Fall dragon boat races at Lewes Canalfront Park were unanimously approved by Lewes Mayor and City Council.
The panel approved the races at a special May 30 meeting at City Hall.
The boat races are a benefit for Sussex Academy Foundation. Following a May 20 presentation and a lengthy discussion before mayor and city council, the panel said it would allow the races if organizers agreed to pay for any damage to Canalfront Park. A dragon boat is 46 feet long and has a crew of 22 – 10 rows of two paddlers, a drummer who sits in front and provides a beat for rowing cadence, and a steersman who uses a sweep oar to control the boat.
Boats are scheduled to arrive in a trailer Wednesday, Sept. 11, and will be hand carried to the Canalfront Park dock. The boats will be tied up at City Dock.
The event is scheduled for 11 a.m., Sunday, Sept. 15. Organizers said the start is three hours later than initially planned so the event would not conflict with services at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church or Cannonball Run.
City officials approved the race, but they continued to voice concerns about the number of people the event might attract. City officials said race organizers must keep the city informed about how they’re handling a number of issues that have not been completely resolved.
Event organizers Gina Derrickson and Christa and Stuart Griffin said they have modified event plans to address most city concerns.
Derrickson said the park’s planted bed areas would be roped-off to prohibit people from trrampling the beds. Races would be limited to 36 teams and there will be no more than 10 vendor spaces plus two spaces for Friends of the Canalfront Park. She said Lewes-based vendors would be given first priority for vendor spaces, and Lewes Chamber of Commerce members would be next in line for any remaining spaces.
Sussex Academy Foundation will give Friends of the Canalfront Park $1,000 for use of the park, pay the city’s $50 park-use fee, pay for additional police officers and trash pickup, and pay for restroom cleanup after the event.
Derrickson said based on her experience, she does not think the races will draw more than 1,500 spectators.
She said 15 groups have expressed interest in entering a race team. The entrance fee is $1,000 for nonprofit organizations and $1,400 for commercial teams.
Money raised by boat teams will reimburse the Sussex Academy Foundation and additional money raised through vendor space sales and sponsorships will benefit the Sussex Academy Foundation. The foundation is also paying travel expenses for a professional steersman, U.S. Dragon Boat Federation insurance, and Eastern Regional Dragon Boat Association membership.
Race organizers said the post-Labor Day event would benefit Lewes’ downtown businesses, including hotels, restaurants and shops.
Organizers must still obtain a U.S. Coast Guard permit for the event. Buying insurance coverage was contingent on city’s approval.
Organizers said insurance for the park covers up to $300,000 in damages and up to $2 million per occurrence for athletic participants, spectators, volunteers, event organizers, cosponsors, City of Lewes, and Lewes Canalfront Park.
Because the event will spill over onto property leased by the Lightship Overfalls Foundation, Brook Hedge, the foundation’s director of events, asked that it, too, be insured.
The Jacka-Liquori Agency Inc. based in Kings Park, N.Y., specializes in providing insurance for dragon boat races, organizers said. Each 300-meter race – about 1,000 feet – will start just west of the Overfalls and end approximately opposite the Canalfront Park gazebo, Stuart Griffin said.
Organizers said each race would take 2 to 3 minutes, and races would take place in heats every 7 to 10 minutes. Three safety boats manned by pilots from the Pilots’ Association Bay and River Delaware will be on the racecourse. The race will accommodate commercial fishing boat traffic.
Race organizers have hired Knoxville, Tenn.-based Dynamic Dragon Boat Racing Co. to coordinate the event. The company will do site evaluation and consultation, provide eight dragon boats, personal flotation devices and paddles. Company representatives will also hold coaching and safety clinics for each individual team.
Dynamic will hold one hour practice sessions with each team beginning Thursday, Sept. 12, through Saturday, Sept. 14. Practices will include safety instruction, paddle coaching and practice runs. Safety boats will be present for all practices.