Vancouver Sun: Dragon boats about to set sail – will dragon boat festival leave False Creek?

When will a boat house be built in East False Creek for dragon boats?

Gung Haggis Fat Choy dragon boat team paddles into South East False Creek  dock near Science World. – photo Leanne Riding.

It's a big issue for the dragon boat community. 

Tinto Alcan Dragon Boat festival general manager Ann Phelps stated in
April at the Manager & Captains dragon boat meeting, that it is an
election year, and she needs help lobbying the city for help.

This morning Miro Cernetic wrote an article in the Vancouver Sun
Check out Saturday May 24th Vancouver Sun…. page D5.

Dragon boats about to set sail
Vancouver's development plans for False Creek leave out a very important institution

Here are my thoughts:

for dragon boats etc, has been in discussion since or before 1995.  It was on earlier plans for SEFC.  What happened to it?

UBC and City of Richmond have built a rowing centre near the Delta Airport Inn.  This area is now home to the Richmond Dragon Boat Festival.

There are proposals for False Creek East Bay (East of Cambie Street Bridge) to host a Motorless Marina – this is perfect for recreation and ecological impact.  Ideally East Bay should be MOTOR BOAT FREE to create Canada's first saltwater recreation civic park (okay… there are issues with it being a Canadian Ports jurisdiction… but have them donate the waterway to become a park – for paddling activities, similar to the former row boats in Lost Lagoon.)

Dragon boats are seen as an important symbol of Vancouver's multicultural diversity

  1. Dragon Boat racing first started in 1986 at Expo 86, when Hong Kong donated boats to City of Vancouver
  2. Vancouver dragon boat race featured on 2003 Canada Post stamp of Canadian tourist attractions
  3. Vancouver dragon boats featured in Feb 2008 Global tv news feature “BC World Class”  Gung Haggis dragon boat team is part of World Class BC on Global News show Feb 26
  4. dragon boat featured in Dec 2007 German public television documentary “From Toronto to Vancouver by Train” 
    Gung Haggis dragon boat team…. 200m sprints with a German TV cameraman in seat 1
  5. Canadian
    International Dragon Boat Festival (now called Rio Tinto Alcan Dragon
    Boat Festival) is one of Vancouver's oldest running festivals – 20
    years old – since 1988. 

I see two solutions.

1) A long planned and talked about boat house should finally be built in the East Bay.  It could be part of a park facility or a motorless marina.

2) Waterfront community centres should become dragon boat centres similar to False Creek Community Centre, home to False Creek Racing Canoe Club – the top dragon boat team in Vancouver, and one of the top teams in the world.  Coal Harbour and Roundhouse community centres have docks/marinas nearby, and the proposed Southeast False Creek Community Centre should similarly be used.

Vancouver Sun, May 24th page D5

Dragon boats about to set sail
Vancouver's development plans for False Creek leave out a very important institution
Miro Cernetig, Vancouver Sun
Published: Saturday, May 24, 2008

dragon boat people drifted into the editorial board room of The
Vancouver Sun the other day with some worrying news: Vancouver's
floating dragons, if we don't act fast, are going to fly away to a more
hospitable harbour.

Dragon boating, a cultural phenomenon that
took root here 20 some years ago when Vancouver became North America's
first city to offer a permanent harbour for the Chinese-inspired sport,
is currently being overlooked in our current development boom. The
blueprints for the final build-out of the former site of Expo'86 and
False Creek are being etched out as you read: There's an Olympic
Village, a $350-million art gallery, phalanxes of towers and a public

there's no clear spot for our fleet of dragon boats or the much-needed
boathouse on False Creek. You've got to wonder when this city's leaders
and planners will realize they're about to lose an institution that
reflects the new Vancouver.

We're now what you might call the A,
A & A city — Atlantic, Asia and the Americas, all fused together
into Canada's West Coast metropolis that's known around the world. Yet
none of the city's cultural institutions come close to fully capturing
the 21st century complexion of Vancouver. With an exception — the
dragon boats, and the festival built around them.

