2019 Dragon Boat Festival in Crawley in video

Dragon boat teams battle it out on the lake at Tilgate Park
Dragon boat teams battle it out on the lake at Tilgate Park

It was oar-inspiring sight as teams battled it out to be crowned St Catherine’s Hospice annual Dragon Boat Festival champions.

The event returned to Tilgate Park in style yesterday (Sunday 8 September), for a fantastic day of free family fun

Thousands of people turned out to watch 34 teams, made up of local businesses, battle it out for the title.

This included Crawley businesses; Aerfin Ltd, Astons, B&CE, Beemer, Boeing Global Systems, CAE Gatwick, Creative Technology, Clearwell Mobility, Deseret, Elekta, FFGS Golf Society, Grant Thornton, Inspiration Healthcare, Irwin Mitchell, Maiden Racers, Rameses, Search, Siemens, Travelopia and the hospice’s very own St Catherine’s team of nurses and hospice staff, as well as Pentium Ltd and DHL Supply Chain from Gatwick.

Speaking on the day, Zoe Wright, director of people at B&CE said: “The B&CE team really enjoyed taking part in this year’s Dragon Boat Race – it’s always great fun competing against other local organisations, especially when it’s for such a great cause. Colleagues have had a lot of fun raising money for St Catherine’s through bake sales, raffles, and even a sponsored wax. Our support of the hospice is part of our ongoing focus on giving back to our local community. We intend to enter a team into the race for the fourth year running in 2020.”

Those on the shorelines tried their luck at traditional fête games like hook a duck and tin can alley, whilst younger visitors sprung into action on giant inflatables. And people made sure they looked their best with face paint and glitter, before posing in a photo booth. Visitors also tucked into tasty food from onsite vendors and enjoyed refreshing drinks from the onsite bar. The bar was provided by Sussex Event Bars, who donated a percentage of profits to St Catherine’s.

On the lake, teams showed true team spirit as they raced across the water in Chinese Dragon Boats. After a full day of races, in a tightly fought final, FFGS Golf Society powered through and were crowned champions, with a winning time of 52 seconds, which was five seconds faster than last year’s winners.

Close behind, in second place, were Beemer, with Thakeham taking the third place trophy. Winning teams were presented with medals and trophies by Giles Tomsett, chief executive at St Catherine’s, and The Worshipful Mayor of Crawley, Councillor Raj Sharma.

After being crowned champions, FFGS team captain, Liam Ahearne said: “We loved taking part in our first Dragon Boat race. We didn’t think we’d be that competitive but once we saw the times of our first few races, we were spurred on to make the final! We’ve been friends for years; we started playing football together and now we’re all part of the FFGS Golf Society. We feel so proud to support such a great cause, particularly as every person on our team has had experience of the vital care St Catherine’s offers. We joined St Catherine’s for Live at the Lake this weekend too, so being crowned Dragon Boat champions was the perfect way to round off the weekend. It was an amazing family experience.”

St Catherine's Dragon Boat Festival is one of the hospice's biggest fundraisers. And by supporting this event, local people have made sure that terminally ill people in their community can receive care and support when it matters most.

This community support has never been more vital because currently, St Catherine’s can only care for one in three people who need their support. With the help of local people attending events, the hospice wants to make sure that, in the future, nobody faces death and loss alone.

Suzanne Davis, corporate fundraiser at St Catherine’s, said: “We’d like to thank everyone who supported or took part in our Dragon Boat Festival. Your efforts take us a step nearer to reaching everyone who needs us. We hope you all enjoyed the day as much as we did!”

Tilgate Park was filled with the sound of music as St Catherine’s Hospice festival-inspired event, Live at the Lake, returned for a second year of fun at the weekend.

Taking place across two days for the first time, over 4,000 visitors enjoyed a range of family friendly entertainment including a games tent, glitter station, inflatables and merchandise stalls. On Friday evening (September 6), the original Brother from Another and headliners, Best of WHAM! took to the stage.

Turning up the volume on the Saturday (September 7) were three of the UK’s biggest tribute bands, supported by the brilliant The Bendecho Brothers and Angel Delights. Following performances from Elite Elton and Stayin’ Alive, ABBA Forever gave a Super Trouper performance as the festival headliners.

To find out about future St Catherine’s events, or how you can support the hospice or make a donation, please visit: www.stch.org.uk.