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More about the York Rotary Dragon Boat Challenge

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Dragon Boat Racing is the world’s fastest growing water sport and has become popular with charities and companies alike.


The  York Rotary Dragon Boat Challenge provides the opportunity for anyone to take part in this thrilling sport here in York on one of its finest  assets, the River Ouse.

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For companies and other organisations, Dragon Boat Racing is an exciting way of motivating and integrating people. It quickly gets everyone working together in a fun competitive environment. It is a superb platform for team building, whilst helping the  community by raising funds for local charities (c. £1.5 million raised so far since this event started)


The event, normally held in July each year,  provides a high profile opportunity to support local charities which make such a valuable contribution to York’s community as well as generating support for your own team's nominated charity.


Stalls and a variety of activities are planned alongside the River to create a Gala Day atmosphere to compliment the Dragon Boat Racing. Race participants and their family and friends as supporters along with spectators are expected to number a few thousand. This is a substantial promotional opportunity for companies and organisations.

Racing usually starts at 10am, with heats throughout the day - each team racing three times - culminating in the Grand Final at approximately 4.00pm , followed by the prize giving celebrations.

North Bank Gala

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Charities - whether they are participating in the racing event or not - are invited to take a stall during the event at the North Bank Gala alongside the racing.

Further details can be found here

Entry, sponsorship commitment,  and fees 2024

Commitment - Participants should note that the £450 entry fee, which covers the hire of the boats, is non-refundable unless the event is cancelled.


Each team is expected to raise at least £2,000 as sponsorship as a condition of taking part. (that's approximately £120 per crew member). Many teams raise well in excess of £2,000.


You choose a charity your organisation/team wish to support.  Two thirds of the funds raised by the team goes to the charity of the team's choice and one third to York Rotary's nominated charity/charities for that year.   


Dragon Boats Events Ltd and the Rotary Club of York will take all reasonable steps to ensure that racing takes place as specified.



Team Size - Each crew will consist of 16 Paddlers and a Drummer (minimum age is 16 years), selected by you from a team of up to 20 you nominate, including reserves.

The helmsman will be provided by Dragon Boats Events Ltd.

Ability to swim - Members of the team must be reasonably fit, able to swim at least 50 metres wearing a buoyancy aid and not vastly overweight in relation to their height.

Minimum age - The minimum age for this event is 16 years old.

Medical Restrictions - Each participant must be reasonably fit and must not be vastly overweight in relation to their height. If you are unsure whether you can take part, please seek advice from your doctor.

Insurance - Dragon Boats Events Ltd and its parent company The Organisation Ltd have their own Public and Employee Liability insurance. Any additional insurance requirements should be arranged by the individual.

Team Information - All selected teams must send a representative to the Team Captains' briefing to be held a few weeks prior to the event.


Further detailed information and instructions will be  provided and should be carefully followed by all teams. 

2024 Team Entries are now closed as all 36 places have been allocated.

Entry conditions
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For visitors who would like to enjoy watching the event and associated activities...... Information regarding location, timings, local parking, food and charity stalls etc can be found here



Traditionally, Dragon Boat Festivals commemorate the life and death of the ancient patriot-poet Qu Yuan, who lived in China from 340 - 278 BC, but was banished from the state of Chu after criticizing the government and the emperor.


In exile Qu Yuan wrote poetry expressing his concern for his country and people, but in 278, he disappeared whilst walking by the Mi Lo River.  The Chinese tradition of dragon boat racing recalls for the people of South China, the noble spirit of Qu Yuan and the power of his writing.


Today, it is one of the fastest growing athletic events in the world. The World Championships of Dragon Boat Racing have been held annually since 1976 in Hong Kong. The International Dragon Boat Federation, based in London, is developing the sport on a world wide basis.


What is most exciting, however, is the growth of the sport at the grass roots level. Most international crews attract primarily mixed teams from companies, public service groups, clubs sponsored by small businesses and educational establishments.

Dragon Boats are the largest flatwater racing canoes in the world.

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A crew of up to 16 paddlers paced by a drummer at the bow and guided by a helmsman at the stern, combine power and rhythm to achieve maximum acceleration and speed over a 250 metre course to create a truly visually exciting event.

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Safety on the water

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The safety of the crews and staff is the highest priority hence the safety precautions taken during the racing.


All races are carried out under BDA rules.


All crew members have to wear a buoyancy aid which is provided.


All crew members must be able to swim at least 50 metres wearing a buoyancy aid.


A safety boat is on the water at all times during racing.


Trained staff and first aid equipment are on site.

Notice: The event is an adventure sport and as such involves a risk of injury regardless of the standard of training, supervision and equipment involved. Each captain will be required to produce a declaration on the day, signed by each member of their team that they voluntarily accept all risks involved and are fit and able to swim as per the medical restrictions above and will not hold Dragon Boat Events Ltd, The Organisation Ltd, the Rotary Club of York, York City Rowing Club, the Canal and River Trust,  or York Samaritans liable for any claims arising from any accident resulting in any loss or damage including bodily injury or death and agree to be bound by the rules.

© 2024 by Rotary Club of York
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