HK Must-Dos: Be on a Dragonboat Team!

Two years ago I made it a point to go and see the Stanley Dragon Boat races on Tuen Ng Festival.  It was a really huge event, where the corporate presence was more than evident (after all, its primary sponsor is Sun Life Insurance).  In many ways, it is not unlike the Corporate Challenge in NYC — but also different.

First, I have to admit, I’ve never attended the Corporate Challenge — only heard about it through friends.  My understanding is that it is a real run – but only for the top runners, because you’re otherwise stuck sloshing through a pretty big pack of not-ordinarily running runners.  Then there are your corporate booths, for the HR staff and others to cheer the runners on.  Teams can enter to win for best times, and there’s also a t-shirt contest.  At the end there is some drinkery of course.

The Stanley Dragon Boat races are somewhat different.  First, dragonboating takes real teamwork and practice.  The rowing can be quite back breaking, and it’s an organized bunch of quick sprints (it takes under 2 minutes to do the race).  Though most corporate teams are comprised of weekend warriors, it is not easy stuff and does require some athleticism and coordination!  This I can attest to, having done it before. 

As for running a 5k without having done any practice? I would say any reasonably fit person can do this on the fly, and survive.  Running doesn’t require any teamwork!

As in the Corporate Challenge, lots of corporate teams sign up, and it’s an incredibly popular thing to do in Hong Kong.   What’s more fun is the costume contest for the Dragonboat races, however.  Not only are teams designing funny shirts or cute team names, but there’s always some interesting headgear.  I’ve seen teams wearing panda hats, shark hats, pirate hats, etc.

Finally – as for the drinkery — the Stanley Dragonboat races involve BOATS!  So lots of firms will anchor their company junks (junkboats are just yachts – not sampans), and host some great parties.

This year I joined my firm’s team – and we had our own cute name and plush hat included in our costume.  We only had 5 practices, but they were 2-hours long — apparently double from previous years, and pretty hardcore imho!  Every weekend my back ended up aching quite a lot, keeping me away from any real activity the following day, and requiring at least a day to recover.  But practices were fun – especially when we had time to relax in our company junk post-practice.

We rowed in the Law Society Professional Cup the other week and took 3rd – an all-time high for a very under-achieving (athletic) team, so it was beyond thrilling when we even took 1st in one of the 2 qualifying heats. 

The video taken by our HR staff proved that it was not speed that led us to win — we were not even third fastest out of the docks, but coordination – as our teamwork led us to overtaking all other boats by up to 2 full seconds (a big deal when races are completed in well under 2 minutes). 

Bottom line — attending the Stanley Dragonboat races is highly recommended since the costumes are great, and there’s lots of energy and fun for everyone – especially if you can get in on one of these company junk parties.  Participating in the races is even better (unfortunately I miss the Stanley races this year because of travel)!  It’s a real bonding experience that is both fun and rewarding.  Let’s also not forget – it’s time with some sun, sea and sand – so why not?!


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