Race Rules and Procedures

See below for the race rules, protest procedures, and information about the Race Around the Bridges

General Information

First and foremost, the motto of DragonSports USA is “fitness and friendship through paddle sports”—we hope that this race will further those goals. Safety of our paddlers on and off the water is our top priority, thus we ask that all participants understand and abide by the race rules as outlined in this document. To ensure that all participants have a rewarding and competitive experience, our second priority will be fairness—we hope that all participants walk away from this race satisfied with how it was conducted. With these two goals in mind, please bear with us if extra time is required to maintain safety and fairness.
Course & Venue
Races will take place on the West side of the Willamette River at the Tom McCall Waterfront Park.

The race course will run between the Marquam and Hawthorne Bridges near the RiverPlace Marina. The race course is approximately 500 meters long (as established by the Race Directors and described in the pre-race team briefing) as approximated below. The start and finish lines will be marked with buoys and buoys will mark the halfway point of the race.

Lane 1 is the Westernmost lane, closest to the RiverPlace Marina with Lane 4 (or 5, depending on the total number of teams and lanes being used) being the Easternmost lane. Lanes will be marked as established by the Race Directors and communicated to the teams at the pre-race team briefing.
Equipment
Eight (or ten, depending on the total number of teams and lanes being used) fiberglass Six-Sixteen Dragon Boats will be used, with four (or five, depending on the total number of teams and lanes being used) dragon boats in a typical heat. While one set of dragon boats is racing, the other set will be unloading and loading at the dock.

The Portland Dragon Boat Festival will provide PFDs and paddles to participants who do not bring their own. Personal PFDs must be U.S. Coast Guard approved and may not include self-inflating jackets. Personal paddles must be IDBF-approved and fit into a paddle template. Wood and carbon fiber paddles are acceptable. It is recommended, but not required, that teams carry at least one extra paddle. Extra paddles may only be used in the event that a paddle breakage occurs during a race.

Paddlers will be allowed to apply wax or other grip-assisting substances to their personally-owned paddles but shall not apply wax or other substances to festival-owned paddles (this includes applying wax to the hands before using a festival-owned paddle).

Any water bottles shall be left on the dock during the races. The use of seat pads and foam foot blocks is permitted.
Tent Assignment and Park Rules
Teams will assemble at Waterfront Park on the West bank of the river near RiverPlace Marina. Teams will be assigned to a designated tent space. Teams may not switch tent spaces without approval from the Race Directors. Out of consideration for the volunteers, all teams are requested to leave their tent areas clean and orderly.

No BBQs or open fires in any form are permitted by the Park except by authorized, licensed vendors. Fireworks are also not allowed. Alcohol may be purchased and consumed in designated areas only and in accordance with these rules (consumption of alcohol before or during races is strictly prohibited).

DragonSports USA and its volunteers will not be responsible for lost or stolen articles.
Visitors & Team Fundraising
Only approved vendors may sell merchandise within the festival area at Waterfront Park. Registered teams may engage in limited on-site fundraising activities including, but not limited to, the sale of team merchandise and raffle tickets. Please have a team representative notify a Race Official at the Command Center if your team will be fundraising and the nature of your fundraising activities. The sale of certain items may be restricted if the items being sold compete with those of the festival vendors.

Commercial or promotional activities, such as distribution or sales of materials or goods for the benefit of any team's sponsor who is also not a festival vendor or sponsor, will not be permitted. This rule is not intended to prohibit a team from displaying its sponsor’s logo on team uniforms or team flag or banner.
Volunteers
All local teams are required to provide two volunteers to each work a half-day shift on either Saturday or Sunday. All volunteers must check in with the Volunteer Coordinators at the Command Center prior to their assigned volunteer shift. Any “no-show” volunteers without replacement will result in the team not racing unless a replacement volunteer is in the assigned task and at the assigned time. If a volunteer does not serve the full amount of time for the assigned task without properly being excused, the team’s results during that time may be reported as “did not place because of a rule violation.” It is the responsibility of the Team Captain to provide replacement volunteer(s) if the team’s volunteer(s) is/are unable to work.

