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Initiated in ancient China, dragon boat racing is one of the world's fastest growing water sports. Dragon boats are 40 to 50 foot long, flat water racing canoes decorated with elaborate Chinese designs.
A dragon boat is propelled by a crew of 20 paddlers plus a drummer and a steersperson. Dragon boat races take place in “heats” or “rounds” on straight water courses ranging from 250 to 1,000 meters.
Dragon boat racing originated in China over 200 years ago, and while competitions have taken place for more than 20 centuries as part of folk ritual, it emerged in modern times as an international "sport" in Hong Kong in 1976.
Dragon boat races are traditionally held as part of the annual Duanwu Festival observance in China. 19th century European observers of the racing ritual, not understanding the significance of Duan Wu, referred to the spectacle as a "dragon boat festival" which is the term that is now known in the West. Dragonboat festival racing, like Duanwu, is observed and celebrated in many areas of east Asia with significant populations of ethnic Chinese.
Modern dragon boat racing is organized at an international level by the International Dragon Boat Federation (IDBF). The IDBF recognizes two types of Dragon Boat Racing activities: Sport Racing, practiced by IDBF member organizations, and Festival Racing, the more traditional and informal types of races, organized around the world, where racing rules vary from event to event. Sport racing distances are normally over 200 m, 250 m, 500 m, 1000 m and 2000 m, with formal Rules of Racing. A festival race is typically a sprint event of several hundred meters, with 500 meters being a standard distance in many international festival races. The Rose Regatta race distance for 2016 was 250 meters!