Enter the dragons – boat races return to Bewl and the Medway

Dragon Boat race (Bewl) Neon Ninjas crew (credit Kerrie Kent @goldheartedclub) (6) copy.JPG [Credit] Picture: Kerrie Kent

The famous Dragon Boat Race returned to Kent’s Bewl Water at the weekend as around 60 crews raced over a 250-metre course in the bid to raise money for charity.

The event has taken part on the reservoir – the largest stretch of inland open water in the South East – since 1998.

Over the last 20 years, more than £2.7million has been raised for more than 400 local, national and international charities from the Dragon Boat races at Bewl.

Dragon Boat race (Bewl) Neon Ninjas crew (credit Kerrie Kent @goldheartedclub) (9) [Credit] Picture: Kerrie Kent
Dragon Boat race (Bewl) Neon Ninjas crew (credit Kerrie Kent @goldheartedclub) (9)
[Credit] Picture: Kerrie Kent
The colourful event sees each crew nominate a charity, with all the proceeds from their team’s efforts going to that cause. Crews of 16 paddlers and a drummer race in Chinese-style dragon boats over a 250-metre course.

Teamwork and enthusiasm are as important as fitness in order to be a winning crew, but the fundraising goes on all year round.

This year’s race, which took place on September 10, was won by ‘Hunta’, beating ‘Snogard’, ‘DJ Civil’ and ‘Mogs’.

The victorious team paddled an orange and purple boat across the water, raising money for the Bone Cancer Research Trust. September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.

The event is a magnet for those raising money for various good causes.

Chartwell Cancer Trust had six boats in the event, and a spokesperson told the Times that although none of the crews made it to the final, ‘we have done exceptionally well in the fundraising this year.’

Dragon Boat race (Bewl) Neon Ninjas crew (credit Kerrie Kent @goldheartedclub) (9) [Credit] Picture: Kerrie Kent
Dragon Boat race (Bewl) Neon Ninjas crew (credit Kerrie Kent @goldheartedclub) (9)
[Credit] Picture: Kerrie Kent
Another boat, the ‘Neon Ninjas’, was crewed by those supporting four separate charities,
The Brompton Fountain, Parkinsons UK, Motor Neurone Disease Associaion and the Young Minds Trust.

Their crew’s total of £2,240 would be split between the four, The Brompton Fountain supporter Kerrie Kent said.

Yet the drumbeat of this important charitable event was nearly lost in 2018, when organisers Funraisers announced that that year’s races would be their last.

However, Bewl Water’s operational team stepped in to organise the event.

Operations director at Bewl Water, Andrew Daniells said at the time: “Funraisers have developed the Bewl Dragon Boat Festival over many years.

“So, not to host this special charity fundraising day, marked on so many peoples’ calendar, would be a great shame.

“We will again be working alongside the team at [equipment suppliers] Dragon Boat Events adding other attractions to this great annual family occasion.”

Bewl Water, which is run by Elite Leisure Collection, which also owns One Media, publisher of the Times, played host to the annual race on Saturday (September 10).



Originating in China, dragon boat racing is one of Hong Kong’s most colourful, competitive summer events and has a rich history that dates back over 2,000 years.

On the fifth day of the fifth lunar month, superstitious villagers would set out to awaken the hibernating heavenly dragon – the symbol of water, encouraging rainfall and bringing good luck to the coming crop season.

Over the years, the event soon became associated with the myth of Qu Yuan, a great warrior and poet who threw himself in the river Mi Lo as an act of protest.

It is said that villagers went out in the river with boats and drums to try to rescue his body and splashed their oars in the water to warn off the dragons that occupied them.

Dragon boat racing has become the world’s fastest growing water sport and is now practised in over 60 countries around the world including in the UK, where events are organised by the British Dragon Boat Racing Association (BDA).

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