Regulations

Team Composition
The name of every individual rostered with a registered team shall appear on a Portland Dragon Boat Festival Roster and shall have signed a waiver. One individual must be designated as Team Captain ("Team Contact" on the Form). Teams may have a maximum of 24 paddlers per roster, plus 1 caller and 1 tiller. All teams are required to have at least 18 paddlers on a dragon boat during a race and may not have more than 20 paddlers. Race Officials will have a copy of each team’s final roster and may at any time check team composition to ensure that only rostered paddlers are racing.

Mixed dragon boats must have a minimum of 10 female paddlers, with the balance of the crew being of any gender. Women's teams must have all female paddlers. All paddlers should register with a team using the gender to which they identify; this should not be changed over the course of the race weekend.

All paddlers must be at least 14 years of age. All callers and tillers must be at least 14 years of age, but need not meet the age or sex requirements of the division. Every dragon boat on the water must have a caller and a tiller. Only experienced tillers should be used at this race. Teams with relatively inexperienced tillers are advised to contact the Race Directors to obtain a qualified tiller.
Double Rostering
Callers and tillers may be rostered on multiple teams. All paddlers rostered with a Women’s team may paddle for one other Mixed team, but not for any other Women’s teams. All women rostered with a Mixed team may paddle for one other Women’s team, but not for any other Mixed teams. Anyone rostered on more than one team must indicate so on their waiver form.

While this cross-rostering is allowed, no team may hold up the start of a race for a team member that is on another dragon boat and completing another race without approval from the Race Directors. Any team delaying the start of a race for this reason shall forfeit the race for which they are entered.
Specialty Divisions Rostering

As is the case with the Mixed and Women's division races, every dragon boat must have a caller and tiller. All callers and tillers must be at least 14 years of age, but need not meet age, sex, or other requirements of these divisions.

  • Cancer Survivors Races – All paddlers must be cancer survivors and at least 14 years of age. Teams may register as open (no other age or sex requirements) or women's (all paddlers must identify as female).
  • Breast Cancer Survivor Races - All paddlers must be breast cancer survivors and at least 14 years of age. The race committee would like to acknowledge that women are not the only ones afflicted by breast cancer, but for purposes of this race, all paddlers must identify as female.
  • ​Open Race – All paddlers must be at least 14 years of age, but there are no other age or sex requirements.
  • Mixed Masters & Grandmasters Races – For the Masters race, all paddlers must be 40 years of age and older. For the Grandmasters race, all paddlers must be 50 years of age and older. The dragon boat crew must be comprised of at least 10 female paddlers, with the balance of the crew being of any gender.
  • Women's Masters & Grandmasters Races – For the Masters race, all paddlers must be women 40 years of age and older. For the Grandmasters race, all paddlers must be women 50 years of age and older.
  • Junior Race – All paddlers must be between 14 and 18 years of age, inclusive. The dragon boat crew must be comprised of at least 10 female paddlers, with the balance of the crew being of any gender.
  • Corporate Cup – The dragon boat team must be named after a sponsoring corporate entity. It is desired, but not required, that team members be employees of or otherwise affiliated with the sponsoring corporate entity as well. The dragon boat crew must be comprised of at least 10 female paddlers, with the balance of the crew being of any gender.
Lane Assignments & Bracketing
The starting order for the first round of heats will be determined by the Race Directors and posted at least 24 hours prior to the races. After the first round of heats, heat composition will be assigned based on the results of previous heats in such a way that teams will not be consistently racing with the same teams. Lane assignment will be based on the teams’ earlier performances with the inside lanes going to the highest-ranked teams.

Teams will be assigned to semi-final brackets based on their performance in the qualifying heats. Seeding will be based on place of finish with time as a tie breaker. The top 8 or 10 seeds (depending on the total number of teams and lanes being used) will be assigned to the top division, the next 8 or 10 seeds (depending on the total number of teams depending on the total number of teams and lanes being used) will be assigned to the second division, and so forth until all teams are placed in divisions that are relatively equal in size.
Safety on the Water
Every Team Captain and tiller must attend a the Pre-Race Meeting on Saturday (see Race Information)

The tiller is responsible for the dragon boat and the safety of the team while on the water. This includes making sure every person on the dragon boat is wearing U.S. Coast Guard approved PFDs before the team leaves the dock. Individuals or teams deemed unsafe by the Race Directors will not be permitted to continue racing.