The thousands
of people who take part in it — and the 100,000 who come out to watch
the annual races — are a true cross-section of the city. It's an event
— and sport — that has gone from being mainly Chinese to a
multi-ethnic and global phenomenon. There are at least 60 national
federations around the world and that number grows every year.

boating has its genesis in China, about 2,500 years ago, though the
history is complex and cloudy. One theory is that dragon boats began to
honour the great Chinese poet Qu Yuan, who waded into the Miluo River
to drown himself in a ritual suicide to protest a warlord's destruction
of his home province. The villagers tried to rescue him by taking to
the water in their canoes and hitting the water with paddles to scare
away evil spirits. The other is the dragon boat racing began as a
fertility and water ritual, carried out during the summer solstice to
pay homage to the dragon, believed to live in the water.

it was an ancient tradition well-known to millions of Chinese, dragon
boating became internationalized only a few decades ago thanks to Hong
Kong. In 1980 it began donating teak dragon boats to cities around the
globe. The sport crossed the Pacific and took root in North America
thanks to Expo '86 where four Hong Kong boats were put on exhibition
and then given to Vancouver.

was perfect timing. Vancouverites were just waking up to how Asia and
the Chinese would transform the city. They lined up by the thousands to
touch a brick from the Great Wall at the China pavilion. When the four
dragon boats took to the waters of False Creek, they were a sensation.

1989, a small group of locals seized on the idea of setting up dragon
boating as permanent cultural festival for Vancouver. Chief amongst
them were businessmen Milton Wong and Terry Hui, both of whom have
spent much of their life trying to bridge the gap between Metro
Vancouver's Asian and non-Asian communities. Wong himself has long had
his own dragon boat team, called “Paddling the Wong Way.”

took off. Vancouver's Dragon Boat Festival has grown from a handful of
boats and hard-core enthusiasts to an event with more than 180 racing
teams. The festival, which starts June 21, is so complex that the
Canadian Army often helps with the logistics of keeping the races
running on time.

from the festival, which costs about $1 million to put on and generates
about $3 million in annual economic spinoffs, dragon boating has also
become a part of the city's cultural tapestry. Stand on the Burrard
Bridge any day of the year and you will likely see one or two of the
dragon boats on the water. Climb aboard one of the 300-kilogram canoes
as it cuts through English Bay and you will observe Vancouver from a
thrilling new perspective.

Thousand of school children are also
introduced to the sport each year. Members of the public are welcomed
to join a racing team. And its also a sport that is amazingly
inclusive: Since there are 20 paddlers to a boat, as well as someone
doing the steering and another pacing the paddlers by banging a drum,
there's room for people who are blind, deaf or living with other
challenges. Being part of a dragon boat team is being part of a small
community, one that usually includes fellow paddlers from all walks of
life and cultures.

So why are we in danger of losing something that the city has taken 20 years to build?

years the dragon boat festival's organizers have been shuffled around
False Creek. Each new development has squeezed them out of their spot
and they've usually been able to find another spot to call home.

however, with the latest push to develop the eastern and northern
shores of False Creek, there will be no space left. If the dragon boats
don't get a permanent boathouse in this round of development there will
be no other place in the City of Vancouver with the sheltered water and
dock space the event needs. Richmond, now developing its riverfront,
would probably be the dragon boats' final harbour.

In its 20
years of existence, the Vancouver Dragon Boat Festival has never taken
a dime of public money. But it may be time for the City of Vancouver
and the provincial government to kick in to help launch a fundraising
drive. Give the dragon boaters a permanent anchorage in False Creek and
help them raise the $4.5 million needed to design and build a new
boathouse It should be a great piece of architecture, perhaps with a
restaurant, that would become a waterfront landmark.

put dragon boating on the map in North America. Other cities have come
here to emulate it. It's also a terrific brand for Vancouver,
encapsulating our fusion of Asia, Europe and the Americas. It's
probably even going to be an Olympic sport in the years ahead.

Isn't it time to anchor the floating dragons — permanently — in the nautical artery in the heart of the city?

2 thoughts on “Vancouver Sun: Dragon boats about to set sail – will dragon boat festival leave False Creek?

  1. Anonymous

    So how do we help to keep dragon boating in False Creek and build/keep a permanent base big for race venues? I – and crews I've been on – have been lucky enough to enjoy so many good hours racing and practicing in False Creek.
    Sally/Sunshine Dragons Abreast (Sechelt) and Abreast In A Boat (Vancouver)

  2. Anonymous

    Hello Sally.
    How can dragon boaters help?
    We all have to do what we can + tell our dragon boat friends.
    100 local teams at the Rio Tinto Alcan Dragon Boat Festival is about 2500 active paddlers + the ex-paddlers over the past 20 years = a significant voting block
    Being the community and arts activist I am, I have personally contacted friends on Vancouver City Council and Parks Board, as well as other community activists.
    I have posted comments and an article on
    Ann Phelps the Festival general manager has informed me that they will soon post information on how to write to Vancouver City Hall.
    You can also write to the Vancouver Sun to comment on the original article + tell all your friends. Eventually maybe people at Concord Pacific Place will hear and respond… or dragon boaters will launch a protest paddle… to draw attention.
    Tell your friends to attend upcoming meetings for the South East False Creek Development, and the North East False Creek Development projects.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

nine × = 36