Taiwanese Cultural Festival and Dragon boat races: Look for Gung Haggis dragon boat team

Taiwanese Cultural Festival and Dragon boat races:
Look for Gung Haggis dragon boat team

It is the 4th annual Vancouver International Taiwanese Dragon Boat Race, held in conjunction with the award winning Taiwanese Cultural Festival.  Come watch the Gung Haggis Fat Choy dragon boat team race on Saturday and Sunday at Plaza of Nations.

Taiwanese Dragon boats are different from the Six-Sixteen boats
normally raced in the Vancouver area, or the Millenium Boats raced in
Victoria and Kelowna.  18 paddlers on a boat made of Alaskan
Cedar, with a big dragon boat head – the better to climb on top
of.  Why?  to grab the flag!  The race is won by
grabbing a flag sticking out of the water, and being the first to cross
the finish line.  If you miss the flag… stop, go back, grab the
flag, then paddle forward.

Here's a picture of last year's Gung
Haggis Fat Choy dragon boat team with our drummer Naoko pointing to the
flag   photo Ray Shum

The Taiwanese Cultural Festival is pretty interesting.  It reminds
me of what the Alcan Dragon Boat Festival used to be many years ago,
when it was still focussed on bringing Chinese cultural performances
and food to mainstream Vancouver audiences.  The focus of the
festival is to celebrated Taiwanese culture for ex-Taiwanese families,
and to share it with Vancouver residents.  Taiwan really does have
it's own separate history and culture separate from Mainland
China.  I spent weeks in Taiwan back in 1980 on a student culture
and language tour.  With about 200 other 20-something students
from across the USA, Hawaii and with a contingent of 30 Canadians, we
stayed in Taipei, and travelled across the beautiful island in our
final week.

The Taiwanese dragon boats first came to Vancouver as a gift from the
Taiwanese government and people in 2003.  I was part of the
inaugural race committee and a board member of the CCC Dragon Boat
Association, that worked together with the Taiwanese Cultural Festival
to bring “flag grabbing” dragon boats to Canada.  The boats
arrived by container only 10 days before the first race.  The
first boat was in the water on Thursday night, and on Friday morning we
had a demonstration race for media.  The first flag grabbers were
Vancouver City Councillor Raymond Louie, and Olympic medalist Lori
Fung.  I taught them both how to climb onto the dragon head and
Lori asked me if they were our guinea pigs.  I corrected her and
said “No… you are pioneers for dragon boating!” Lori caught the first
flag, as her boat crew paddled by False Creek Grand Dragons, narrowly
beat the Eh Team.

On Tuesday night, the 2006 version of the Gung Haggis Fat Choy dragon
boat team went out paddling in a Taiwanese dragon boat for the first
time.  For many people, it was their first time ever in a
Taiwanese d-boat.  About 1/3 of our paddlers had been in the boat
before.  We took turns giving people a chance to try climbing onto
the head a being a flag grabber.  No flags were set out to
practice with… so we pretended.

A Taiwanese dragon boat sits higher off the water than most other
dragon boats, and there is very little gunnel above the seat.  You
literally are sitting on the side of the boat, and could slide off your
seat if you are not careful.  It's a whole different paddling
style, and our paddlers have to adapt.

Last year we missed grabbing the flag.  We had to stop, paddle backward, then draw left to grab the flag. – photo Ray Shum

We did our race pieces, and called a power series.  The flag
grabber would rise from their crouched position behind the dragon head
and nimbly pull themselves up onto the dragon head, raising one leg
above the horns, and tucking in their feet, then the other…. or
not!   One by one, Julie, Ashleigh, Ann-Marie and Jonas each
climbed onto the dragon head, as we paddled the boat at top
speed.  They reached out to grab an imaginary flag, then hold it
out straight as we crossed the imaginary finish line, and each paddler
waved the imaginary flag to the imaginary crowd, as all our paddlers in
the boat cheered.

Our crew is amazing… we might not be the fastest on the water, but we
have an incredible attitude to share our experiences with each other
and be good friends.  After Ann-Marie came down off the dragon
head, she declared that it was an amazing experience, and that
everybody should take the opportunity.

Check out articles and pictures from last year's Taiwanese dragon boat race

Taiwanese Dragon Boat races… Gung Haggis wins BRONZE medal!

Congratulations everybody!!!
Gung Haggis Fat Choy dragon boat team won our first medal this year –
Bronze in Division D. Lots of fun & PICTURES   more »

Come cheer the Gung Haggis Fat Choy dragon boat team
at the Taiwanese Cultural Festival and Dragon Boat Races!
When to meet – what to do…
   more »

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