‘Amazing’ demand for boat race

EVENT: The Dragon Boat Challenge is back at Pugneys on July 8.
EVENT: The Dragon Boat Challenge is back at Pugneys on July 8.

The Dragon Boat Challenge is on course to be a record breaker.

The charity race at Pugneys on Saturday, July 8 is set to feature 39 teams and around 800 competitors.

Such has been the clamour for places that the organisers, Wakefield Chantry and Huddersfield Rotary Clubs, have had to turn some teams away.

Bob Guard, chairman of the organising committee, said: “Given the overwhelming response this year, we will be looking at ways to handle an increase in team numbers for next year. We have already had some preliminary discussions with the dragon boat suppliers for 2018 to be able to accommodate up to 48 teams which would make the event one of the largest in the country.”

Recruitment this year has been driven by the Inspire Wakefield project to encourage volunteering in the area. It has been financed by a grant from the Lottery Big Fund.

Charity organiser Sam Lambert and Social Media expert Emmie Johnson have together transformed the organisation of the recruiting of teams and volunteers.

Sam said: “Having the funding from the Lottery Big Fund has allowed us to target much smaller charities, who on their own would struggle to get enough volunteers and find the funds to pay for the entry to the challenge. The response has been amazing with record numbers entering, to the point where we have had to sadly refuse some entries as we could not cope with numbers this year.”

One of the biggest innovations this year was the offer from the organisers to all teams for their volunteers to attend a boot camp day to get themselves ready and fit for the big day.

These boot camps have been organised by Sam and Emmie and run by Iveridge Health Club in Oulton.

More than 150 volunteers have taken part in these entertaining days either at the health club or, where necessary, at the work place of the team members.

The days have included team bonding sessions, paddling instruction and general keep fit training to help make the dragon boat racing even more enjoyable.

The race, sponsored by Vantage Toyota, takes place on July 8 at Pugneys, off Denby Dale Road. It is free entry and there will be free parking.