A SLEW of colourful dragon boats took to the waters of the River Barrow in Athy on Sunday 5 May, as part of the Athy Dragon Boat Regatta hosted by the Irish Dragon Boat Association (IDBA).
Crew briefings commenced at 10.30am with the first race at 11am and the last at 4.05pm – the prize-giving ceremony was held shortly afterwards. According to Julie Doyle, IDBA Chair, there was a great turnout from both competitors and spectators on what was a sunny Sunday, which she said always puts the crews in good humour. “And some fantastic competitive racing as well,” she noted.
Ms Doyle also explained that one of the highlights of the day was the general performance of the teams which took part, and she said that it’s good to see dragon boat racing going from strength to strength.
“[It’s] good to see that crews are continually improving year on year,” she said. “We can show that from a small country [like] Ireland… we can send crews that will perform against other nations on an equal standing.”
Competition was fierce on the Barrow as the teams raced their dragon boats over distances of 200 metres, with Athy’s Dragon Boat Club – which had four teams competing – enjoying an impressive haul. The Barrow Dragons (Junior competition), Dragon Hearts (Ladies competition) and Kendra Warriors (Open competition) all enjoyed first place finishes, while the Barrow Sharks also earned third place in the Junior competition.
“It was a spectacular day for Athy Dragon Boat Club,” said the club’s Amanda Smyth, adding that it was great to catch up with some familiar faces in the dragon boating world. “To come first in three events was just amazing. It’s just – it’s testament to the hard work and determination of all of our members and their commitment to training.”
The event also incorporated the Big Hello national community weekend, an initiative from the Department of Rural and Community Development. The aim was to support communities in hosting local events in a bid to strengthen ties and help alleviate the problem of social isolation. “It was good to see perhaps people we wouldn’t normally see come out and see the dragon boating,” Ms Doyle remarked.
Some of those new faces may well be among the Athy Dragon Boat Club’s newest members – according to Ms Smyth they’ve received a number of messages through their Facebook page about training times. “We have new juniors starting, we have new ladies starting, and we have one new gent who made an enquiry,” she said. “So that’s really, really positive for our club as well [and] the sport.”