More than 400 paddlers on 21 teams competed for the coveted first Lewes Dragon Boat Festival championship oar. After 21 heat races on Sept. 15, it came down to the 12 top teams racing against the clock.
Racers paddled a course set up in the Lewes-Rehoboth Canal, ending in front of Canalfront Park, where thousands gathered to cheer them on.
In the final four races, Striper Bites finished three seconds ahead of second-place Schell Fire Breathers to claim first place. Pilot's Association Dragon Anchors, Team NVR and Built rounded out the top five. Less than two seconds separated second through fourth place and just one-tenth of a second separated second and third place.
Rounding out the top 12 were: 6 - Big Eye Tunas; 7 - Griffin and Hackett Power Strokers; 8 - Cape Gazette Flood Tides; 9 - Bad Hair Day Yin Yangs; 10 - Law Offices of Scott and Shuman; 11 - Sussex Academy Dragon Wagon; and 12 - Double Nickel.
Thousands crowded into Canalfront Park to see the first-of-its-kind event in the area. "The event went really well," said organizer Krista Griffin, herself a former dragon boat racer as part of the Philadelphia Dragon Boat Association. "We had outstanding community support, and the teams were way beyond enthusiastic. Everyone had so much fun."
Proceeds of more than $10,000 went to Sussex Academy's capital campaign fund. The Georgetown charter school is adding high school to its offerings starting with ninth grade this year.
Professional steersmen from Dynamic Dragon Boat Racing guided teams during each race. In the finals, teams bid for their favorite professional.
Griffin said she and the rest of the organizing team – husband Stuart Griffin and Gina Derrickson – plan to meet with the school and City of Lewes officials to discuss the event. "We'd love to do it again if they all agree," she said. "It's a signature event we've created for Sussex Academy."
It was all about the teams. The Dirty Oars team made up their own song and posted it on Facebook; Bad Hair Day had its own foam head dressings; Big Eye Tunas made their own large dragon head; and the the all-female Girls with the Dragon Boat Tattoos sported temporary dragon tattoos. The Dogfish Head team didn't finish in the top 12, but they held their own as the best-dressed team.
TOP 12 FINISHERS
1. Striper Bites, 1:12.35; 2. Schell Fire Breathers, 1:15.37; 3. Pilot's Association Dragon Anchors, 1:15.47; 4. Team NVR, 1:16.02; 5. Built, 1:16.27; 6. Big Eye Tunas, 1:17.54; 7. Griffin and Hackett Power Strokers, 1:18.47; 8. Cape Gazette Flood Tides, 1:19.39; 9. Bad Hair Day Yin Yangs, 1:26.56; 10. Law Offices of Scott and Shuman, 1:26.83; 11. Sussex Academy Dragon Wagon, 1:27.10; 12. Double Nickel, 1:29.13.
See complete results at lewesdragonboat.com