Here come the dragon boats

It’s ‘May Madness’ as the annual climax of the quintessential Hong Kong sport, dragon boating, approaches.

The biggest and best-known event is the Stanley Regatta on the May 30 holiday, but there’s plenty of local racing before then.

This Sunday is the Mui Wo Dragon Boat Race Day, with 35 mixed, 15 men’s and 11 women’s teams registered to compete.  The Cheung Chau races and the distinctive Tai O Dragon Boat Water Parade take place on the 30th, with the Discovery Bay competition on May 28.

Training run: Nicole Cromwell (left) and Lucie Element set the pace for the South Lantau Buffaloes

Dragon boats evolved out of the death of a loyal official, Qu Yuan, in the third century BC, who drowned himself by walking out into what is now Miluo River in Hunan. Historians still argue over why he  took his life.

But according to legend, local villagers paddled out to throw glutinous rice balls called zongzi to stop the fish from eating his body. From those origins we get the holiday – known variously as Tuen Ng, (or Duan Wu 端午), Qu Yuan, Zongzi Festival or the Dragon Boat Festival – and the boating tradition.

Contemporary dragon boating attracts plenty of non-traditional competitors as well as traditional village teams. At Mui Wo this weekend, Silvermine Bay, Tai O and Shap Long entrants, local outfits South Lantau Buffaloes, Lantau Boat Club and Discovery Bay Pirates and corporate teams from HK Disneyland, Li & Fung and Microsoft will also line up.

Buffaloes on the water: coach Darrin Dalton (rear) calls the shots

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