Dragons return to the waters at McMaster
The Mac Dragon Boat Club is back and more motivated than ever
For almost two years the dragon boat club at McMaster University trained online. The club delivered its workouts, paddle practices and fitness tests via Zoom until they could cautiously resume in-person training during the 2021-2022 school year.
Dragon boat racing is a team sport where members race in an ornate, canoe-like boat. In a 20-seater boat, the crew consists of one drummer, one steerer and twenty paddlers. Without the chance to compete during the long break, most of the club’s current members had never been in an actual dragon boat before.
"Dragon boating is the same kind of motion [as canoeing]. I think a lot of people get confused that dragon boat is rowing just because it has more people in the boat . . . Think of a canoe, add one person sitting next to you, and then fill the boat up with twenty people,” explained Matthew Huynh, current co-president of the Mac Dragon Boat Club.
This May the club competed in their first regatta since 2019. The club’s two boat crews, Holy Mac-Row and Holy Mac-A-Rowni, put on impressive performances. Against all odds, the Milton regatta concluded with Holy Mac-Row finishing second in the 500 meter University A division finals.
"I know there are other [university] teams that have a lot of vets still there . . . I would say out of the people on our team [that competed], only four had been on a dragon boat before,” said Luke Nguyen, current co-president of the Mac Dragon Boat Club.
At the club’s second regatta Holy Mac-Row set a 500 meter club record and placed first in the University division. The club also brought the Pickering University Trophy home for the collective effort from both crews.
The club attended one more regatta before heading to the Canadian Dragon Boat Championships in Aug. 2022. Top crews across the country compete for a chance to qualify for the Club Crew World Championships which is held each subsequent year. The Mac Dragon Boat Club qualified for the U24 A Division Finals for all four of its events.
"We were able to really put our passion and hard work up front and make our name well known in the dragon boat U24 community . . . We were up there with some of the best crews, not only in Canada, but honestly the world,” said Huynh.
Though the club did not place in the championship, the competition gave club members a chance to see the outcome of their perseverance.
"For a moment at that last 200 meters [of the 2000 meters race], I think everything just froze. It was a very vivid memory in my head. I just saw how hard [we worked], and where our time and efforts were put into,” explained Nguyen.
After their recent championship experience, co-presidents and Huynh believe the team has what it takes. The club has its sights set on qualifying for the next 2024 world championships held in Italy.
“As a team, we’re hungry. Even when we were there [competing], we knew we were one of the best crews out there,” said Huynh.
In the meantime, the club welcomes all beginners and interested students to try the sport in the fall term. After some time in the water, the club chooses their rosters for competition and focuses on becoming race-ready later in the season.
“It’s not just paddling, it’s also community . . . Try to come out, and I can almost guarantee you will create some very memorable moments with us at Mac Dragon Boat,” said Nguyen.