The dragon boat paddlers are divided into three sections:
The Strokes: responsible for timing and keeping the boat on pace. They lead the boat through the start sequence.
The Engine Room: The next 4 rows typically have the strongest athletes responsible for continuous power during the race.
The Back 6 or Rockets: The last 3 rows of the dragon boat provide support to the engine room and are called up on to ignite the finish part of the race. Sometimes considered the most difficult positions as the paddles have to continusly execute the stroke through the turbulent water generated by the other paddlers.
Rounding out the Dragon Boat crew is the Drummer responsible for running during the race after the first 50 meters. The drummer may also call the race plan for the team and motivate the paddlers.
The last person on the boat is the Steers-person. The steers person is responsible for ensuring all safety regulations are followed and is the ultimate authority on the boat. All athletes follows the steers person's commands . The steers is also responsible for the following:
Ensuring the athletes are aware of all emergency procedures in case of capsizing.
Ensuring the athletes enter and exit the boat in a safe and organized manner.
Guiding the boat safely during the race and during practice sessions.
Assist the team with calling their race plan.
Checking the boat, steering oar, and yoke before each session.
Be aware of weather and water conditions. Responsible for calling off practice sessions if conditions are not good.
Responsible for checking the balance and set up of the boat.
This command is used just before "paddles up." Sit upright with the paddle resting on the gunnel at an angle ready so that when the "Paddles Up!" call is made, all you need to do is raise your inside or top hand and rotate to get the paddle into position.
This paddle position prepares the paddler to begin the stroke. The outer or bottom arm is parallel with the gunnel of the boat, and the inside or top arm lifted high and behind the head creating what is known as the "A" frame. The body should be rotated at this point with the outside hip forward and the inside hip back.
Take it away
During training, when the crew has “paddles up”, you will be asked to commence paddling with this command. Each paddler should focus on the front of the boat and initiate the stroke with the front two paddlers as they start.
Hold the Boat
Hold paddle straight up and down at the side of the boat, lean forward and fully submerge your blade. Bring the boat to a stop with the paddles. Keep your paddles submerged and the blade parallel to the side of the boat. Even if the boat is moving at full speed, the Steersperson may ask the crew to stop the boat from moving by placing the paddles in the water to act as a brake. However this type of command may also be used in moving the boat around and at lower speed. Crews should also be aware that, like other commands, that the Steersperson may ask only portions of the crew to do this depending on the speed of the boat.
Flare the Boat
Called by the steersperson. This is used to stabilize the boat. Hold blades out to the side. Keep your paddles out and blades flat on the surface of the water to keep the boat steady. Blade is almost parallel to water and resting on the surface of the water; you should be comfortable enough to hold for a length of time. Its purpose is to create floatation along with a wider base for boat with pressure on the water.
Draw the Boat
When the Steersperson wants the boat to "slip" to the side without moving backwards or forwards the Steersperson will ask one side of the boat, or parts of the boat, to draw the boat. This means that the paddlers, instead of pulling down the length of the boat, will lean out to the side and pull water towards themselves – like each has lost an object two feet to the side of the boat and is trying to scoop it back to him or herself. This is essential on the starting line, when winds may drift the boat sideways and the Steersperson is trying to line the boat up directly down the course. Both sides of the boat do not draw at the same time; to do so just leaves the boat where it is unless one side is pulling harder than the other.
Pry the Boat
When the Steersperson wants the boat to "slip" to the side without moving backwards or forwards the Steersperson may also ask one side of the boat, or parts of the boat, to pry the boat. This means that the paddlers, instead of pulling down the length of the boat, or drawing the boat, will push the boat sideways. This is achieved by turning the paddle so that the blade is parallel to the gunnel, placing the blade into the water, and then scooping the water beside the paddle with a flip of the wrist.
This command is often used in conjunction with “Draw”. “Prying” pushes the boat in the same direction as the boat is being “drawn”. So if the right side is “drawing” the boat, the left side will “pry”. This is essential on the starting line, when winds may drift the boat sideways and the Steersperson is trying to line the boat up directly down the course.
Back it down
Probably one of the first commands you will hear. On the dock or during a race, you will be asked to paddle the boat backwards to either help the Steersperson maneuver the boat, or position the boat in the start line.
Let it Ride or Let it Run
When paddling, the Steersperson will ask the crew to stop paddling and rest. This command rarely has to be repeated. When you hear “Let It Run”, hold your paddle across your knees.
All Boats Hold
You will generally hear this command on the startline when crews are preparing for a race. If a boat moves after this command the team may be awarded a time penalty therefore it is important the crew get ready to commence racing without moving the boat.