Dragon boats all fired up for charity event

Royal London team No Heels in the Boat Race at Leith's Western Harbour. Picture: Cate Gillon.
Royal London team No Heels in the Boat Race at Leith's Western Harbour. Picture: Cate Gillon.
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HUNDREDS of paddlers, six colourful boats and a taste of the Far East – the Dragon Boat Festival is set to return to the Capital for the second year.

The Western Harbour at Ocean Terminal will play host to the charity event which will see 28 teams – around 500 paddlers – put their paddling powers to the test over a 250-metre course.

It is the largest event of its kind in Scotland, with crews competing in 40ft long boats in a bid to raise more than £40,000 for charities.

The inaugural Dragon Boat Race raised more than £15,000 for charity last year.

The Port Edgar Dragons team – based at Port Edgar in South Queensferry – is fundraising for Maggie’s Cancer Centre in Edinburgh.

The team has its own boat, Isla May, and most of the crew have experience of cancer, including Andrina Gordon – a retired welfare officer from Bonnyrigg – who has been diagnosed with breast cancer for the third time.

As well as raising money for cancer charities, the team is racing to raise awareness of the benefits of exercise for cancer prevention and therapy.

Each team, which will consist of a maximum of 20 people including reserves, will compete at least three times with different opposition. The fastest six will then battle it out in the grand final to win the Sir Tom Farmer Friendship Quaich.

The event is organised by Retail Trust, Ocean Terminal and Leith Rotary.

Deputy centre manager at Ocean Terminal, Michelle Macleod, who will be paddling in the Retail Trust boat, said: “It’s a fantastic spectacle and great fun, which is not to say that the competition is anything other than deadly serious. We will all be paddling with one aim in mind – to make it to the final and win.”

Among the other teams taking part will be The Citadel Vikings from Leith, who will raise funds to help give young people in difficult circumstances outings and holidays.

Chief executive of Retail Trust, Nigel J L Rothband, said: “I salute the paddlers. Some will have been in training regimes for weeks, others will be more carefree in their approach, but I know all will be determined to raise as much as possible for their causes.”

Each boat will have a helmsman, provided by Dragon Boat Events Ltd, the company which is also supplying the vessels.

Stephanie Donaghey from Leith Rotary Club added: “This is a great day for Leith, making the most of our spectacular waterside setting and drawing in the amazing community spirit that we have here. It’s a fantastic mid-summer day out for the family and it’s hard to imagine better ways of raising so much money by having so much fun.”

The event will kick off at 10am, with activities concluding with the grand final paddle-off at 4pm. The course runs parallel to Ocean Terminal, passing by the former Royal Yacht Britannia.

Around 2000 spectators will be able to view the action from the quayside, behind safety barriers, and from within the Ocean Terminal shopping centre.

Dad inspired by daughter

SCOTT Gibson has been inspired by his daughter Laura to compete in tomorrow’s event.

Laura was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma at the age of 15 in 2011, and after 10 months of chemotherapy and radiotherapy, was finally told that she was in remission last year.

Mr Gibson, who lives in Colinton, said: “We are raising money for It’s Good 2 Give as this charity was one of a few charities who helped my daughter Laura while she underwent treatment.

“Thankfully, and due to the amazing support of the Sick Kids and charities such as It’s Good 2 Give and Teenage Cancer Trust, Laura was told in December 2011 that she was in remission.”