In Olympia waters, there be dragons

Teams practice paddling their boats this weekend ahead of Saturday’s annual Dragon Boat Festival

ckrotzer@theolympian.comApril 22, 2013 

Shouts were heard across the water as 20 paddlers moved in unison, honing their skills for next weekend’s dragon boat races.

Bernie McAuley of the Griffin School team out of Olympia is confident they will bring home the trophy this year.

McAuley started the team in 2008, but this is the first year he will be paddling with his teammates — many of whom have been on the team since it began.

“A lot of these people have been with us that long, and they are a good team,” McAuley said. “Griffin School is one of the best schools in the area.”

The Griffin team, as well as a team representing the city of Tumwater, practiced near Swantown Marina over the weekend to get ready for Saint Martin’s University’s eighth annual Dragon Boat Festival at Olympia’s Port Plaza on Saturday. Festivities start at 9 a.m.

The festival started with 13 teams and has grown to include 32 teams. Each team will participate in three races.

Each race includes four teams that complete a 250-meter race. Depending on the class and paddling skills, the races last anywhere from just under a minute up to two minutes.

“We want to make this a community event open to everyone,” said Brother Ramon Newell, coach and adviser of the university’s dragon boat races.

Teams are divided by skill level, including community teams, intermediate and recreational. Each team has 22 members, including 20 paddlers, a steer person and a drummer.

The drummer keeps the beat for the team to row in unison, while the steer person helps aim the boat as well as watch out for any obstacles or dangers.

The boats themselves weigh anywhere from 500-800 pounds. With all the team members aboard, the boats weigh up to 4,000 pounds, Newell said.

“It’s about timing, technique and synchronization — everyone working together as a team,” Newell said.

Chelsea Krotzer: 360-754-5476 @chelseakrotzer

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