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How Does Dragon Boat Racing work?

A Dragon Boat Team is made up of up to 20 team members, where a maximum 16 paddlers and a drummer will be allowed to compete in any one race.  The extra members are because each team will have several races during the day. 

Racing is over a course of 200 meters with the start just beyond the cricket pavilion and the finish in front on the crowds in Roberts Park.  Each team will have a minimum three timed races where their single fastest time only will count for Grand Final qualification.  What this means is, even if two of your races are both disasters, one great time is still all you need to be in with a good chance of going through to the Grand Final race. 

After each race, the scores will be announced over the event p.a. and then put up on the event scoreboard and the festival’s BIG screen TV for everyone to see and compare.

What you will be aiming to achieve is an opportunity to compete in the last race of the day … the Grand Final.  This will be a race where the top three teams from across all the qualifying heats will race once more in the most competitive race of the day.  The Grand Final will be a 3-boat race to the finish where first across will be declared: Lord Mayor’s Dragon Boat Champions of Bradford 2020.

Team work is vital if a fast time is going to be achieved and for this reason, the instructors will also give ‘on the water’ training to help with technique.  Over the distance we race, fitness is not a key factor – technique however is.  So it does not matter if your team is made up of just 12 paddlers or 16, because it’s a team sprint where team work and timing is everything. 

The event will finish with our award ceremony where team trophies were awarded to the Captain’s of the top three teams and Winner’s Medals to each member of the winning team.  It’s a brilliant day out.

Your Race Day

The Race day starts off at morning registration for participating teams, after which the first teams will be called up for their safety briefing.  

Each team is given a full safety briefing before their first race, which along with best paddle technique and how to stop the boat capsizing as well as what to do in the event of a capsize. Wristbands will then be issued to every team member at the briefing, which then allows them access to the waterside of the event and the dragon boats.


With the start of the race just outside the viewing area of Roberts Park, BIG Screen TV’s are organised so that camera footage can be shown to the crowds in the park and along the river bank. 


Along with the dragon boat racing, the festival also included many other displays and attractions, from an Army assault course, where members of the public will be invited to have a go, through to through to a climbing tower, children’s rides and a fun fair.  There were also ethnic and international food vendors each serving their diverse range of wonderful foods, bar outlets, market stalls and a whole host of traders.  

Pulse FM sponsored the big stage where live acts from up and coming local bands entertained the crowd throughout the day.  

The Bradford Dragon Boat Festival is the UK’s  only three-day dragon boat festival and is already the largest event of it’s kind in the UK today.  

Designed as a free to spectate festival, the event is organised by the community of Bradford for the community of Bradford.  

The Race Course

The races start upstream just beyond the cricket pavilion and takes the boats round a gentle bend as they come into the park.  

In order to ensure fair racing, the start positions are therefore on an angle and slightly  staggered (same as on the athletics track).  This has been accurately measured by Bradford’s Land Drainage team using incredibly accurate and sensitive GPS equipment to do so.

Those measuring the course have taken into account the bend of the river and are allowing much of this year’s racing to take place in the park with the finish around 40 meters from the pontoons. 

Frequently Asked Questions

The team entry fee is £500.00 per team for 17 competitors (plus up to 3 reserves to make 20 in total) and goes towards the cost of the festival. 17 competitors max allowed per race.

The team sponsorship is separate and is paid to the charity direct via the team’s online giving page, which the Captain / another team member will need to set up.

Once set up, this link will need to be sent to all team members so they can pay their sponsorship. Our The link will also need to be sent to ourselves so it can be put up on the team entry table.

Each team member is challenged to raise a minimum £100 in sponsorship.

If you are the Team Captain, you need to look at the entry confirmation email that was sent to you after you registered. Near the bottom of the email is a blue box with white letters that says: “View Required Documents”

The top section is the Disabled Waiver whilst the lower section, the Participant Consent & Waiver Form.
To the right of each are two boxes: Green “Share” (for your team’s link) and the blue “Fill out Document” (for you to complete).
To copy the link to send your team, click first on the “Share” box and then on ‘copy’ on the box that pops up. Paste this link into an email to all your team members.

The existing registered captain will need to email events@racethedragon.com with details of who is to replace them. In that email we will need the new captain’s: Name, email address and mobile number. We will then email the new captain and ask them to confirm by reply, their acceptance of the role and responsibilities.

Please note that applications to change the registered captain are not usually accepted from other team members unless there are exceptional circumstances. In such circumstances, you must still email in your request using the email address above and include your mobile number.

Requests to race later in the program can be made by the registered Captain only up until 17:00 on the week Thursday before the event (the Thursday nine or ten days before, depending on which day you are racing on) by emailing events@racethedragon.com. Please note that, because of the race order’s complexity and the placement of Head-to-Head teams, it may not always be possible to accommodate change requests.

If your team member is late arriving on the day, it may mean you having to race without them.

Team names can be changed by the registered Captain only up until 17:00 on the week Thursday before the event (the Thursday nine or ten days before, depending on which day you are racing on) by emailing events@racethedragon.com.
After this time it goes to print and no further changes will be permitted.
Please ask them to come to Event Control and speak to one of the staff there.
All safety briefing are the same so simply attend another team’s briefing to get your wristband.
Please be aware that if you arrive after the end of Round 1, it may not be possible to get a safety briefing or participate in the event.

Please be aware that if you arrive after the end of Round 1, it may not be possible to get a safety briefing or participate in the event.

Wristbands do not fall off, they can only be removed by force. Under no circumstances can wristbands be removed and given to another person.


If a wristband is on too tight, please report to Event Control with your wrist band still on so we can replace it with a similar band.


Please be advised that removing a wrist band will then result in you being excluded from either the Participant’s Village and / or further participation in the dragon boating.
No. This is a community festival and there is no cost to come and watch.


You are advised that there is limited parking at the festival and so public transport is highly recommended. Saltaire train station is within easy walking distance of the festival and would be your best option. For details on train times, see https://www.northernrailway.co.uk/stations/SAE.
A diverse number of catering outlets will be available on the day, likewise drinks. If you want to bring your own picnic you are welcome to do so, but please remember you are responsible for removing your own litter.


No glass is permitted in the park though.
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