Waterford Dragon Boat Festival raises money and awareness for breast cancer – Saratogian

WATERFORD, NY — The town of Waterford hosted its third annual Dragon Boat Festival at the town harbor on Saturday.

Eight teams competed in a series of races, raising $10,000 for Susan G. Komen, the non-profit breast cancer support organization.

Dragon boats are long, lightweight boats that are powered by teams of paddlers, with one person steering in the back and one person drumming in the front. The drummer helps the paddlers move together by timing their oar strokes with drum beats. The specific stroke used for paddling comes from outrigger canoeing, popular in the Pacific Islands and Asia.

The people with oars are called paddlers because they are facing the front of the boat; if you’re facing the back then you’re a rower (and probably doing something other than dragon boating, like canoeing or crew). Dragon boating has its roots in ancient China. It became an organized international sport in the 20th century, and today it’s a very well-established activity in Canada and is gaining momentum in the US.

Competing in Waterford’s Dragon Boat Festival were: Broadview Team Alpha, Broadview Team Beast, Team Fordians, Team Hope in the Boat, Team Dragons Alive, Team Momentive, Team New York State Canalers, and Team Town of Waterford. Major sponsors for the event were: SEFCU CAPCOM (A division of Broadview), Momentive Performance Materials, Adirondack Mountain Engineering, Dreyer Boyajian LLP, Environmental Design Partnership, and the Town of Waterford.

Each team had some degree of personal commitment to breast cancer research and awareness, the town of Waterford, or both. Hope in the Boat’s team is made up exclusively of Capital Region breast cancer survivors, and Dragons Alive began as a breast cancer survivor team before growing into an all-encompassing team that promotes wellness and health. Momentive, located in Waterford, wanted to show support to the town where many of its employees lived and worked.

They are also strong supporters of breast cancer awareness and research. Broadview, the event’s biggest corporate sponsor, is a big believer in community support and fundraising. Team Fordians was made up of students, staff, and faculty from the Waterford Halfmoon union free school district.

Dragon boating and boat racing have a particularly meaningful connection to breast cancer survivors because research has shown that the repetitive upper-body motion involved in paddling strengthens and helps develop muscles after a mastectomy. Paddling teams can find comfort and camaraderie in each other, working together as an unconventional sort of support group.

“Dragon boat races have a strong history with breast cancer survivors and their families,” Waterford Town Supervisor Jack Lawler said. “This is our third year doing the Dragon Boat Festival, and we’re raising $10,000 by the end of the day to donate to Susan G. Komen. The weather is perfect and we’ve got a good crowd.

“It’s a friendly competition in support of a great cause.”

Lawler wished to express his gratitude to the Canal Corporation for allowing the use of the Erie Canal for the races.

“It’s a fun team sport, probably the ultimate team sport,” commented Louisa Matthew, the Dragons Alive team coach. “Everyone has to move together. One of the great things about dragon boating is that it’s for everyone. We love beginners and are always looking for new teammates. We’re hoping to organize a veterans’ team soon.”

With pop music playing, vendors selling food and beverages, and spectators lined up along the Harbor Promenade cheering for the paddlers, it was a day of fun for everyone. Teams lined up as their races were called, donning life jackets and carrying their oars. Race safety support was provided by boats in the canal manned by the Saratoga County sheriff’s department and fire department. Volunteers helped paddlers into their boats and secured the boats after each race.

The eight teams first raced in a series of qualifying rounds to see who would make it to the finals.

Each race was 200 meters, a standard race length in dragon boating. After a lunch break, it was time to move on to the final races. At press time, the top three teams entering the Festival championship race were Team Dragons Alive, Broadview Team Beast, and Team Momentive.

Team Fordians gets ready to board their boat. (Melissa Schuman – MediaNews Group)
Team Hope in the Boat (Melissa Schuman - MediaNews Group)
Team Hope in the Boat (Melissa Schuman – MediaNews Group)
Team Dragons Alive (photo provided)
Team Dragons Alive (photo provided)
Broadview Team Alpha lines up to board their boat.  (Melissa Schuman - MediaNews Group)
Broadview Team Alpha lines up to board their boat. (Melissa Schuman – MediaNews Group)

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