A royal dragon boat celebration

    In honor of the royal wedding of Kate Middleton, a fellow dragonboater, 30 women from the Schuylkill Dragons paddled on the river in fancy evening wear yesterday.

    Wearing extravagant gowns, tiaras, fur, feather boas, and jewels, team members drank champagne and toasted Kate and William, and “strong women everywhere.”

    As soon as the engagement was announced last December, team member Marlene Dubin wrote to Buckingham Palace to invite the future Duchess to become an honorary member of the team, which is the oldest all-women’s dragon boating team in Philadelphia.

    Her reply was that she has had received many offers from around the world and that she’ll have to think about it, but the team is hopeful that “Duchess Catherine,” as she is now known, will join team members when she and Prince William make their first trip to the United States as a married couple.

    • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

    Dragon boating is an ancient sport from Asia, in which 20 people paddle while one person stands in the back steering with a large oar and a drummer sits in the front, pounding the drum in rhythm with the paddlers.

    To the untrained eye, it looks like a giant canoe, except for the ornately carved and brightly colored dragon’s head protruding from the front of the boat.

    At the St Joe’s Boathouse on Kelly Drive some teammates wore white cocktail gloves and others wore fingerless gloves designed for watersports.

    Aboard the boat the athletes imitated the queen, practicing her famed “royal wave” as Kerry Krieger described it, before saying a final “ta-ta” to spectators and the media.

    Coach Joanne Fegley wore a top hat and coat tails as she stood up at the rear of the boat, guiding the craft with a large oar.

    When they returned she explained to her teammates that it is difficult to steer in such fancy evening wear, but she enjoyed feeling her coat tails flapping in the breeze as she stood upright at the rear of the dragon boat.

    As the sun went down, women joked about getting their gowns wet, and were glad to have spread the image of dragon boating to all the people who had turned out to watch the “combination of fun and fitness”.

    Team president Karen Anderson says that in addition to the physical exercise, the silliness of the whole event was a healthy experience in itself.

    “It takes years off your life just to laugh like that.”

    To learn more about competitive dragonboating in Philadelphia go to schuylkilldragons.com, or email schuylkill.dragons@gmail.com.

    WHYY is your source for fact-based, in-depth journalism and information. As a nonprofit organization, we rely on financial support from readers like you. Please give today.

    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal