Dragon Boat Regatta returns to Carolina Beach this weekend

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One of the most unique boat races in the area will be held again this weekend during the fourth Annual Carolina Beach Dragon Boat Regatta and Festival.

According to Bob Lewis, of Island Men, the non-profit group that organizes the event, this year’s regatta is shaping up to be the biggest one yet. Twenty-four teams featuring at least 22 people each have signed up, including one from another state.

“We’ve got the Secret City Mad Paddlers coming in from Oak Ridge, Tennessee. They heard about us and decided to come down here for vacation and participate,” Lewis said. “This is the first team we’ve ever had from Tennessee.”

Teams from other cities, such as Charlotte, have entered, along with paddlers representing local employers like New Hanover Regional Medical Center and Intracoastal Realty. In addition to the competitive races, which will start at 9 a.m on Saturday, a special race is scheduled for noon.

“The mayor of Carolina Beach and some town employees will be racing against the mayor of Kure Beach and their town employees,” Lewis said. “It should be a fun one, kind of for bragging rights of Pleasure Island.”

Paddlers will row the intricate and elaborate dragon boats, based on traditional Chinese designs, along a 300-meter course in the Carolina Beach Yacht Basin in Myrtle Grove Sound. The event drew the interest of over 1,200 spectators last year, according to Lewis. More are expected this year, and organizers will be setting up bleachers along the water so that visitors can have a better view of the races.

The festival begins Friday night at 6 p.m. at the Sea Witch, with an opening ceremony, live music and other activities. Preliminary races will begin at 9 a.m. on Saturday, and finals will be over by 4 p.m., followed by an awards ceremony.

The event is free to the public and is funded through sponsorships. This year, money raised during the event will benefit Step Up for Soldiers, a local non-profit organization that helps veterans in the area. They are also well known for collecting items such as toiletries, snacks and other things to assemble into care packages and send to active-duty military members currently serving overseas.

“This is a great local organization and great cause,” Lewis said. “We’re proud to be partnering with Step Up for Soldiers to help raise money for them.”