• York Rotary

2021 Dragon Boats was a Challenge

Updated: Sep 21



This annual event (held on September 12th) is billed as a “Challenge” for the teams that take part. This year, it was also quite a challenge for the organising team!!


The impact of several lockdowns, office closures, home working, isolation and “pinging” was obvious as we received fewer entries for this year compared to previous years. We had one team withdraw, and several were “on the edge”, unable to recruit enough crew members, as the date approached.

But in the end the 31 teams participating all showed up, and very quickly the traditional excitement, fun and competitiveness returned – complimented by a lovely sunny day – so that 2021 will be remembered as a very successful event.


Samaritans team (left)

KYRA team

How successful? The current total raised by the teams stands at £65,000 and may yet go higher, which is a very pleasing result – this will be split between teams’ own charity selections, and the rest (1/3) going to our own nominated charities, SASH and The Hut. In addition, over £2,200 was raised in donations on the day, and a further £1000+ between the North Bank Stall fees and Diana’s Tea Tent.

(left) Tea Tent

Lord Mayor and Civic Party at VIP reception


And the success of the racing was clear when we had one of the closest-run 6-boat final in many years – the first 4 boats finishing within 2 seconds of each other. The eventual winner was 2 Signals Regiment, who celebrated with military whoops and shouts - yet seemed unable to open the two bottles of champagne!!

After overcoming several other challenges – COVID restrictions (a mild impact in the end, as it turned out), losing our porta-potty supplier – no joke actually! but we found a new one two weeks before the event; and finding a new caterer for the VIP reception lunch – everything worked to plan with only minor issues on the day.

This year saw several new initiatives in how we organise the event, notably the use of digital technology. No paper was sent out to teams (and no postage costs!) and all sign-ups were via our website. Regular email correspondence kept teams informed of changes and reminded them of tasks they needed to do.


All team sponsorship/fundraising was channelled through Team Pages on Virgin Money-Giving, with no paper forms, no cash and no cheques.


Finally we did not print programmes this year (just simple Race Cards, which were handed out freely)

On board with the York Mix team

As well as new catering and toilet arrangements we also insisted this year that all teams took away their own rubbish afterwards, and we supplied them bin bags for this purpose. This worked like a dream, with a spotless site remaining after they had all gone. Just as well, as the Council had forgotten to supply us with green bins for the day!

We got lots of positive publicity for Rotary and for the event through radio interviews, press stories, website views, Elly Fiorentini’s messages and tweets, and a massive coverage (15,000 views) on Twitter, co-ordinated by Rebecca. The “buzz” on social media was amazing with all the teams participating and adding photos and positive messages through the day, and afterwards.




This event only runs this well as a result of the talented group of Rotarians that are the Dragon Boat Team, and my huge thanks go to them for the collaborative and efficient way everyone did their bit, and for the hours they have put in over the past year (and more!)


Bill (from DBEL) and Elly Fiorentini


Finally, thanks to all Rotarians, Friends, Inner Wheel and others who volunteered on the day, raised lots of money, helped keep the event safe and maintained a cheery outlook despite – in many cases – working very long hours.


Lots more photos, and videos of the event (and results) can be seen on the Dragon Boat web page



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