THE Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival International Races are under way despite the gloom and thunderous skies, drawing cheering crowds and hundreds of paddlers to the waters off Sha Tin. The 20th festival lured 125 local teams, 29 overseas teams from 13 countries and three Hong Kong national teams to the Shing Mun River for two days of races. Local teams from banks, trade associations, universities and a runners' club churned the rain-splattered river for places in today's 18 semi-finals and finals. About 20 races went ahead for the first time at Sha Tin, despite heavy rain and a curious odour from the depths of the Shing Mun. 'When we were paddling, our heads were down. We didn't notice the pelting rain,' said Benjamin Yau Shiu-bun, 19, a member of the Scout Association of Hong Kong team. 'But it's hard not to notice that the water stinks and it's oily.' The Standard Chartered Bank's Li Shuk-han said the event was worth the 10 practice sessions she and her 18 teammates had endured, although they came last in their heat. 'We were last, but it was fun. It was my first time and I think I will be doing it next year too,' she said. Winners of yesterday's races were: Hung Hing Yui Kee, China (Shun De) women's team, Man Wan Colour Boat Club, Hong Kong Island Paddle Club, Chai Wan Fishermen's Recreation Club, Djajanti Indonesia, Haking Wong Technical Institute, China (Shun De) men's team, Hong Kong Institute of Architects, Hong Kong Fire Services, QE Hospital Doctors' Association, Royal Hong Kong Police Force, the HKUST, Kuga Young (Japan), Stanley, Hong Kong Dragon Boat Team and Tai Po.