THOUSANDS are expected to crowd the banks of the Thames in Abingdon for the 14th annual Dragon Boat races.
The spectacular competition, which sees teams of 17 race at speed in 40ft-long Chinese boats, has raised nearly £400,000 for charity over the years.
Already 17 teams have signed up for the event on Sunday, September 7, and organisers from Abingdon Vesper Rotary Club are still looking for entrants.
There is space for up to 200 more brave souls to compete on the day, and help organisers reach the contest’s full capacity of 30 teams.
Spokesman David Wilde said: “It’s fun for all the family and a great team-building exercise for companies or charities.”
In the boats, teams of 16 rowers pull their oars to the beat of a drummer sat in the head of the boat.
Races are held in a championship from 10am to 5pm until the four-boat final.
Teams are asked to raise sponsorship for charity, giving two thirds to their own chosen cause and donate the rest to the Rotary’s chosen groups.
Boats, life jackets and paddles are provided by the rotary club.
More than 2,000 spectators enjoyed the morning sunshine and ignored the afternoon rain at Rye Farm Meadow last year.
As well as the boating this year, there will be fun fair rides, a bouncy castle, children’s entertainment, a barbecue, beer and tea tents and arts and crafts stalls.
Mr Wilde added: “There’s definitely enough entertainment to keep people amused for a couple of hours.”
Sandra Scott from Eynsham said she had “great fun” watching her son Sam compete last year as part of the Space Cadets team from Abingdon’s ABSL.
Mrs Scott, 58, said: “It was great fun cheering them all on. Everybody was getting excited, it was so close sometimes.
“It is good when you’ve got someone you’re rooting for, but I think there were lots of people who didn’t. It’s just a great day out.”
The race was traditionally held in the summer until the 2012 event was delayed for four months because of wet weather.
Abingdon Town Councillor Alison Rooke urged people to join in the fun.
She said: “It is great fun. It has become a part of the Abingdon cultural calendar. It is always exciting, especially if you know the people in the boats, and it’s all for good causes.
“The better the weather the more crowds there are so the more money you raise for charity.”
Entry for spectators is free but car parking will be charged.
Sign up now at abingdondragonboats.org.uk
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