No Drag in this Dragon Boat: One of Our Own Is at the Helm

Senior Consultant John McDermott is a member of the United States team competing in the 14th IDBF World Dragon Boat Racing Championships 2019, August 20-25, in Pattaya-Rayong, Thailand. The International Dragon Boat Federation sponsors the event every other year for its 74 member nations.


From the stern, as helmsman McDermott steers one of the traditional, colorful vessels in the 2000-meter distance Men’s Open boat race, which takes about 10-plus minutes to complete. The boats, including dragon head and tail, are about 45-feet long and weigh 3,000 pounds. “Imagine steering an 18-wheeler from the back,” says John. “That’s a rough idea of what it’s like.” The course is 500 meters, which means three turns conducted with highly efficient elegance and speed.

A drummer pounds out the pace and 20 crewmen paddle in unison. (Women crews compete separately.) McDermott & Company will be keeping an eye on strong competitors from Canada, Russia, and Germany. They’ll be ready for surprises, too.


Dragon Mode

Other classes race at distances of 1,000; 500, and 200 meters, which is a straight, under one-minute sprint. At the last world championships in 2017, the US National Team finished second overall behind Canada and ahead of rivals Australia, Germany, and Russia. This time, the US Team also expects to finish well.

But you never know. This year just getting to Thailand was a challenge. Departing from Chicago’s O’Hare Airport, McDermott was scheduled to pass through Hong Kong’s Chek Lap Kol Airport the same day protesters shut it down.


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