Filthy water in the Shing Mun River in Sha Tin meant few paddlers at yesterday's 20th Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival International Races opted for the traditional swim after winning a race. Competitors and organisers were happy with the venue despite persistent rain, but were unanimous in calling for the water to be cleaned up. After completing their races the competitors headed to a nearby school to clean up, rather than using their paddles to splash rival teams. 'We are quite frightened because the water appeared to be so dirty,' said Marc Schumann of the Maschsee-Drachen Club from Hanover in Germany. 'On the side, you could see litter and contaminated dead fish - it looks like poison.' Wendy Mabbott, who paddled to victory in the Women's Open Championship Final with the Hong Kong Island Paddle Club, also dispensed with the traditional victor's ritual. But the 640-metre course on the river was regarded as a better venue than Victoria Harbour, where the race has been held since its inauguration 20 years ago. 'The water is flatter and the boats don't sink,' Ms Mabbott said. 'However, something could be done to the water - the dirtiness would put off a lot of rowers.' Canadian Fred Heese also welcomed the new venue. 'It is better than the rough water in Victoria Harbour, which we spent a few years rowing in before,' he said. Mr Heese and his fellow rowers from the Toronto Chinese Business Association and Scotiabank crew became the first to break the Asian gridlock on the Men's International Championship.