Lamma Island

Thousands of rowers shrug off shark sighting

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 03 July, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 03 July, 2012, 12:00am

Under an unforgiving sun followed swiftly by thick clouds, thousands of competitors yesterday paddled their way through the choppy waters of Victoria Harbour during the city's annual Dragon Boat Carnival.

Canada's 22 Dragon-MDBC won the Women's International Championships, while Thailand's national dragon boat team took the International Cup.

The main race yesterday drew professional and amateur teams alike to Tsim Sha Tsui East.

Competitors seemed unfazed by the reported presence of a shark off Lamma Island, which triggered the closure of 12 beaches on Sunday afternoon. 'I am not concerned,' said Wukihiro Garcia, a racer for the Okinawa Takara Dragons. 'We have lots of sharks in Okinawa too.'

The one-day event was divided into three races for international teams and seven for local teams, including the Professionals' Championships and the Hong Kong Disneyland Mixed Championships.

There were 155 participating clubs from 12 countries, including Thailand, Canada and America.

For the Gila Dragons, from the arid state of Arizona, it was their first race in Hong Kong, and they looked like an unlikely contender. 'We know we are the underdogs,' said Eric Tang, the team captain. They failed to place in the top three yesterday.

The team was formed in 2002 and its 40 members used to train by paddling on top of milk crates on the Tempe Town Lake and each other's swimming pools.

Taipei city later gave them a few real dragon boats in 2004, but they stuck to their roots: the team logo shows a Gila monster, a type of venomous lizard, sitting on a milk crate.

The event also tested long-time local rivalries. Liu Kwong-sang, from the Accounting Professionals Association, still remembers his team's bitter loss to the Hong Kong Institute of Marketing last year by 0.45 seconds in the Professionals' Championships. 'They are our biggest competitor,' Liu said. But the marketing team won the title again yesterday, and Liu's team ranked third.

The festival continues tomorrow, with a world championship competition and a final race on Sunday.