 

Hong Kong, where Hamstra lives, is a major world centre for dragon boat racing. Dragon boat racing began in Southern China many years ago. No one knows exactly how this tradition began. But many people say it started with an ancient Chinese poet named Qu Yuan. Rena Dam tells the story of this famous man:

Voice 4 

“Qu Yuan lived about 2,000 years ago. During this time there was war in the country of China. China was broken into states. And these states fought each other for power. Qu Yuan was a minister in the government. But he and the king of his state did not agree. The king became angry with Qu Yuan and sent him away.

Qu Yuan went to the countryside. There he collected traditional stories. He wrote poems about his love for his country. He became one of the most famous poets in China. But he was very sad about the fighting in his country. When another state invaded Qu Yuan’s home, he had no more hope for the future. Qu Yuan jumped into the river with a large stone. He killed himself by drowning.

Many people loved Qu Yuan and his poems. They wanted to save him from drowning. When they heard he was in the river they ran quickly to their boats. They paddled them quickly up and down the river looking for Qu Yuan. They hit drums to make a loud noise. They used the boat paddles to hit the water. They wanted to frighten away the fish so they would not eat Qu Yuan’s body.”

Voice 2 

Qu Yuan drowned on the fifth day of the fifth month of the Chinese calendar. People in China celebrate a public holiday on this summer day. It is also called the Duanwu Festival. People celebrate with special food. They eat soft rice tied up with leaves into a triangle shape.

Voice 1 

People also remember Qu Yuan with dragon boat races on this day. While teams race the dragon boats, many people stand on the side of the river. They make noise with drums. They cheer and shout. The races are a wild and fun celebration for the whole city!

Voice 2 

Many other Asian countries also have traditional boat races like this one. Thailand, Korea, Vietnam, Japan and parts of India have similar cultural sports. The sport of dragon boat racing is also spreading to other countries around the world. There are races in many North and South American cities as well as Asia, Australia and many places in Europe.

Voice 1 

One of the world’s largest dragon boat races outside of China is in Vancouver, Canada. One in every five people in Vancouver is Chinese. They want to remember and celebrate their Chinese traditions. Dragon boat racing is a fun way to do this. Thousands of people of all cultures celebrate the dragon boat races in Vancouver every year.

Voice 2 

People from any culture can enjoy dragon boat racing. Jacob Hamstra explains why dragon boat racing is so appealing to so many people:

Voice 3 

“I like dragon boat racing because it requires many qualities I like – team-work, self-awareness, humility, hard work, dedication, practice and physical strength. I also like being under the sun and on the water. And I like the feeling of 20 people moving together as everyone tries as hard as they can.
         
A dragon boat team is like a small community. Everyone has his own special purpose that is necessary for the whole to work. Racing requires every member of the team to perform perfectly at the same time. Individual effort is not enough for success. Winning is rewarding because the whole team has achieved together more than each person could do on his own.”

Voice 1 

The writer and producer of this program was Rena Dam. The voices you heard were from the United Kingdom and the United States. All quotes were adapted for this program and voiced by Spotlight. You can listen to this program again, and read it, on the internet at www.radioenglish.net. This program is called, ‘Racing Dragon Boats’.

Voice 2 

You can also leave your comments on our website. Or you can email us at radio@radioenglish.net. You can also find us on Facebook - just search for spotlightradio. We hope you can join us again for the next Spotlight program. Goodbye

Question:

Have you ever seen a dragon boat race? Would you want to see one?

Comments


humble71's avatar
humble71
said on August 24, 2012

Work together is the key of success if we want to get things and benefits . For example in a neighborhood we need to work in equality of effort in order to the reach a goal for all the group.It is good to understand the milenary behaviour of assian people very different to western countries. They teach us to work in group is better than working alone.

Good bye,

From Quito, Ecuador.

Avatar Spotlight
Gina Mejía
said on October 03, 2013

This traditional event is very interesting to know is a way of learning from other cultures, thank spotlightenglish.

natasoul's avatar
natasoul
said on October 29, 2014

Hello everyone,in my view this dragon boat is very nice way to join people.it is olso interesting to learn tradition other countries though this wonderful program, thanks a lot for that.Every day i can know somesing new and insructive .Today i liked story about famous poet from China and people who loved his and wanted to save him from drowning.and i totally agree that dragon boat requires team-work,self-aweareness,humility,hard-work,dedication,practice, physical strength and really individual effort is not enough for success i am thinking that only together we will be able to win ,Thanks!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Severino Ramos da Silva's avatar
Severino Ramos da Silva
said on April 22, 2016

From: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) (Severino Ramos)
To: spotlight
Subject: answer to the question above
Date: Friday 22, April 2016
São Paulo SP Brazil

Dear Liz Waid, Rena Dam, and Nick Page:

Once more, I want to thank you to develop more one great article for us readers and learners of English.
No, I have not. Yes, I would. Thanks.

All the best,
Severino Ramos
Brazil

Severino Ramos da Silva's avatar
Severino Ramos da Silva
said on April 22, 2016

From: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) (Severino Ramos)
To: spotlight
Subject: answer to the question above
Date: Friday 22, April 2016
São Paulo SP Brazil

Dear Liz Waid, Rena Dam, and Nick Page:

Once more, I want to thank you to develop more one great article for us readers and learners of English.
No, I have not. Yes, I would.
All the best,
Severino Ramos