Fire and ice: Dragon Boat Festival could make an appearance at Winterlude 2017

A new cold-weather take on dragon boat racing could be coming to Ottawa next year, according to organizers of Ottawa's Dragon Boat Festival.

Festival president John Brooman said Heritage Canada and the National Capital Commission have both approved the idea but there is still lots of logistics and business planning to do. He’s hoping that dragon boat races would be part of Winterlude in 2017.

The winter variation on the summer sport is less than six years old and races have taken place in Hungary and China.

The sport was invented by Champion Dragon Boat global chairman Zhongyi Luo, who invited Brooman to Budapest last March to see the ice racing in action.

“Mr. Luo had been watching Ottawa for a while, because our festival has become one of the largest in the world,” said Mr. Brooman. “He recognized that, got in touch with me, and the next thing I knew I was on a plane to go to Budapest and try out some ice dragon boating. The relationship took off from there.”

“I thought it was pretty cool – I’m not a dragon boater, I’m a sailor – so I was a little skeptical. But  people are saying they absolutely love the idea,” he said.

Ice boats are a little different than regular boats, but retain the distinctive long shape and colourful painted head and tail of a dragon. They seat 12 people instead of 20, have special brakes and ‘paddlers’ propel the boat using long poles with flat studded bases.

Mr. Brooman said if a racing event can be incorporated into Winterlude it would likely attract international teams to race on a six-lane, 350-metre course on the surface of Dow’s Lake.

Ottawa’s Dragon Boat Festival, which wrapped up Sunday, is the largest in North America. The festival regularly attracts thousands of spectators to watch races and attend free concerts and has raised $3.7 million for Ottawa charities since 1993.

This article originally appeared on on June 27