When we think of dragons, we think of mythical creatures that fly through the air breathing fire. But they also cut a fine figure in the water. Especially when the dragon boat team from our Polish site in Stolno is at the paddles. In August, the colleagues returned from the Dragon Boat Festival in Schwerin with several medals.
Dragon boats originate from China. They are long, slender paddle boats whose bow and stern are often decorated with a dragon's head and tail. The crew sits in pairs in eight to ten rows at the paddles. A drummer sets the rhythm at the front, and the boat is steered at the back with a long rudder.
Since the old tradition of these boats was revived in Hong Kong in the 1970s, a large competition scene has developed worldwide. Our Polish team has been competing for 20 years. It was founded in 2003 by Marcin Krzywdziński and Czesław Kuchmistrz, two years after Stiegelmeyer acquired the Famed company in Stolno. The development of the team reflects the development of the location: initially they competed as Famed, then under the new name Stolter and today as Stiegelmeyer Stolno. Since 2018, Michał Pańko has been leading the athletes.
Marta Tarka, our marketing manager in Stolno, describes the team's rapid rise. The story began with a 3rd place in a competition in the neighbouring town of Chełmno. But soon the dragon boaters travelled further – to Bydgoszcz, Gdansk, Poznan, Wroclaw, Warsaw.
"It was not easy, but our enthusiasm and determination helped us to achieve many successes," says Ms Tarka. "In recreational competitions and in the Polish championships, we competed against the best clubs in Poland, e.g. Spójnia Warszawa, Zawisza Bydgoszcz or MRKS Gdańsk. As a factory team, we have reached a very high level. Our recognition and respect among the sports teams have increased. They have started to treat us as equals. We are the only factory team in Poland that participates so actively in dragon boat races."
Schwerin, the state capital of the German state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern surrounded by lakes, is a focal point of the scene. The Dragon Boat Festival at the Pfaffenteich has been attracting teams from all over Europe for 30 years. In 2022 and 23, our colleagues from Stolno also took part – and won across the board: 4 gold medals and 5 bronze medals are the result so far.
The many successes from 20 years can also be seen on an impressive display in Stolno. Elaborately decorated trophies in gold and silver, dragon sculptures and porcelain vases document the victories and the creative energy of this sport. Marta Tarka is optimistic about the future: "From each competition we take away more knowledge, experience and passion that drive us in the pursuit of our goals."