Penn’s Dragon Boat Team is looking to build on its momentum after an underdog victory at its second-ever race.
At the Philadelphia’s Independence Dragon Boat Regatta on June 2, the new team came in first place out of all school-affiliated teams and was awarded the Educator’s Cup. Additionally, the team reached the major medal finals of the second-most competitive division at the races.
“It was beyond all our expectations,” said 2010 College graduate Dave Liang, a co-captain.
Liang and fellow co-captain and 2010 College graduate Henry Chow formed Penn Dragon Boat in early 2011. By October, the team, a combination of alumni and undergraduates, participated in their first race.
“We missed the camaraderie and the thrill of being with a sports team … So [Chow] had the idea in 2011 after we graduated,” Liang said.
“I was at a happy hour with some local Penn alums one day, and they said they would join the team that day if they could, so it started off as a few friends signing up on a whim, then 10, and so on,” Chow said.
Liang admitted the initial recruiting was not easy. “Sometimes people’s schedules just don’t match up in the end,” he said. But the team eventually added a small number of dedicated individuals.
Liang added, “if you have that core, you just build off that easily.”
A dragon boat crew consists of 22 members, including 20 paired paddlers, a sweep — or steersperson — at the rear of the boat and a drummer at the bow to keep the rowing pace. Each race is 500 meters long, which usually takes between two to three minutes at Penn Dragon Boat’s current level of competition.
Due to the high volume of crew members during the race, precision and synchronization are key, fueled by solid teamwork.
“On the boat, we really just don’t want to let each other down, and that’s part of what makes it so in sync, and how we can all listen to each other and take each other’s criticism to make sure that we can improve,” rising College sophomore and crew member Grace Truong said.
“We always have team bonding things after practice, and I feel like getting to know everyone and getting along with everyone is really important. And when we do practice … we always try to focus on timing,” rising College sophomore and teammate Katherine Liang added.
Penn Dragon Boat now consists of 22 members, sometimes more and sometimes less, depending on the members’ schedules. Since a Dragon Boat race requires a crew of exactly 22, the team is currently looking for new members for their August 4 race in Flushing, N.Y. The team practices Wednesday and Saturday for a total of three hours per week.
“We want people who are a little crazy. Part risk-taker, part sports enthusiast, part food-lover. The vast majority of our team committed to be part of the team before ever being on the boat,” Chow said.
“We work hard at practice and try to eat equally hard afterwards,” he added. “It’s really a lot of fun – good exercise, fun company and maybe an Educator’s Cup here and there. What more can you ask for?”
Dave Liang added that half the team can’t even swim — all that is necessary is a willingness to work hard and try something new.
“It’s just a lot of fun,” Katherine Liang added.