BUSINESSES took part in St Catherine’s Hospice annual Dragon Boat Festival at Tilgate Park.

This year’s festival was the hospice’s biggest ever to date, with more teams than ever before taking to the lake.

Teams were made up of businesses including Irwin Mitchell, Elekta, Grant Thornton, UK Power Networks, B&CE, CAE Training and Services, and Vines BMW & Mini.

Others were Childcare and Learning Cranbrook, Inspiration Healthcare, KPMG, Search, Siemens, Smith and Western, St Catherine’s Hospice, Thales, Virgin Media, Novo Nordisk, and Oriel High School

George De Silvo, corporate associate from Irwin Mitchell, said: “The Irwin Mitchell team has really enjoyed getting involved with the Dragon Boat Festival.

“St Catherine’s is our Charity of the Year and so we’ve been raising funds for them since January.

“ Hearing about the Dragon Boat Festival got the whole office excited and motivated to do as much as we can to help such a great cause.

“I’m so pleased our Noah’s Ark survived!”

Ian Watson, head of software engineering at Elekta, said, “We’ve been taking part in Dragon Boats for many years.

“It’s a big event and brings so many people from local businesses and the local community together for a great cause.

“What St Catherine’s does resonates a lot with what we do at Elekta, helping people at a moment of need in their lives.

“The hospice is a great cause to support.”

Grant Thornton were another Crawley team competing.

Partner John O’Mahony said: “We’re very proud to be associated with St Catherine’s Hospice.

“They do wonderful work and we’ve had great fun fundraising.

“Our team ‘Sea’s the Day’ are making great progress during our heats and we’re feeling very optimistic!”

Those on the shorelines tried their luck at traditional fête games such as hook a duck and a penalty shootout, whilst younger visitors sprung into action on giant inflatables.

Visitors also tucked into food from onsite vendors and enjoyed drinks from the onsite bar 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, DHL Express powered through to be crowned champions, with a winning time of 57 seconds, which was two seconds faster than last year’s winners.

Amanda Phelan, operations manager at DHL Express, said: “This is our third year competing and it’s always such a lovely, fantastic day.

“The second year we took part we came in at second place so we were here to win today. And we’re thrilled we managed it!”

Close behind, in second place, were Vines Ltd with Vines Beemer taking the third place trophy.

Winning teams were presented with medals and trophies by Giles Tomsett, Chief Executive at St Catherine’s, and The Mayor of Crawley, Councillor Carlos Portal Castro.

Vines of Gatwick sponsored the festival.

Pictures by Sara Fermore and Toby Phillips Photography