Paddlers ready to make a big splash at Downham Market water festival

Teams of paddlers are gearing up to battle their way to victory at tomorrow's Downham Market Water Festival.

Crews from clubs, pubs and sports teams are hoping to be crowned champions at the event's knockout dragon boat racing competition along the Great Ouse Relief Channel next to the Hythe Bridge.

Thousands of people will line the riverbanks at the annual event, sponsored by the EDP, to cheer on the paddlers as they compete over a 100-metre course.

Organised by Downham Market Town Council, the event is now in its sixth year and 20 teams have signed up to take part in the adrenaline pumping races.

Sarah Mawby, the town council's events coordinator, said 'This year's water festival really is an event not to be missed.

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'Support from the public continues to grow year on year and it's an honour to be able to assist in the planning of such a unique community event.

'We've launched a new social media campaign this year to raise awareness of the event so if you're a Facebook fiend or a Twitter addict be sure to follow us to keep up-to-date with our most recent event plans and competitions.'

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The first round of races start just after 10am, with round two beginning at 12.30pm and the final set of races at 2.15pm. Results of the races and the team race times will be displayed at the race control centre situated near the top of the pontoon access walkway.

The quickest nine teams will then compete in one of the semi-finals just after 4pm, before three teams will paddle it out in the grand final at 4.30pm. This year, the town council has teamed up with national children's charity Action for Children who are working alongside the Cornerways Nursery's Dragon Boat team to raise funds for the charity.

Laura Hanratta, fundraiser for Norfolk and Cambridgeshire, said: 'The Downham Market Water Festival is a brilliant and exciting event for companies and families to get involved in and have fun with friends and colleagues whilst raising vital funds for local neglected and vulnerable children and young people.'

The festival is free for spectators, who can enjoy lots of activities on the riverbank, including stalls and a funfair, as well as watching the racing. There will also be more displays at this year's event to encourage healthier lifestyles.

Many of the boats are beautifully decorated, traditionally as dragons, and the event has a history extending back more than 2,000 years throughout Asia. Duen Ng was traditionally a day of national holiday and festivity and was always associated with the propitious 'double fifth', the fifth day of the fifth lunar month.

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