Any injuries sustained as a result of participating in the festival must be reported immediately to a Race Official on the dock or at the Command Center.
General Sanctions

At their discretion, the Race Directors may penalize, dismiss or disqualify any team or individual at any time for:

  • Violating rules
  • Violating safety principals or procedures
  • Participating or attempting to participate in on-water activities while under the influence of drugs or alcohol
  • Demonstrating poor sportsmanship, conduct or behavior
  • Willfully, recklessly or negligently damaging or losing equipment
  • Disobeying reasonable requests or instructions made by Race Officials and/or Volunteers
Equipment Damage

If equipment is lost or damaged through the willful, reckless or grossly negligent actions of a person or team, the Race Directors may disqualify the offending person or team from the competition. On recommendation of the Race Directors, a fine or the replacement cost of the lost or damaged equipment may be assessed against the offending person or team.

Unsportsmanlike Conduct

Unsportsmanlike conduct or behavior includes, but is not limited to, failure to heed an instruction from a Race Official or Volunteer; delaying the start of a race without just cause; racing non-rostered paddlers; disregard for the DragonSports principles of fairness or safety; use of obscene language or gestures; or abusive behavior toward any Race Official, volunteer, competitor, or spectator. The Team Captain is responsible for the conduct and behavior of his or her team. At the discretion of the Race Directors, unsportsmanlike conduct or behavior by a team or a rostered team member may result in a time penalty, disqualification from a heat, or disqualification from the races.  

Race Officials include: Race Director, Starter, Course Marshal, Dock Marshal, Chief Marshal, Secretary, and Finish Line Judges.

Racing

On the Shore
Races will commence as scheduled by the Race Directors no earlier than 8:30 a.m. on both Saturday and Sunday. The Chief Marshal will organize the marshaling process. Teams should be ready to marshal at least 20 minutes prior to their scheduled race time. No race will wait for teams that are not ready to marshal on time. Teams and individuals must yield to the requests of the Chief Marshal and Dock Marshal during marshaling. The Chief Marshal and Dock Marshal will observe team composition and may at any time call for a roster check. Racing non-rostered paddlers will be considered unsportsmanlike and penalized accordingly.

On the dock, teams must follow the instructions of the Dock Marshal and Volunteers, including loading and unloading the dragon boat and departure and approaching the dock.
On the Water

After leaving the dock, dragon boats should proceed without delay toward the start line without interfering with any ongoing race. Dragon boats should turn around and align themselves with their assigned lane well behind the start line; they will later be instructed to pull forward. The Starter will communicate only with the callers and tillers. If any team is not ready to start, that caller must hold his or her hand clearly in the air. The following commands will be given:

  • Please approach the start line.” At this command, callers must instruct their dragon boats to pull forward toward the start line and to “hold” when so instructed by the Starter.
  • We have alignment.” Before issuing this command, the Starter must make sure that no caller has his or her hand in the air.
  • Paddlers prepare to start.”
  • Attention” or “Attention, please.”
  • A long horn blast (or a similar-sounding alert) will announce the commencement of the race.

The Starter, in consultation with the Course Marshal, is empowered to implement a dead slow running start should wind or current conditions warrant; this would involve the dragon boats creeping ahead while all aligned.

Upon hearing the starting horn, each team shall proceed to the finish line directly along the middle of its racing lane, without crossing out of its racing lane, without encroaching on the side of its racing lane, and without riding the wake of another dragon boat. After a fair start, the Course Marshal will follow the dragon boats down the course in a chase boat, and if necessary and where possible, direct tillers to maintain the middle of their lanes. Chase boats will be instructed to avoid following the dragon boats so closely that they cause wakes that interfere with the race.

Only the drum and drum sticks provided or team members’ voices may be used to signal the stroke rate. Noise making devices (such as horns/whistles) as well as voice magnification systems are prohibited. The Course Marshal may assess penalties for failing to abide by this rule.

All paddlers must remain seated for the duration of the race. Callers may sit or stand as they desire (see rules below regarding “man overboard”).  

