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The Annapolis Dragon Boat Club

May 30, 2013 06:13PM ● By Anonymous

Word quickly spread of his dire situation and villagers made an attempt to save Qu Yuan from the river. But by the time they reached the area he was first spotted, in their long and narrow boats—their dragon boats—Qu Yuan had drowned, forever gone from leading his people. After finding their fallen leader’s body, the villagers began a celebration of Qu Yuan’s life on the Miluo River, instead of mourning it, by playing music, beating drums, dancing, and splashing their long boat paddles in the water. To this day, the life of Qu Yuan is still celebrated in China every year through festivals and many dragon boat races. With Annapolis’ strong ties to all-things-nautical, this unique sport specifically drew the attention of longtime Annapolitan and business leader Michael Ashford, who envisioned dragon boat racing’s camaraderie and invigorating exercise benefiting local cancer victims and survivors. Hence, the Annapolis Dragon Boat Club was founded in 2010 as a nonprofit providing support toward the wellness and recovery of those affected by breast and others cancers.

To date, the club team consists of 22 people with a minimum of 10 paddlers, one drummer, and one steerer on any given outing. And the club even created their own unique competition team name: the Annapolis Dragonflies. The dragonfly symbolizes changes in life, according to ancient legend. The creature also represents the famous phrase of “live life to the fullest”—as dragonflies have a short lifespan and do a lot in a short amount of time.

With cancer survivors, victims, and their friends and family, the Annapolis Dragon Boat Club comes together to support each other during tough times. Ashford added that the club sometimes will lose someone from their group, but the paddling continues in their honor.

Since the organization’s efforts are geared mostly toward breast cancer support, the team’s dragon boat is painted pink and has been dubbed their “pink war horse.” The pink boat is docked at the Sarles Boatyard and Marina in Annapolis. Ashford says that paddling together as cancer survivors is “therapeutic” and is a true team effort for a purposeful cause. To donate your time and/or money to this organization, visit