Dragon Boats race along the Willamette waterfront

Dragon Boats race along the Willamette waterfront

The 20th running of Portland Rose Festival Dragon Boat Race kicked off this morning at Tom McCall Waterfront Park.

The free two-day event, sponsored by Portland-Kaohsiung Sister City Association, continues into late afternoon and concludes Sunday, beginning with quarterfinal heats at 8 a.m. on Willamette river at the south end of Waterfront Park.

The 94 teams are in divisions of mixed men and women (60), women (22) and high school (12).

Among teams to watch are Halton's Dragon Fever, which has participated since the first 31-team field race in 1989, and Kai High Alumni, which made its debut last year.

Kai High Alumni's nearly 30 members are students at 21 colleges and universities around the country -- and all are graduates of Grant and Wilson high schools in Portland.

Team Captain Chris Stone, a 2006 Grant grad and current Portland Community College student, hatched the idea of a alumni team in spring 2007 when he and Daniel Spoelstra were freshman roommates at Oregon State University.

"We both did dragon boats all four years at Grant," Stone said, "and about April or May, we realized: This is about the time for the past four years we started up dragon boats, and this is the first time we're not going to."

So, Stone emailed former Grant teammates and contacted Molly Dischner, a former Wilson dragon boat team captain. The schools, though crosstown rivals, had a common connection through Kai Ikaika, one of the mixed division's most successful teams.

Grant and Wilson teams are coached by Kai Ikaika team members, Stone said, and their team tents often are next to the Kai Ikaika tent during the Rose Festival race. Thus, it's fitting the team's name derives from Kai Ikaika.

Kai High Alumni, which placed second in its section of the mixed division last year, finished third this morning in a near dead heat the first race of its two races today.

Updated : 2021-03-09 03:25 GMT+08:00