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Awakening the Dragon at Preston Marina

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UCLan donates city’s newest human-powered watercraft

Preston’s Dragon Boat Club has ‘awakened’ its new dragon boat at Preston Docks after the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) donated the unique vessel to the city’s club.

Known as the Spirit of Preston, the 40ft fibreglass boat will be used by both Preston Dragon Boat Club, known as Preston Dragons, and UCLan’s own race squad, Team Oarsome.  Already Preston Dragons has attracted 50 members since it started in spring 2016 and represented Preston in two national competitions. Team Oarsome, which began when the Corporate Games came to the City in 2012, is the undefeated champion in the Northwest Confucius Institute Dragon Boat Race, having won the championship for the last five years.

UCLan’s Confucius Institute, which promotes Chinese language and culture in the community, has provided the funds for the bespoke vessel and trailer.  It was unveiled at Preston Docks in the presence of the Mayor, Councillor Brian Rollo, in the same way dragon boats are revealed in China where the sport originates.  Feixia Yu, Director of UCLan’s Confucius Institute, performed the ancient ritual called ‘Awakening the Dragon’, where the eyes, tongue and horns of the dragon head are literally dotted as a symbol to awaken the spirit of the dragon.  This part of the event was opened with energetic lion dance performed by UCLan students from QUANG KUEN Kung Fu Club.

Team Oarsome captain Ian Carrie said: “We are really excited to officially unveil the Spirit of Preston at Preston Docks where she will be based.  We have been very lucky and extremely grateful to have had boats loaned and donated to us by other teams whilst the club was in its infancy, but having our very own world class race boat to train and race in will make such a big difference to both clubs.  It’s like upgrading your old family run around to a new shiny sports car.

“We are a very open and inclusive club, something that we all feel very much ties in with values of our City, the club and the University so naming the boat the Spirit of Preston was very fitting and unanimously agreed upon.”

Tim Steele, ‎UCLan Vice President of International Strategy and Partnerships and Director of the UCLan Confucius Institute Board, said: "The University is proud to continue to support the work of our Confucius Institute, which last year engaged over 15,000 people in the Preston community in a wide range of its events and courses.

“Dragon boat racing in the UK has really taken off in recent years and it’s something that people can enjoy irrespective of age or gender.  We hope to introduce this very Chinese water sport to more local schools and colleges by organising our own races in the future.  We are delighted to be able to sponsor this new dragon boat, in partnership with Preston Dragons, as we continue to promote the opportunities for the people of Preston to learn about and experience Chinese culture.”

Dragon boat racing in the UK has really taken off in recent years and it’s something that people can enjoy irrespective of age or gender.

Sue Cameron, founder of the Preston Dragons, said: “We are so grateful to the Confucius Institute for getting behind our club and supporting us in this magnificent way. We are looking forward to strengthening our links with the University and working together to make dragon boating even more accessible to the students of the University and the people of Preston.”

The event attracted a large crowd of supporters, staff and new international students. Dr Daniel Waller, Head of the School of Languages and International Studies, commented: "This is another great example of how the University and the community have come together to celebrate diversity and different cultures."

Preston Dragons is currently training hard for the National Finals, which take place in Nottingham on the 23 and 24 of September.

View photos from the Awakening Ceremony on the UCLan Flickr gallery.

Lyndsey Boardman | 21 September 2017