Friday, September 29, 2023
By BRENT STUBBS
Senior Sports Reporter
As the fastest growing sport in the Bahamas, Dr Christine Chin said she’s confident that the second annual Bahamas Dragon Boat Festival will encourage more Bahamians to get involved.
The Bahamas Chinese Dragon Boat Association, with Chin as its president, revealed plans for the staging of the encore of the Dragon Boat Festival on Saturday and Sunday at Goodman’s Bay. The press conference was held yesterday at Breezes SuperClubs resort.
Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture Mario Bowleg said it’s amazing to see the growth and progress made by the association in just one year. “This Dragon Boat Festival is more than just a competition. It is a celebration of unity, teamwork and true testament to this government’s commitment to the revitalization of the world of sports. “The Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture remain hopeful that the Dragon Boat Racing in the Bahamas will be a great addition to our Sports Tourism brand. Sporting events like this helps to boost the economy and have great cultural and social benefits, all of which are extremely significant to our country.”
Through their partnership with the Bahamas Chinese Dragon Boat Association, Bowleg said they now have a home in the Bahamas, and he commended the organizers and indicated that they look forward to many more events in the future.
“So, paddle strong, embrace the challenge and may wind be ever at your back,” he stated.
According to Chin, a total of 34 boats have registered to participate in the competition, including the defending champions Dragon Conchers and the Police team called King Tide and four teams from the United States, an increase from the 21 teams that participated in the inaugural event last year.
“This incredible growth in participation is evident of the competitive spirit of our local community and the excitement around Dragon Boat racing,” she stated. “We look forward to the showdown between the armed forces, between the hotels, the medical and corporate teams, but we also want to see the breast cancer survivors and the youth and senior teams battle it out.”
Preliminary competition will begin on Saturday at 9 am and the final will follow on Sunday, followed by a cultural show and the awards presentation in the afternoon.
As spectators look forward to the events of September 30 and October 1, Chin said friends and families can come together and enjoy the beauty of the environment and experience the racing in the backdrop of the clear crystal waters of the Bahamas.
“We encourage all of our fellow Bahamians and visitors alike to join us at the festival,” said Chin, which would include the food vendors, entertainers and a junkanoo rush out as they honor the breast cancer survivors.
Chin thanked all of their sponsors, volunteers and the competitors who will be participating in the festival.
Franco Siu Chong, president of Pan American Dragon Boat Federation, welcome the Bahamas Chinese Dragon Boat Association as its newest member in what is considered the fastest growing region in all of the international dragon boat regions.
“I’m very pleased that you have grown from 21 team to 34 teams,” he said as he commended the local association for the work, they have done to make it a success.
“It really takes a team to bring this together and that is what dragon boat racing is all about. It’s teamwork and comradery. It’s a sport, so I hope that the Bahamians will get involved in this sport and truly become competitive and enter the international scene.”
Chong said the federation is working on getting the sport included on the Olympic Games sporting programme and when they do, it’s his hope that the Bahamas will be fully represented.
“You have the waters, the right waters and you can train year-round,” he insisted. “In other countries, they can only train in summertime. What is great about this sport is all ages, but in the Caribbean, we need something for the youth, and this is a great sport to get the youth involved instead of being involved in crime.”
He noted that in Trinidad & Tobago, they introduced the sport into the schools and it’s now the biggest regatta on the island and he’s hoping that they can Jamaica to follow suit next year in becoming the latest island to join in the footsteps of the Bahamas.
Hedda Smith, the Sales Manager at Breezes Resorts, welcomed the organizers of the festival to their property.
“We are very happy to once again by a part of this wonderful occasion, the second annual Dragon Boat race,’ she said. “We’ve been touting this whole weekend to our guests, and we are hoping to have a good turnout for the event this weekend.
“I would also like to say that we have a boat entered in the race for the first time, so I don’t who the winners are, but watch out. We want to put them on notice, the Breezers are coming.”
Meri Gibson, the Global President International Breast Cancer Paddlers Commission, when she spoke with Franco Chong about growing the sport in the region, they started to see the influx of boats into the Bahamas and then she realizes that it’s going to happen.
“For me personally, I have never wanted breast cancer to define me. I’m about the sport more than breast cancer, but it is an incredible sport for the survivors and an incredible sport for comradery.”
She said when she came here in May 2022, there were no boats and three months later, she returned to watch 20-something boats m=compete and this year there are now more than 30.
“This sport is very additive and caters to people, regardless,” she said. “I’ve just come back from Thailand for the World Championships where New Zealand said very well, but you can paddle from 12 years old to 112. There’s not age level. I think that’s the beaty, particularly in this region.”
Bernadette Byrne, the senior International Dragon Boat Official in Pan America, said she met the four local officials from the Bahamas in Panama, and she was delighted when they extended an invitation for her to come to the Bahamas for this year’s event.
“I love the fact that this here, is as much a competitive sporting event as it is a community event,” Byrne disclosed. “I love the competition, the trashing talking between teams and so I’m hoping for some head-to-head competition. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”