Dragon Boat Racing at TsaiChuan.com

Dragon Boat Racing Crew

A standard dragon boat crew is 22, composed of 20 paddlers in pairs facing toward the bow of the boat, 1 drummer or caller at the bow facing toward the paddlers, and 1 sweep or tiller (helm) at the rear of the boat.


The paddlers sit facing forwards, unlike seated rowers who faces the back. Dragon boat paddlers use a specific type of paddle which is not rigged to the racing boat in any way, unlike a rowing oar or sculling scull.

Dragon boaters are paddlers not rowers or oarsmen / women. they paddle in a general canoe style since canoes dragon boats are all distinctly differing paddle craft all paddled similarly variations exist due to the size and seating position in the boat.

The leading pair of paddlers in a dragon boat is called "the pacer," "stroke" or "timer," because they generally set the pace for the team.

It is critical that all paddlers are synchronized. Each paddler should synchronize with the stroke or pacer on the opposite side of the boat, that is, if you paddle starboard side (right) you would take your timing from the port side (left) stroke.

Drummer or Caller

The drummer or caller is considered as the "heartbeat" of the dragon boat, and leads the crew throughout a race with the rhythmic beating of a drum to indicate the timing and frequency of paddling strokes (the cadence, the pace, etc.)

The caller may issue commands to the crew through a combination of hand signals and voice calls, and also generally exhorts the crew to perform at their peak. A caller/drummer is mandatory during racing events, but if he or she is not present during training, it is typical for the sweep to direct the crew.

Good callers should be able to synchronize the drumming cadence with the strokes of the leading pair of paddlers, rather than the other way around.

The Sweep

The sweep, also known as the tiller or steersman controls, the dragon boat with a sweep oar rigged at the rear of the boat, generally on the side and off centre, which is used both as a rudder and for sweeping the stern side wards.

The sweep must constantly be aware of the boat's surroundings, since the sweep is the only person in the boat who is able to constantly look forward.

International standard racing rules call for each boat to steer down the center of her respective lane and to not ride the bow wave (wash ride) of a boat in an adjacent lane by coming along side close aboard to take advantage of the bow wave induced surface current. Wash riding is considered to be cheating under international competition regulations and is subject to sanction by on water referees or course umpires.