Those were the days
Event History ¡V about Stanley Dragon Boat Racing ( updated 27/3/2002)
The Stanley Dragon Boat Races is one of the largest in the world. Let's take a look of its development.
Many years ago Stanley (Chek Chue)was best known as a small fishing village to the south of Hong Kong Island. As many of the local Chinese relied on the sea for their livelihood it was only natural that Dragon Boat racing became a very popular way for them to celebrate the Tuen Ng Festival. Stanley has long been an important settlement and since the Qing Dynasty the east and the west mix here. (According to the 1841 govt gazette No. 2, Chek Chue was the capital of the Island, with a population of 2,000).
East meets West
In the late 60's the local races started to arouse the interest of several expats who were living in the Stanley area. In the early 70's the expats started to join in the racing against the local Chinese. In consideration of this, and in addition to the fact that the Chinese teams dominated the race, around 1975 the organizers separated the expats from the Chinese to compete in a new category. This was followed by the introduction of a Ladies Competition around the end of the 70's. Due to their body weight, it was mandatory for expat mens teams to compete with 2 paddlers fewer than normal ( originally the who crew should be 24, including steerer and drummer). Until the mid 90's the organzer standardised the crew in all categories to 22 so as to get in line with the world racing scene. (There was once combining the Expat and Chinese Mens compitition in the Plates in 97 so as to tightening the schedule.) The diverse nationality and the special category for Expatriate Mens' Teams remain a special feature of the Stanley Regatta.
|The Stanley Dragon Boat Regatta is traditionally only held on the Tuen Ng Festival Day (or Duen Wu Jie in Mandarin Chinese )according to the Chinese Lunar Calendar.|
Go for Global
The race was originally organized by local residents as such the Stanley Residents Assn. was established, with the Dragon Boat Race the principal project every year.
Since the Race Day increases in popularity and becomes "international", more and more people of different nationalities join the organizing committee or act as officials. For many years the race has been run on a low-budget-positive-return principle, so most work is taken up by concerned parties voluntarily, e.g. The Windsurfing Assn, Royal HK Yacht Club and ,HK Telecom offers free rental of speed boats and communication equipments, The HK Sea School with the help of the Navy from HMS Tamar have laid the race course every year. Also the resident army regiment of Stanley Fort set up the shore facilities until 1994. Due to their withdrawal from Stanley -- we will miss this marvellous workforce. Till 1996, HMS Tamar each year anchor a guard ship near the start line to show their official presence. [see picture below]
The old photo shows that in early days the drummer's seat was set at the middle row [ same as the "big dragon boats" ]. It was then changed to the front in mid 90's to get in line with the world trend.
The early races were held at Stanley Bay ( facing the Tin Hau Temple and the present Murray House ) for a long time. Due to the convenience of location, it created a strong community festival atmosphere. But considering the waves and inadequate public facilities of the venue, the race was moved to Stanley Main Beach.
Never once have the races been cancelled due to bad weather even though race day is always held during the typhoon season. One year the race day was held between two number 8 signals!! Over the years, Race Day has been a great festival with plenty of competitors and spectators enjoying themselves in a wonderful party mood. Some special incidents need to be noted, like the team record for sinking the most often on race day is held by the navy from HMS Tamar. The most spectacular finish was in 1976 when the Grenadier Guards from Stanley Fort crossed the finishing line at full speed to be confronted by an old lady slowly rowing her sampan. The guards had nowhere to go and proceeded to hit the sampan amidships and cut it in half.
It is generally believed that, compared with other districts' regattas in the territory, the Stanley event retains the earliest history of expat participation. Besides, it has always been the one with highest competitors turnout, highest company team turnout, and is most popular among expats. In 1996 and 2001, we had a record total turnout of 130 and 143 teams respectively.
Now the Event has earned reputation world wide. In 2001 not only was the event featured as the cover story in a local magazine the HK and Kowloon Town Crier, it was widely covered by renowned media like the CNN of the US, BBC of Britain, as well as other stations from Japan and Spain. Now it is included in the International Calendar of events of the International Dragon Boat Federation.
Global contact through cyber space
Our official race home page (www.angelfire.com/on/dragonboat) was launched in March 1999 with great success. In the same year, RTHK (www.rthk.org.hk) included the live broadcast of the event in Radio 3 in her web-page; Then from year 2000 onwards digital cameras are set up for on-line live global TV webcast. These break new ground for the history of dragon-boating. In year 2001 after seeing total hit count of 20 thousand in 2 years, commercial sponsorship was obtained for free web hosting in a permanent new site (www.dragonboat.org.hk).
Now Stanley Dragon Boat Racing has become a key hyper link for many large dragon boat sites in foreign countries. Even the Taiwanese Government's heritage promotion sites has links and recommendation towards us. In June 2001 we were amazed to be picked by a famous Chinese search engine (www.yam.com) as one of the top resouces sites of the month.
Serving the Community
The boats being used for racing and practice were purchased by the Stanley Residents Association and some teams. Revenue raised from the entry fees and donations are used to cover all the expenses of running the Regatta, ordering new boats and maintanence with the surplus used to subsidize community services and promoting sports and recreation activities of Stanley. For many years, most youth and voluntary agencies in the Chek Chu community enjoy the privilege of having their entry and practice fee waived.In 2001 we ordered 10 new wooden boats from Mainland China, thus expand the fleet to 22 boats.
To promote dragonboating is by itself a social movement on actualising and experiencing our own tradition - the growing charisma of heritage is overwhelming. The effort of the Association pays off as tourism, sports popularisation and cultural exchange are all enhanced through this annual event of the Tuen Ng Festival. Ever since the launch of the internet project, our " On-line Research Room" has induced a new niche for the Association, leading us to quest for extra missions and visions, viz, to promote heritage awareness, cultural tourism, and sense of roots in our community. This kind of civic education is badly needed in our modern life.