SEATTLE—What happens when you cross an ancient Chinese tradition with a 21st-century, modern day, popular water sport?
Spectators at Seattle's 33rd annual Wooden Boat Festival found out today when a 45-foot Chinese dragon boat went for a northwest, and possibly a world, record -- by pulling a wakeboarder across the surface of Lake Union.
Twenty paddlers in a 45-foot Chinese dragon boat attempted to establish the best speed record for a 100 meter distance, with a wakeboarder in tow.
The current record for fastest time for a water-skier towed by a rowing boat to travel 100 meters is believed to have been set in March by an eight-oared rowing crew of the Imperial College London Boat Club on the Thames River near London, England.
That crew hauled a professional water skier the necessary 100 meters in 19.58 seconds.
With 20 paddlers, ages 30 to 74, and a drummer and a steersperson, the wood hull dragon boat hit the water full speed, but came short of the record by several seconds.
The dragon boat can reach speeds as high at 15 miles per hour.
Plenty of paddle-power -- but timing and technique may have prevented them from zipping the wakeboarder Anne Kagi down the course in the required time.
"The only way it can happen is with absolute timing and team work - especially when you have 20 paddlers lined cheek-to-jowl in a boat," said Lee Bjorklund of the Seattle Flying Dragon Boat Club. I n a practice run Monday, during breezy and choppy conditions, the Flying Dragons managed to keep the 27-year-old boarder on a plane for about the length of two football fields before she slipped sank into the chilly water of Lake Union.
"When we tried it the first time, they asked if I wanted to do a water start or a dock start," said the 115-pound Kagi. "The dock start is easier on the motors."
"On Monday, it felt like I was behind a speedboat. They stayed at a pretty consistent clip for about 300 feet, then it was just survival," said Kagi. "I'd love to try to jump the wake, put their paddling is so smooth they don't leave much wake," she joked.
The Seattle Flying Dragons believe their record attempt is the first in the Northwest and could possibly set a world record for time if not distance.
"We have never done that before and certainly not aware of that distance anywhere else," said Bjorklund. "We did find a couple of instances on the Internet in Canada and Hong Kong, but were not able to tell how far they were pulled."
The 33rd Annual Lake Union Wooden Boat Festival, open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. today and Sunday, features hands-on exhibits of some 150 classic sail, steam and human-powered wood boats of all sizes, free boat rides, and toy boat building for the kids.
There are also maritime skills demonstrations from some of the Northwest's most experienced boat builders and maritime experts.
Admission is free and donations are accepted. Admission donations benefit The Center for Wooden Boats hands-on public programs including the "pay what you can" youth sailing program and free public programs to work on and restore some 50 classic wooden boats each year.
Festival attendees can explore the many styles of boatbuilding in the Northwest, ranging from modern skiffs and cedar strip kayaks to traditional Native-American cedar canoes by Haida carver and CWB artist in residence Saaduuts and the 4,000-year-old art of Aleutian skin-on-frame boatbuilding by local expert Corey Freedman.
Activities for the kids include toy boat building, treasure hunts, pond boat racing along with nautical coloring contests and sidewalk chalk art and Pirate Storytime.
You can also enjoy free boat rides on the 100-year-old, 21-foot steamboat Puffin, the 28-foot sharpie sailboat Colleen Wagner, a replica of a late 19th century Florida mail-carrier built by students of Seattle Central Community College's Marine Carpentry School, and two Native American canoes, including the 20-foot Steve Phillips, a traditional Haida canoe carved from local cedar by a Center For Wooden Boats artist in residence.