Mark Howarth of the Candlewood Lake Authority (CLA) led Candlewood East Marina's first practice Tuesday night for the second annual Dragon Boat Race.
"And here comes the rain for our first practice," Howarth said as it began to drizzle. The rain held off long enough for the team to get their boat in the water and absorb all the tips and pointers Howarth shared.
Dragon Boat racing is a long-standing tradition in Chinese culture and has many legends associated regarding its origins. According to the Chinese Culture Center of San Francisco, it originated in China and has been a tradition for over 2,000 years.
The Candlewood Lake Authority first brought the event to Candlewood Lake in 2009 to bring people together for a day of fun and healthy competition on the lake and to raise funds for the CLA.
The boats the teams will use are canoes that are outfitted with brightly colored, open-mouthed dragon heads. The heads are made out of wood and purchased from 22 Dragons, a Canadian company.
Made in Germany, the 46-foot boats will contain 20 team members, a professional steer person, and a drummer who sits in the front of the boat. Competitors will race four teams at a time, rowing to the drumbeat to reach the finish line. Each team races three times, according to Coach Patsy Cicala.
"It is a 200-meter sprint to the finish," Howarth said.
Eleven of Candlewood East Marina's team members came out to practice Tuesday night despite the rain. Team Captain Travis Keaney, of New Milford, works at the marina and recruited his friends Lee Ottulich, Kim Hull and Jen Blodgett.
Coaches from CLA training the team on Tuesday included Mark Howarth, Shannon Ring and Marco Cicala's father Patsy from Delaware, who came to help coach four of the 16 teams.
CLA Director Larry Marsicano said Dragon Boat races are a "great time for people to come out and enjoy the lake."
Howarth is the lead organizer of the event and said it is "a great team sport. It's more about working together as a team rather than strength."
Roped off areas will be provided where boaters can view the races with additional viewing from the beach at Lynn Deming Park.
Teams will be competing for first place bragging rights as well as medals. The event is rain or shine, "unless there is extreme weather predictions," Ring said.
Sarah Jackson, who works at Candlewood East Marina, said she and her boyfriend also participated last year and are excited to do it again. "It's really fun," she said. "And really fast," her boyfriend Brian Goersch added. "We came in second place last year but it was by a second," Jackson said.
Sponsors include Stew Leonard's, 98Q, Candlewood East Marina, Kona Brewing Company, Gerard's Waters Edge Marina, First Light Power Resources, Union Savings Bank, Chris Robinson/Coldwell Banker, CT Bass Federation Nation, Harry T. Tucker and Sons and Chatterton Marina.
CLA's Second Annual Dragon Boat Races will take place, rain or shine, on Saturday, August 21, at Lynn Deming Park in New Milford. Opening ceremonies will begin at 9 a.m. with the singing of the National Anthem.
For more information or to make a donation to CLA click here.