Foreigners competing in the Taipei International Dragon Boat Championship at Dajia Riverside Park (大佳河濱公園) said yesterday that they were excited to be in the event because they view it as a good way to experience Taiwanese culture.
“It was a great pleasure and it was a lot of fun,” said Henley Jones, an official at the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT).
Jones, a first-time participant, said he appreciated the opportunity to experience that aspect of Taiwanese culture, although the AIT Men’s team did not reach today’s quarter-finals in the Men’s Open Division of the races.
The AIT teams practiced for about two months before Saturday’s start of the three-day championship. The men’s team won a preliminary race and made it into the second round of yesterday’s competition, placing third in a stiff race against three local teams.
“I wish the results could have been better, but it was a good race and it was fun,” said AIT spokesman Mark Zimmer, who raced for the second time.
Zimmer said the AIT Women’s team advanced and wished them luck.
The AIT, a regular participant in the races over the past few years, fielded two teams this year. Last year, it competed in the Mixed Open Division.
Other foreign teams are from Israel, Australia, Malaysia, Russia and Philippines, organizers said.
A total of 233 teams registered in this year’s championship, which ends today, organizers said.
The Dragon Boat Festival is celebrated on the fifth day of the fifth month of the lunar calendar — today this year.
The dragon boat races commemorate Qu Yuan (屈原), a Chinese poet and minister in the state of Chu during the Warring States Period more than 2,000 years ago.
When the state of Qin conquered Chu, the poet drowned himself in despair. Legend has it that a crowd beat the river with paddles to keep fish from eating Qu’s body. Today’s dragon boat races originated from that legend.