Dragon Boat Festival

Charity boating event returns for a day of messing about on the river and family fun on the banks 

Back for another lively day of fun on the Cam, our city’s most colourful boating event returns on 8 September. The Dragon Boat Festival, supported by Cambridge Edition, offers a chance to see teams battling it out along a 200-metre stretch of river out in Fen Ditton, cheered on by hundreds of spectators. It’s loud, fun – and slightly crazy, in the best possible way! 

Crews are made up of companies, clubs and groups of friends from around the region, with 11 people (including a drummer), racing in traditional, ornately-carved Chinese dragon boats. Qualified helms and all racing equipment are provided by festival organisers, Gable Events, and each crew is guaranteed a minimum of three races. No previous experience is needed to take part, just plenty of team spirit and enthusiasm.
If you fancy getting involved, good news: there’s still time to enter a team but get in quick as spots do tend to sell out.

You’ll be pitted against other entrants for this year, which so far include local businesses Cambridge Commodities, Cantab, The A14 Integrated Delivery Team, AstraZeneca, Cambridge University Hospitals, CMR Surgical, Cooke Curtis & Co, and a crew from festival charity, Addenbrooke’s Charitable Trust (ACT).

ACT is the only charity dedicated to making a difference for patients at Addenbrooke’s and the Rosie Hospitals. By taking part and raising money for ACT, the teams will be helping to raise much-needed funds for cutting edge technology, additional specialist services, vital research and extra comforts for patients that make all the difference over and above what would be possible through NHS funding alone.

Last year’s Dragon Boat Festival raised a magnificent total of over £20,000 for Addenbrooke’s Charitable Trust, and Emily Willdigg, ACT’s Events Fundraiser, is looking forward to building on this success, “We are delighted that businesses are getting teams together to support our much-loved hospitals. With the help of many generous supporters, we can provide funds so that our local hospitals can offer the very best care day after day, year after year.” 

There’s plenty to see at the event, with a race every 10-15 minutes, plus bankside entertainment including children’s rides and inflatables, a Spitfire fly-past, food stalls and a bar. There will also be a colourful Chinese lion to meet, t’ai chi and traditional dancing displays from the Cambridge Chinese Community Centre. Additionally, visitors will be able to find out more about the Festival charity, ACT, and the fantastic work they do in making a difference for patients at Addenbrooke’s and the Rosie hospitals.

Keeping the competitive spirit healthy, there are a series of awards up for grabs, with trophies for the top three crews, top mixed crew and the ‘best dressed’ crew. There’s a special incentive to top the fundraising leader board, as the crew raising the most money for Addenbrooke’s will receive a fabulous private group cookery evening event of sushi-making at Cambridge Cookery, the award-winning cookery school, bistro
and cafe.

For further information and to book your place on the start line this month, visit dragonboatfestivals.co.uk/cambridge or call Gable Events on 01780 470718. For information about the services of Addenbrooke’s Charitable Trust visit act4addenbrookes.org.uk 

What is Dragon Boat Racing? 

Dragon boat racing has its origins in ancient China, where the sport began more than 2,000 years ago. Traditionally, these paddled long boats were raced by contending villagers, and it remains a popular Chinese pastime to this day, celebrated each year with a huge festival in June. The sport is becoming increasingly popular in the UK – in fact, it’s Britain’s fastest-growing corporate team-building activity. It requires no previous experience and doesn’t rely on brute strength – it’s something everyone can take part in. The key to success is teamwork, timing and the ability to listen to your helm’s instructions – failure to do so could result in an early bath!  

What: Colourful river race where teams battle it out in traditional Chinese-style dragon boats, featuring bankside entertainment  

When: Saturday 8 September

Where: Ditton Meadows, Fen Ditton 

How Much? Entrance to the event is free to spectators and parking is available at the nearby Fen Ditton Recreation Ground. Standard entry for a team is £650 + VAT