Rowers power through downpours at Hong Kong Dragon Boat Carnival after rainstorm warning
Thousands from around the world gather to compete in city’s iconic Victoria Harbour, as food trucks and man-made beach entice spectators on sidelines
Paddlers and spectators braved heavy rain on Friday to make a splash on the first day of the Hong Kong Dragon Boat Carnival.
More than 4,500 rowers from 15 countries were set to hit the water over the weekend for the annual three-day event, according to organiser the Hong Kong Tourism Board.
And while 160 teams face off in Victoria Harbour, their supporters are taking in the action from a man-made beach set up on the Central harbourfront, where 14 food trucks will keep stomachs full.
However, the number watching this year was projected to drop 10 to 20 per cent on last year’s figure, largely due to a wet weather forecast. About 80,000 people were expected in total, the tourism board said.
The Hong Kong Observatory issued an amber rainstorm warning on Friday, and did not lift it until four hours after the races started at noon. The signal indicates heavy rain of more than 30mm has fallen in an hour or is expected to across the city.
Friday night and Saturday would remain cloudy with showers and squally thunderstorms, the weather authority said.
“We will suspend the race if there is heavy rain or a thunderstorm,” said Mason Hung Chung-hing, general manager for the event and the tourism board’s product development department.
But rowers brushed off the downpours as the small boat races – those with 10 rowers, one drummer and a steersman – got under way on Friday.
Standard-size boats will take to the water on Saturday and Sunday – each with 18 paddlers, one drummer and a steersman.
Bianca van den Berg said the event was her team’s seventh race of the season. The Seagods were first put together in 1999 and have been a frequent feature of local dragon boat race finals over the years.
The group have won first place three years in a row at the Stanley International Championships, which was held on Monday.
Disabled rower Brylle Samgel Arombo, 21, who lost a leg in a car accident, came all the way from the Philippines to attend the carnival. His PADS Adaptive Dragon Boat Racing Team won gold in the International Paradragon category last year.
Hung said the tourism board’s main goal this year was to draw more visitors.
“About 30 hotels in Central have informed their guests of the event,” he said.