If a dragon boat appears to be losing directional control, is crossing out of its lane, is encroaching on the side of its lane, or is riding the wake of another dragon boat, the Course Marshal, in the Course Marshal’s discretion, may either stop that dragon boat, or any or all other dragon boats, so as to avoid possible collisions. If the progress of a dragon boat is affected by another dragon boat, the Course Marshal may halt the race and issue a re-start or assess a time penalty against the offending team. A time bonus may also be awarded to the impeded boat. In the case of a collision, the team responsible for the collision will be penalized by the Course Marshal and, if the collision had any material effect on the race outcome, may order a re-race before the next round of the competition with the penalty being carried forward.

After each race, the Course Marshal may raise a flag of one of three colors. A white flag (or no flag) indicates that the race was good. A red flag indicates that a penalty that may result in time penalties has been reporterd. A black flag indicates that a penalty that may result in disqualification has reported.
 
Upon completion of their race, the dragon boats must be brought back to the dock without delay. Each team must bail excess water out of the dragon boat out as they approach the dock; upon arrival at the dock, each dragon boat must be substantially free of water and be ready for the next race. Please remove all seat pads, foot blocks, and any extra paddles. Teams should approach the docks at a dead slow pace so as to avoid collision damage.

False Starts & Equipment Failure
After each start, the Starter may raise a flag of one of three colors. A white flag (or no flag) indicates that the start was good. A red flag (accompanied by three consecutive blasts of the horn) indicates that the dragon boats should stop paddling and return to the start line. A black flag indicates that one or more teams may have been disqualified but that all teams should continue racing. All callers must be familiar with these signals. It is the callers’ duty to watch for red flags, listen for the horn, and instruct their teams accordingly. Failure to do so may result in penalties.

Where one or more teams begin paddling before the sounding of the horn, or in the event of a running start (where all teams are paddling), where one or more teams has paddled ahead of the rest of the start line at the sounding of the horn, a “false start” may be declared. The first false start by a team in a given heat will be a warning; the second false start by the same team in the same heat will result in a time penalty to be added to the offending team’s time on that heat. If more than one team false starts, the team that began paddling first will be the one penalized.

If a false start was caused by an error by the Starter, the Starter should immediately raise the red flag and sound the horn three times and re-start the race. No penalties will be assessed in this case. The Starter is urged to remember that next to safety, fairness is the highest priority of this race. The Starter should also raise the red flag and sound the horn three times and re-start the race if unforeseen wind or waves gave one team a significant unfair advantage off the start. The Starter will in all cases inform all teams of the reason for the re-start.

In the case of an equipment failure (e.g., the till breaks, the drum falls off) within the first 50 meters of the race, the caller or tiller of any team may halt the race by raising both hands above the head. The Starter must watch for this signal from all teams and stop the race. The heat will be re-run immediately after the equipment failure is addressed.
Man Overboard
In the case that an individual falls off the dragon boat, that team must stop paddling and retrieve their teammate. All dragon boats must cross the finish line with everyone they began the race with. The heat will not be re-run and no time penalty will be assessed in addition to the time lost in the retrieval.
Emergency Procedures

In the event of a dragon boat swamping or capsizing, the following shall apply:

  • The tiller will retain charge of the team until rescue personnel arrive.
  • The tiller will immediately determine if any persons are trapped in the dragon boat by asking his or her team to count off their bench numbers.
  • Each team member must ensure that the team members immediately beside them are not trapped in the dragon boat when responding to the tiller with his or her bench number.
  • Each team member must follow directions given by the tiller, until such time as rescue personnel arrive, after which each team member must follow directions given by rescue personnel.
  • The crew must hold onto the dragon boat. Individuals must not swim to shore unless instructed to do so by rescue personnel.
  • Upon ensuring that no persons are in distress, the rescue personnel may direct the team to swim the dragon boat to shore, with or without towing assistance by the rescue personnel.

Protest Procedure

Procedures
If a team wishes to lodge a protest, the Team Captain must file a Protest Form at the Command Center within 30 minutes after the team reaches the dock after the disputed heat. The cost of lodging a protest is $25, which must be paid at the time of lodging the protest. Protest Forms will be available at the Command Center.

