Saturday, October 5, 2019

Teams and Eligibility

Community and Corporate Mixed Division

All teams registered for The 18th Annual Philadelphia International Dragon Boat Festival must have a minimum of 8 female paddlers for a total race complement of 20 paddlers, plus 1 drummer.  A team roster is allowed to hold up to 24 paddlers, plus 1 drummer for a total roster allowance of 25 crew members.  A professional steersperson will be provided for you on Race Day.  A registered team member must be eight (8) years of age or older in the year of competition and no team member under the age of eighteen (18) will be allowed to practice or race without written consent and a waiver signed by a parent or legal guardian.   A final team roster must be inputted, along with outstanding individual waivers must be signed electronically through the online management tool before a paddler goes out on a boat for practice.  Teams will not be permitted to race if all the team waivers, matching the team roster, have not been completed online.  An individual may only register as a paddler for one team and paddle only for that particular team.  Drummers and steerspersons can be either male or female and may participate on other teams in that capacity.  They may also participate as a paddler for their team (i.e.: switching spots with another registered team member) or may choose to register and participate as a paddler for another team during the event (not both).  The Captain shall be responsible for the conduct of her or his team and for communicating and distributing all practice and race information to the team.  She/he is responsible for submitting the team roster online and to ensure that every team member has signed his or her waivers electronically before his/her team goes out onto a boat for practice.


Note on female paddlers:  If a team is missing a female paddler, then a male paddler must be removed, and the team race with 18 instead of 20.

Waivers and Safety

All team members must sign a waiver electronically, which is a part of the registration process through the online management tool prior to participation in any practice session or race.  The team Captain is responsible for ensuring that each team member has signed his or her waiver online prior to the first practice session.

Be aware of forecast weather conditions during practices and on race day.  Only the team's steersperson is responsible for making the decision to cancel a practice due to inclement weather.  Those practices cannot be made up.  A safety boat and referee boat will follow each race.  If your dragon boat veers off course or becomes swamped, please remain with the boat and wait for the referee and/or safety boat to arrive.  Follow their instructions!

Dragon Boats and Equipment

The Philadelphia International Dragon Boat Festival will be using World Championship fiberglass dragon boats.  Each boat is fully equipped with dragon head and tail, paddles, steering oar and drum.  Paddles will be supplied, as required.  Teams may use their own paddles as long as they conform to required specifications.  Any unmodified Grey Owl dragon boat paddle or any paddle supplied by race organizers will meet event specifications.  No substitutions!

Race Venue and Logistics

The Philadelphia International Dragon Boat Festival is being held on the Race Course on Kelly Drive in beautiful Fairmount Park.  The race course is a certified 500-meter course, clearly marked with neon buoys.  Electronic timing with manual back-up and finish line video replay will record official race times.  The start sequence of the race will be controlled initially by the referee who will in turn hand the race over to the starting official.  The referee will direct the teams to the start line (pre-start position).   The starter will align the boats.  He will say something like:  "Lane 3 back … lane 1 move up … lane 8 stay where you are… Lane 2 up a bit."  He will then say:  "All boats hold," and "attention please."  After two seconds or so a horn will blow – and you are off!  A five (5) second penalty will be issued to any team that begins paddling, in whole or in part, prior to the start cannon.  In all cases, the starter can call back the race for a re-start.

Once a race has begun, each team is responsible for remaining in the center of their respective lane until they cross the finish line.  A team that wanders outside the race course or into another lane may be "disqualified" (DSQ), particularly if they interfere in any way with the progress of another boat.  A team that enters into another team's lane but does not interfere with the progress of another boat, may continue but will be disqualified if the team does not cross the finish line in the team's own lane.  The decision as to whether interference has occurred is made by the referee, whose decision is final, without appeal.  A team that is interfering or is about to interfere with another boat may be told to stop their boat by a race official.  If the team does not stop their boat they will be disqualified.

The finish line is marked with red buoys.  The finish of each boat is recorded as the dragon's nose breaks the plane of the finish sight line approximately 1 meter behind the red buoys.  All crew members must be in the boat at the end of the race or the boat will be recorded as "Did Not Finish" (DNF).  The decision of the judges is final.  Upon completion of their race, all crews must return immediately to the dock mooring area and follow the instructions of the dock marshals so that the next heat can begin on schedule.

Official times and finishing positions will be announced as results become available and will be posted at Race Headquarters and in the vicinity of the team marshalling area.  Team advancement into divisional semi-finals will be posted as soon as they are determined by qualifying heats.

Race Schedule Format

The race schedule will posted on this website one week prior to the event.  It will also be posted on race day at the event.  Each team will race three times on Saturday: in a qualifying heat, a semi-final race and a final race.  The qualifying heat will determine the Division of each team for the Semi-Final and Final Championship Race.

The Philadelphia International Dragon Boat Festival retains all rights to advertising, sponsorship and commercial representation for the event.


Medals will be awarded to each first, second, and third place finishers in divisional championship finals.  Awards will also be awarded to each first place finisher in each Challenge category.

Rules of the River

Review the Boathouse Row Rules of the River

  • Know the traffic patterns – west bank upriver, east bank downriver
  • Slower traffic shall move to port (left) and yell "Look Ahead" to overtaking traffic. Overtaking shells or launches shall stay to starboard (right)
  • Stay out of racing lanes (upriver of Columbia Bridge – you probably won't go there in practice anyway)
  • Boats leaving Boathouse Row shall proceed to the west bank as soon as safety allows.  Point towards the green Girard Avenue expressway sign on the west bank
  • Returning boats shall stay towards the east bank and proceed at an extremely slow rate in a single file below the Viking statue 
  • Returning boats waiting to land shall yield to departing boats and shall stay towards the east bank 
  • No racing or high stroking below the Viking statue
  • No turning or stopping 100 meters above or below a bridge
  • All boats rowing in darkness shall have fixed, flashing lights bow and stern
  • Each coaching/safety launch shall be equipped with a cell phone
  • Rowing/paddling is prohibited when river flow as reported on the USGS web site exceeds 18,000 cubic feet per second. Novices are cautioned not to row when flow exceeds 8,000 cubic feet per second
  • Be aware of weather conditions

Festival Rules

Each boat going out to practice requires a PIDBF qualified steersperson.

Practices can start whenever a team is ready to go, but must always end no later than 5 minutes before the next session is scheduled to begin. Crews returning late can be penalized.

At the end of a practice session, everything is to be put away in a neat and orderly manner.  Boats tied up with bumpers between them, launches properly secured, gas put away, all paddles and sweeps in the closet, PFD's hung on the railings. In principle, the Steersperson and Captain should be responsible for getting the paddles and PFD's put away.  Asking the crews to help is absolutely appropriate.

Do you want to learn more about our Dragon Boat Festival? If so, sign up for our mailing list and receive Race Day information and notification of upcoming events and practices.

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