THE CAREFREE tranquility of floating in a narrow wooden boat metres from a sandy shore just isn't there when you're at the starting line of a dragon boat race. 'Everyone is anxious - you really have to concentrate on your own boat because there is a lot of colour, noise and distraction,' says James Weingaertner, team captain of The Buzz - an expatriate team taking part in the Stanley Dragon Boat Championships today. Dragon boat racing has traditionally been linked to the Tuen Ng Festival and the Stanley Championships, the largest, are just one of many taking place locally. German-American Weingaertner says much of the race is won in the preparation. 'You have a short amount of time to bail out water from the previous race and you continue to do that as you're paddling to the start line,' says Weingaertner, taking part in his eighth championships. 'If the waves are high, more water comes in before you've started,' adds the 35-year-old. At the start line focus is crucial. 'The experienced paddlers stay calm, and the trick is to ignore the colour and noise going on around you,' says Weingaertner, a regional sales manager for Case Logic. Buzz team member, Kelvin Wong, says tactics play a big part at this stage. 'You don't want to be at the start line too early,' says Wong, racing with the team for a second time. 'The boat can float forward or take in water, and team members can lose concentration. The starter has to wait for all the boats to be ready. 'You want to get there on time and go as soon as possible,' says Wong, 26. Once that gun goes, the 300-metre race is on. The captain's job is to shout instructions to the team. 'We'll immediately make five hard strokes to get us moving,' explains Weingaertner. 'Then I'll shout 'Up!' and we'll change to quicker strokes until we reach the 'plain' - the body of the race. At that point I shout 'Power up!' to maintain power and speed.' The timing for the final push depends on the position of the team in the race, and the strength of the paddlers. If required, 'Up two!' is the signal for paddlers to give everything they've got left to give. Surprisingly, it's the quiet teams which often perform better, says Edwin Hou Chi-fai of the Stanley Residents Association, which organises the event. 'The elite teams don't do much talking,' says Hou. 'Powerful strokes, good technique and perfect synchronisation are a common trait of successful teams. 'And lots of concentration.' Up to 10 boats will line up for each race towards Stanley's main beach. The gun fires every 15 minutes from morning till dusk. More than 135 teams, or 3,000 people, are taking part this year - firmly establishing the event as Hong Kong's premier local regatta. There will be a total of 38 races, culminating in a grand final - the Stanley Cup. It is a famously multi-cultural affair as the expatriate teams mix it up with the Chinese. A ladies' championship is also contested. Up to 20,000 people will descend on the tiny bay to cheer the teams on and RTHK will host a live broadcast throughout.