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Story by Jai Rakic, Photos by Mark Yager and Jai Rakic – ISN 

Victoria, BC (ISN) – The Canada Dry Victoria Dragon Boat Festival kicked off yesterday in Victoria’s inner harbour, showcasing the talents of dragon boat enthusiasts from all over North America.

The festival began on Friday with the Eye Dotting Ceremony that precedes every dragon boat festival worldwide. This ancient Chinese rite is said to “awaken the dragon” blessing the competitors and their boats with the strength of a dragon.

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Two Crews battle it out in mixed division action Saturday (Photo: Mark Yager / Island Sports News)

Following the Eye Dotting Ceremony was the Lights of Courage Lantern Celebration which raises much needed funds for the BC Cancer Foundation. The festival organisers are aiming to match their donation efforts from last year when they raised over $20,000 for cancer research.

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An exhausted crew finishes their race Saturday (Photo: Mark Yager / Island Sports News) 

The dragon boat races began this morning with 90 teams taking to the water trying to paddle their way into tomorrow’s finals. The Victoria Gorging Dragons crew were the fastest qualifiers in the mixed bracket completing the 500-metre course in 1:57.

The Royal Canadian Naval Dragons giving it everything they’ve got at the 18th annual Victoria Dragon Boat Festival (Photo: Jai Rakic / Island Sports News)

Portland’s Bridge City Team Velocity crew were the most impressive in the women’s division posting a time of 2:17 and in the Open Crew division Victoria’s Gorging Dragon Open crew qualified with the fastest heat of the day blowing through the course in 1:50.

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The boats hit the water at 8:30am tomorrow and will continue on all through out the day, until a champion crew has been crowned in each respective division.