The Dragon Boat Festival Penang is a major sporting event in Malaysia. The first Penang Boat Festival was conducted in 1956, commemorating the 100th anniversary of the founding of Georgetown. In the early instances of the competition participation was limited to teams from Malaysia, but overseas teams have been permitted to enter the competition since 1979.
Presently the popular festival attracts entries from around the world, including contestants from the USA and Europe. In fact any team affiliated with the governing body of the sport, the International Dragon Boat Federation (IDBF) may join the racing.
The sport of racing dragon boats is intense and exciting. Two or more boats compete with one another in heats which involve distances of up to 1.25 miles (2km). Boats are decorated with intricately carved representations of the head and tail of the legendary Chinese dragon, giving them a dramatic appearance.
Each boat is crewed by up to 20 paddlers. At the front of the vessel sits the drummer, facing the paddlers, providing the rhythm for the rowing. A tiller sits at the rear, steering. Success demands endurance, strength and precise teamwork.