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Dragons invade Lake Lanier

Inaugural race launches this weekend

POSTED: June 5, 2014 1:00 a.m.

Nine boats containing 20 paddlers, one steersman and one drummer working in harmony will pepper the lakeshore this weekend as the first locally sponsored dragon boat race launches in Gainesville.

“You can have the strongest, biggest, baddest people in a boat, but unless they are in perfect time with one another, it will not be efficient,” said Jim O’Dell, regional coach for Dragon Boat USA and challenge organizer. “You learn a lot about your limitations and the limits of others and you work together to overcome all of them as a team.”

The inaugural Gainesville/Hall Dragon Boat Challenge will take place Saturday morning at the Lake Lanier Olympic Venue. The event will feature nine local dragon boat teams, mostly from local companies or civic organizations, racing on a 200-meter course. The $600 team entry fee will benefit the canoe and kayak club and Special Olympics Hall County, with the latter taking the lion’s share of the profits.

Spectators may watch the races for free at 8:30 a.m. Saturday at the Lake Lanier Olympic Venue at 3105 Clarks Bridge Road in Gainesville.

For those who don’t know, dragon boat racing is a sport with roots in ancient China. A team of 22 people race a boat with a decorative dragon head on the front.

“The Gainesville/Hall Dragon Boat Challenge was a brainstorm idea from myself and David Haack, who was a past president of the Lanier Canoe and Kayak Club,” O’Dell said. “The main reason we wanted to do this is to get more people in the community involved in this sport and to see how much money can be raised for nonprofits.

“We have one of the top facilities in the world for holding events like this.”

A couple of weeks later, the U.S. National Dragon Boat Team will hold a meet and greet from 1-5 p.m. June 22 at the venue. Visitors may ride in the boats with the national dragon boat team members for a $20 donation.

The event will help offset the cost for members of the national team. Each member is a volunteer and entirely responsible for his or her own travel expenses.

Eleven people from North Georgia qualified for and joined the U.S. National Dragon Boat Team through extensive camps and trials held across the country to find the best paddlers. Each member will travel to the International Canoe Federation’s Dragon Boat World Championships in Poznan, Poland, in August.

For information about the dragon boat event, visit http://sites.lckc.org/gainesville-hall-dragon-boat-challenge-2014/.


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