When a protest is lodged, the Race Directors will contact the Race Committee, consisting of: the Starter, the Course Marshal, and the Finish Line Judges. Team Captains and members will not be present during any deliberations. The Race Committee will obtain all pertinent information, including any official video footage, and render a decision. If the Race Committee requires a clarification of the rules, the Rules Committee may be consulted. No unsolicited video footage will be considered.

If the protest is successful, the protest fee will be returned to the Team Captain of the protesting team immediately. If another team feels a Race Committee decision was made on the basis of incomplete information, the Team Captain of that team may file an Appeal Form at the Command Center within 20 minutes of the Race Committee’s decision. The cost of lodging an appeal is $25, which must be paid at the time of lodging the appeal. Appeal Forms will be available at the Command Center.

If an appeal is lodged, the Race Committee will reconvene and consider any new information and render a decision. If the appeal is successful, the appeal fee will be returned to the Team Captain of the appealing team immediately.

Race Around the Bridges

Race Course
The race course will run in a counter-clockwise circle and start and end in front of the finishing tent on the Willamette River. The race course is 2000 meters long (as established by the Race Directors and described in the pre-race team briefing) as approximated below.

The start/finish line will be marked with buoys and buoys will be placed near the bridge supports of the Marquam and Hawthorne Bridges and at a point in the river adjacent to the seawall beyond the Hawthorne Bridge, at all Turning Points.
Qualifying Teams
The top teams from the Mixed and Women’s divisions, based on the number of boats available, will have the right to participate in the Bridge Races. If any team is offered the opportunity to race and declines, the opportunity will be offered to the next highest qualifying team until all available spots are filled.
Starts

Crews will be instructed to hold behind the start line and will be started using staggered starts of approximately fifteen seconds apart.

The Starter will communicate only with the callers and tillers. The following starting sequence will be given:

  • “Boat number ___, please approach the start line.” At this command, callers must instruct their crews to pull forward toward the start line and to “hold.”
  • “Boat number ___, paddles ready.”
  • A short horn blast (or a similar-sounding alert) will announce the start for that boat.
Racing
Tillers of crews overtaking another crew must maintain clear water between the paddles of their boat and the other boats in the race, ideally, of at least two meters. If a crew intentionally encroaches on another boat’s clear water space, causing the other boat(s) to steer an unreasonably wide course to maintain their Line(s) of Racing or to avoid collision, then a time penalty or disqualification may be assessed against the offending team at the discretion of the Course Marshal.

Overtaking shall be carried out to the left of the boat being overtaken in all circumstances. Crews overtaking on the right may be assessed a time penalty at the discretion of the Course Marshal.

A boat about to be overtaken must not alter its Line of Racing once the drummer (bow) of the overtaken boat is level with or has passed the tiller (helm) in the boat being overtaken. When the tiller of the overtaking boat is level with or passed the drummer in the boat being overtaken then the overtaken boat must give way to the overtaking boat.
Turning
Tillers are to assure that turns around bridge supports and/or buoys are kept on the left side of the boat, that is, the boat must pass to the right of all marked bridge supports and/or buoys and not turn inside those bridge supports and/or buoys.

When more than one crew is making a turn at the same Turning Point, then the crew on the outside line must leave room for the crew on an inside line to turn safely, that is, maintain clear water between the paddles in adjacent boats around the turn. Similarly, a crew on an inside line must not make difficulties for a crew on the outside line by, for example, steering wide around the Turning Point.

Crews may be assessed a time penalty or be disqualified for providing less than two meters of clear water from bridge supports, buoys and/or other crews while turning if, in the opinion of the Course Marshal, a material advantage has been gained or the safety of any other crew has been compromised.
Impeding/Collisions

If during the course of the race a boat impedes or collides with another boat, the Course Marshal shall apportion blame. The Course Marshal may assess a time penalty or disqualify a boat that causes a collision. If the Course Marshal decides that a boat has impeded the forward motion of another boat, or that the crew in the impeded boat had to, by necessity, stop paddling, a time penalty may be assessed against the impeding crew. A time bonus may also be awarded to the impeded boat.

Course Officials

To assist the Course Marshal in implementing these rules, Course Officials (both waterborne and land-based) will be positioned around the Race Course for observation and supervision. A boat with a Course Official will be stationed at each Turning Point to observe the crews negotiating the turns.

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