Raging Dragons of Chatham-Kent practicing at the community pool in Petrolia. January 31, 2017. (Photo courtesy of Charlene King)

Local Team To Compete In World’s Largest Ice Dragon Boat Festival

The Raging Dragons of Chatham-Kent are headed to Canada’s capital this weekend to compete against 100 teams from across North America in the world’s largest ice dragon boat festival.

Team president Michael Powell says the team will join over 1,100 other athletes in Ottawa as they compete in the second annual Ottawa Ice Dragon Boating Race on Saturday and Sunday. During the event, teams will glide down the Rideau Canal in dragon boats.

Powell says the boats are the same ones used for water, but they are outfitted with a set of bobsled skis on the front and back with a steering blade for the sterns and at the back of the boat.

“Very similar to water racing, you have start line and the races are 200m long,” explains Powell. “Instead of paddling the boat, you have a paddle basically with a device on the end, which is a pick. As you hit into the ice, the pick sends out the sharp spurs that cuts the ice and you basically just push yourself along.”

Powell says during last year’s events in Ottawa the second round of racing was cancelled after temperatures rose to 5 C. Despite poor weather conditions, the team still finished tenth  place out of 60 teams.

“The ice started to deteriorate and because of the way the blades are on these. Once they start to sink and dig into that soft ice, it is almost impossible to move the boat. I checked the forecast for this weekend and it looks like it is going to be a nice -10 C,” he says.

Powell says he’s sending two teams this year, including a mixed team of men and women and an all female team that is made up of members from both the Raging Dragons of Chatham-Kent and the Lambton Shores Dragon Boat Club.

He says, though the team cannot afford special ice boating equipment, members have still been training hard.

“We actually have a large percentage of our team go to Petrolia every Tuesday night, and we basically are practicing our padelling on the side of the pool–it’s not the same stroke but we’re building up some endurance and we are kind of practicing the ice stroke the best that we can,” he says.

Powell is confident the teams will do well at this year’s festival.

“The women’s team looks very strong. We have a lot of experienced paddlers on that team. We’re really hoping that team comes back with a medal of some sort or at least a top five finish,” says Powell. “The Racing Dragons to perform and be in the top ten out of the 65 teams in their division will be more than an acceptable response for us.”

Powell says the Raging Dragons of Chatham-Kent are starting to recruit for the upcoming summer season. He says the team usually tries to get boats in the water the last week of April and start paddling the first week of May. The team’s first race of the summer will be in London during the second week of June.

“You don’t have to have a lot of skill. We’ll teach you how to do the correct stroke and how to paddle the boat,” says Powell. “It’s a great sport for couples to do because you don’t have to be a big strong guy to make the boat move, you just have to be able to pull your own body weight. A husband and wife could compete equally in the boat and it gives them another event to do together.”

More information can be found on the Raging Dragons of Chatham-Kent’s Facebook page or Team App.