Dragon boats ahoy



A DISTINCTIVE drum beat, the sound of thrashing paddles and the gasps of weary warriors will echo over the mighty Clarence tomorrow for the annual Grafton Dragon Boat Festival.

Introduced three years back, the Dragon Boat Festival, run in conjunction with Jacaranda festivities, has grown in popularity each year.

This year 28 teams of up to 20 rowers will do battle over a specifically designed straight course on the Clarence finishing at the Grafton Rowing Club.

While the day is designed as a family fun event, competition is always fierce and thousands of people line the Clarence's banks to cheer the crews.

And will anyone dethrone perennial winners, the bronzed muscle-bound Aussies from Yamba Surf Life Saving Club?

While 'line honours' in the final are the ultimate prize, the Dragon Boat Festival creates races within the race ? special team challenges.

This year the Schools Challenge, Pink Ladies Challenge and Retail/Trade Challenge, sponsored by Black Toyota, Radio 2GF & Kleins Jewellery and NBN Television respectively, will hold enormous interest.

South Grafton High have excelled at the past two Dragon Boat Festivals making the final for the last two years.

A totally new crew will take to the river this year entirely made up of Year 11 male and female students.

Principal Barry Bartley has the students primed for action.

"Making the final last year was particularly exciting especially having to beat Grafton Triathletes to make the final," Bartley said.

"We go into this (Dragon Boat Festival) to have fun, have a good time and support Grafton and Jacaranda activities."

SGH had a training run yesterday afternoon to hone their paddling skills.

Bartley's biggest fear is daylight saving which begins on Sunday morning.

"Last year there were a lot of boats that went out in the first race half empty and full for the second race. I hope everyone remembers to change their clocks," he said.

The competition against arch rivals Grafton High and noted rowing coach Colin Lang should ignite school pride.

Word has it the Grafton High crew are champing at the bit.

On the other hand the Cathedral School has entered a crew for the second year.

However, the crew is mostly made up of staffers and two Year 12 students.

"It would be nice to knock off South Grafton and Grafton but I don't know if it will happen," organiser Lynette Eggins said.

"We had an absolute ball last year, didn't row that well but it was a fabulous day."

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