Dragon boat race brings a taste of the East to Wearside

Dragon Boat racers will come to Hetton this weekend.
Dragon Boat racers will come to Hetton this weekend.
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Hetton Lyons Country Park will host a dragon boat racing event on Saturday, with teams of 20 raising hundreds of pounds for charity.

Rotary clubs from across Wearside have joined forces to organise a day which will see community groups, work colleagues and friends compete for the chance to win prizes and raise cash for a host of worthy causes.

The race has been organised by Rotary North East, an umbrella organisation which brings together Rotary clubs from across the region to support people in need throughout the North East.

Proceeds from the event will be split between the Great North Air Ambulance and good causes picked by the teams themselves.

“This is the first time we’ve held the Dragon Boat Challenge and it should be a great day,” said Fiona Swan, chairwoman of the Dragon Boat Organising Group.

“The day is not only going to be a lot of fun for everyone who wants to watch, but also a good way for community groups and colleagues to enjoy a team activity with a difference.

“It’s a great opportunity for people to support a charity that is important to them and have a lot of fun at the same time.”

The event is organised by North East Rotary, an umbrella group which brings together clubs from across the region.

Crews of 16 paddlers will race in Chinese-style Dragon Boats – large canoe-like vessels fitted with ornately carved dragon’s heads and tails – over a 250-metre course.

Each boat has a crew of up to 16 people, sitting in pairs, and a drummer beating time to keep the paddlers in unison, and a professional helmsman in the stern to steer.

Dragon Boat racing is steeped in mythology and has been around for many thousands of years in China.

Popular legend has it that through the racing, Chinese dragons would bring rain.

Saturday’s event will run from 9am until 4.30pm, with extra entertainment scheduled as well as the races.