On June 17, the highly anticipated Toronto International Dragon Boat Race Festival (TIDBRF) took place on Centre Island. Regarded as one of the most prestigious international dragon boat events in North America, TIDBRF attracted top teams from around the globe to participate in the exhilarating 200-metre and 500-metre races over the span of two days. This year, U of T fielded several formidable teams, including the Iron Dragons from the Faculty of Engineering, the New Dragons from New College, the UC Dragons from University College, and the Liquid Assets from Rotman Commerce — the four most competitive U of T teams.
“[The] Engine is the powerhouse of the boat,” explained Jack Huang, the co-captain of Iron Dragon and an Engine paddler, when asked about the role of different sections on the dragon boat. Positioned at the boat’s core, the Engine consists of the strongest and most robust paddlers, responsible for generating consistent and unyielding power throughout the entire race.
In perfect harmony with the Engine, the Pacer section takes the lead at the boat’s front, utilizing their combined explosive strength to ignite the boat’s speed and set the pace for the race. Meanwhile, the Rocket — stationed at the boat’s rear — showcases paddlers with exceptional technique, skillfully employing their intricate strokes to lift and propel the boat forward. Additionally, the Drummer at the very front and the Steersperson at the back play critical roles, synchronizing paddler actions and ensuring boat safety.
Dragon boat racing exemplifies the essence of teamwork, where each team member’s contribution is a cornerstone to success. This sense of unity was echoed by Mikhail Lobo and Nathaniel Vo, the co-captains of UC Dragon. “We are in the same boat,” Vo emphasized — both literally and figuratively. The strong communal bond of a dragon boat team is forged through relentless training, unwavering dedication, and a shared goal of crossing the finishing line as one victorious entity.
When asked about the biggest challenge that Iron Dragon faced during this season, Huang responded, “Reboating and bringing new recruits up to speed.” The pandemic’s disruption and the graduation of many senior members necessitated the recruitment of new members and the training of two new boats for this season. Impressively, the new recruits have shown remarkable improvement, with star paddlers Callum Derry and Rachel Yam even qualifying to be part of the Canadian National U24 Dragon Boat team.
Similarly, the lack of experienced members posed a challenge for New Dragon, leading them to merge with UC Dragon for this season’s competition. When asked about the collaboration, Vo explained, “[New Dragon] needed paddlers, and [UC Dragon] needed a coach.” In addition to Vo, UC Dragon also boasts two members who are part of the Canadian National U24 Dragon Boat team. This strategic alliance has undoubtedly strengthened both teams’ performance and created a stronger sense of unity within the U of T dragon boat community.
In the fiercely contested 200-metre women’s race, the Iron Dragons claimed an impressive fourth-place finish, narrowly missing out on the top three spots dominated by premier teams. The UC Dragons and Liquid Assets secured commendable 5th and 6th place finishes, respectively.
In the 200-metre mixed race, the Iron Dragons continued to demonstrate their dominance, clinching a well-deserved first-place victory. The UC Dragons secured the third position, while Liquid Assets finished in fourth place.
In the 200-metre open race, Liquid Assets qualified to compete against premier teams, ultimately securing a fifth-place finish in Division A. In Division B, the UC Dragons placed an impressive first-place finish, with the Iron Dragons closely following in second position.
In the 500-metre open race, Iron Dragons qualified for Division A and secured a fifth-place finish. In Division B, the UC Dragons once again demonstrated their prowess, winning another first-place victory, while Liquid Assets secured an impressive second-place finish.
After a stellar performance at the TIDBRF, all four teams raced at the Canadian Dragon Boat Championship in Welland, Ontario in July. Top performing teams from this national competition are given the opportunity to represent Canada at the “Olympics of Dragon Boat” — the Club Crew World Championships in Italy next fall.
Remarkably, all four teams secured top five positions at the national championship, qualifying to represent Canada on the global stage.