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Thursday, February 13, 2014

Dragons on the Derwent

THE River Derwent will present a marathon challenge to Tasmanian and interstate dragon boat crews this weekend. The "4 Bridges – Almost a Marathon" event from from New Norfolk to Hobart will cover 41km this Saturday. It is just short of an official marathon and will be the longest distance paddled in a dragon boat event in Tasmania.

Organised by Dragon Boat Tasmania, the event has attracted 90 paddlers from all over the state as well as from Queensland, South Australia and Victoria. Event co-ordinator Julie Davidson said the event has lifted the profile of dragon boating as a sport for men and women in Tasmania. Dr Davidson said local dragon boat crews had been competing at national regattas for several years but the "4 Bridges" marathon was the first event to attract such a strong interstate contingent to Tasmania.

“It is a milestone for the sport in Tasmania to host an event like this,” Dr Davidson said. “Like any athletes, dragon boat paddlers enjoy a challenge and are prepared to travel across the country to participate.” Similar to the endurance paddle on the Northern Territory’s Ord River, the 4 Bridges will call on paddlers’ rhythm, strength and fitness to get them across the line.

Event officials will be watching the clock to get crews to the Tasman Bridge before Hobart’s notorious sea breeze kicks in. “After a four-hour slog downstream, we don’t really want to be powering up against a strong headwind and whitecaps on the Derwent,” Dr Davidson said. “Crews will be conscious of this and will be setting a good pace early in the day. We will be stopping for a mid-morning snack and to top up our fluid levels at Austins Ferry but it will be a short break.”

The crews will be evenly matched in terms of strength and experience and comprise paddlers from different clubs. The five boats will travel together down river shadowed by support vessels and should be quite a spectacle. While it is not a race, Dr Davidson anticipates the final leg approaching the Tasman Bridge could develop into a good-natured challenge.

The challenge starts at the New Norfolk Bridge at 7.45am this Saturday.

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