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Dragon Spirit, Tiger Strength In Abundance at the 1st Heliads Lamma International Dragon Boat Festival 2007

Despite heroic efforts throughout the day from the teams, the organisers, the sponsors, and supporting bodies the race organisers finally and reluctantly had to pull the plug on the Heliads Lamma International Dragon Boat Festival 2007 after the 10th race as a fresh downpour of torrential rain hid the starting line from view, lightning threatened and the sea became too choppy to allow racing to continue safely.

Earlier in the day, an amber rainstorm warning had done nothing to dampen the abundant enthusiasm and good humour. And the appearance of the addled and bedraggled remnants of an all night beach party from Saturday night, looking vaguely like extras from ‘Lost’ before they drifted away, added to the amusement!

Sunday’s race format provided a good deal of flexibility to catch up any time lost to bad weather, and the organisers’ decision to press on with the event unless conditions became dangerous was taken early and proved correct, as the starting horn blew to get the first race underway at 10am, just an hour behind schedule.

For posterity, the race winners of the first Lamma Festival were (in race order):

  1. IPC Mixed Team
  2. AIA Southside Massive
  3. IPC Ladies
  4. Royal X Mixed Team
  5. Hongkong Electric
  6. BGC Stormy Ladies
  7. Lamma Dragons
  8. Dubai Flying Dragons (Mixed)
  9. IPC Men
  10. Hong Kong Freedom Dragons

Download the Full Race Results for Round 1.

Following months of planning, 55 dragon boat teams had made their way to Tai Wan To beach, Lamma Island, early on the morning of the 10th June to compete in the Festival in Men’s, Women’s and Mixed Divisions. Four Dubai Flying Dragons teams had flown into Hong Kong especially for this tournament and, coming from a desert kingdom, hadn’t seen rainfall for over five months.

Nevertheless it was a wonderful and memorable sight to see the normally peaceful Tai Wan To beach packed with more than 1,100 enthusiastic and colourful dragon boat paddlers and supporters, and the sea sporting several junks and pleasure cruisers anchored along the length of the 500-metre course. Sponsors Heliads had made a brilliant contribution to the event, by handing out more than 500 personal umbrellas to competitors and boat handlers alike, which indicated their rain-or-shine, weather savvy know-how.

Heroism was the word of the day as organisers and teams fought the elements. The Lamma Fishermen had battled the early morning storm and rough seas to deliver the race boats from Chai Wan and Aberdeen in time to begin the events. Later in the day, they performed greater feats by returning the boats safely in considerably worse conditions.

Members of the Lamma Dragons, Lamma Fishermen and boys from the Hong Kong Sea School worked wonders in choppy conditions keeping the race boats in order, and helping paddlers in and out of the vessels.

Race officials and support volunteers, despite the deluge, managed to keep a firm grip on the vital tasks of organising the races and getting the beach ready for action.

The Island Bar and Shamrocks got their stalls up and running in dreadful conditions, and cheerily kept everyone supplied with ‘fuel’ throughout the day.

And the teams were magnificent, as enthusiasm and good nature outpoured in far greater quantities than the rain, which was torrential for much of the day.

On the water, racing was fiercely contested. In Race 3, a Women’s Division heat, IPC Ladies just edged Lamma Ladies by 0.4 of a second to win the race. The IPC, always powerful contenders on the water, also won Mixed and Men’s heats.

Race 5 threw up another incredibly tight finish as winners, Hongkong Electric, just pipped the North Lamma Fishermen by four tenths of a second.

The sleeper team favourite of the year, the Lamma Dragons (Men), clawed their way back to fighting strength and proved their chops with a three-second lead over their competitors to take first place in Race 7.

The guest Dubai Flying Dragons — accustomed to glassy-smooth seas — proved their metal as they convincingly took first place in Race 8 in the Mixed Division.

Despite the excitement of these races, by noon the weather gods had the upper hand. The second round of heats were delayed to await more favourable conditions. Competitors for Race 11 started up the course and had made their way to the start line as an enormous curtain of rain hid the boats from view, thunder boomed and the sea grew choppier. With the fresh, wild conditions, and reports from the observatory of no foreseeable break, organisers decided to cancel the rest of the Festival for safety reasons.

It was a great shame to have to end the first Heliads Lamma International Dragon Boat Festival 2007 prematurely, but the safety of participants was of greater importance.

Despite suffering some of the worst rain and wind of the year, the Festival was a great success and demonstrated that Lamma can successfully stage a major annual dragon boat race meeting.

The staging of the event also raised HK$10,000 for the Make-A-Wish children’s charity, an incredible achievement under the circumstances and something that everyone who participated in the Festival can be proud of.

And everyone is now asking, given reasonable weather, just how fantastic is the 2008 Lamma International Dragon Boat Festival going to be?

Well, with the return of the caterers, beer tents, fresh-water showers, 16 remarkably clean toilets, soft sand, and brilliant competition in deep, fast water — come back next year to Tai Wan To beach, Lamma Island to find out!...


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