Race to the finish!

Race to the finish!
Boat Quay was filled with screams, shouts and ripped bodies thrashing it out in the Singapore River on Nov 22 and 23.

No, it wasn’t the scene of a deadly massacre – but of the 26th Singapore River Regatta 2008.

Organised by the Singapore Dragon Boat Association, the regatta is the country’s most respected Dragon Boat championship. Up to 22 members – 20 paddlers, 1 drummer and 1 steerer – form a team, and work in unison to forge ahead against the rest of the competition.


A total of 151 races were flagged off from its starting point at Elgin Bridge (above) to the finish point 300m away, just behind Cavenagh Bridge and in front of the Asian Civilisations Museum.

According to the Singapore Dragon Boat Association (SDBA), a shorter distance was chosen so as to “promote the sport of Dragon Boating and to continue growing its popularity”. Races can stretch to 1km and up to 10km, as was the case at the SDBA-Austcham 10km Dragon Boat Challenge 2008 in October.

Practice session

Discipline, devotion, determination.

The regatta attracted teams from all age and professional groups. Teams from schools raced against those from big financial companies, and government ministries competed with foreign chambers of commerce.

Participants UrbanWire spoke to were not fazed by this arrangement or uneven matching of competitors.

Mr Eddie Lim, 61, the coach of a mixed team made up of students from various secondary schools, said it was all in the name of exposure and team-building.

The manager at Sports Boules Singapore and SEA games coach with 16 years’ experience, said, “Some of them have been training with me since Primary 3. We are trying to develop a new batch of talent and build team spirit among the young.”

Vickland Malik, 20, NSF

Mr Vickland Malik (above), 20, agrees. “This is just my second time rowing. I’m just doing this for fun. I’ve only trained once before!” he exclaimed.

Some, like Vickland, also came along to enjoy the generous serving of eye candy.

The combat medic with the Singapore Armed Forces (NS), said, “Actually, the primary reason I came here is to see girls. The chicks from the Eurasian Association are hot!”

After the race

Rain? Not a pain!

Regardless of the rain that pelted down (incidentally, Dragon Boating was originally meant to appease the River Gods to bring on rain and to ensure a good harvest), spirits remained high, especially during the prize presentation ceremony on the second day.

Winners and other participants cheered for one another and celebrated their achievements. They also congratulated each other on a markedly better performance compared to previous years.

RP Team Victory Picture

(Photo courtesy of the Republic Polytechnic Dragon Boat Interest Group)

The captain of Republic Polytechnic’s team (above), Shawn Tan, 20, said: “The competition has definitely improved tremendously since last year. In this sport, it’s not about who’s improving – everyone is. It’s about who has the ability to put in more focus into the race itself.” The polytechnic clinched 4 gold medals at the games.

For Mountbatten Constituency Sports Club Boat Team captain Alvin Lee Jun Yi,  19, his team’s third consecutive win in the Peoples’ Association Inter-Constituency Invitation category was especially poignant. It came on the first anniversary of 5 local paddlers having lost their lives when their boat capsized after their race in Cambodia.

The Ngee Ann Polytechnic student dedicated the win to his 3 “brothers” – former teammates who fell victim to the capsize. “It was with their help that we became last year’s Inter-Business Houses & Clubs Grand Final Champions. Stephen, Boon San and Jeremy… they were the finest rowers Singapore could offer, and their dauntless fighting spirits still live on in our hearts,” he said.

When asked if their teams were going to take a break from training, both Alvin and Shawn said no.

Shawn said, resolutely, “A week’s rest – that’s all. Other teams are training hard and we should also continue training to continue improving ourselves.”

Alvin concurred, saying, “We will continue to train harder and I expect more intense competition from our opponents next year and the years to come.”

The roars at Boat Quay may have died down since, but it looks set to resurface with even greater verve next year.