Fierce and friendly competition during Sarawak’s dragon boat regatta
By Patricia Hului
Fierce and friendly; these were the perfect ways to describe this year’s Sarawak International Dragon Boat Regatta held Kuching Waterfront from Sept 18 to 19.
Altogether, some 544 paddlers rowed their way to victory on the Sarawak river over the weekend with racing classes divided into international open team 12 and 22, as well as international mixed 12 and 22.
On Friday, 12 Sarawakian teams competed to qualify into the heats held on Saturday. In the end, Land and Survey (Landas), Wali Wali Oya and Asaroz Kota Samarahan proved their mettle, qualifying into the international race.
On Saturday morning, Sarawak Tourism Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg represented Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Adenan Satem in the eye-dotting ceremony, an observance usually practiced during the opening of the paddling competition to bless the boats and paddlers.
After the ceremony, Abang Johari announced a proposal to move Sarawak Regatta Festival to November next year to attract more visitors.
“We have the National Month, the TYT’s birthday and Malaysia Day celebrations (September) – it is just too busy,” he added, explaining that the festival should be held after the school and public examinations.
Abang Johari also stated that he had high hopes for the Sarawak Regatta. “If there is a consensus between the alumni of the Henley Business School and those of Oxford and Cambridge Universities in the United Kingdom, we may even have their famous rowing races on the Sarawak River. Then, we can get our local university teams to compete against the British student teams.”
Though Sarawak did not have British teams joining us this year, our closest neighbour Brunei sent three teams to compete in the Sarawak International Dragon Boat Regatta: Majlis Lumba Perahu Kampung Lurung Dalam (MLPKLD), Brunei Darussalam Team A and Brunei Darussalam Team B.
Brunei’s team manager Ibrahim Yussof was all-praise for their International Dragon Boat Race’s organising committee.
“This is our first time joining this race. I felt the organising committee have done a good job. The race ran smoothly and it was well-organised,” he said, adding that they would have no problems participating in next year’s international boat race.
“Even if they changed the dates of this race to other months in future, Insya-Allah we will participate.”
About three months ago, MLPKLD had also participated in the Sabah Dragon Boat Race, finishing in third place.
“The competition in Sabah was tight. The difference between the first, second and third places were mere milliseconds. Nevertheless, we brought our experience in Sabah to pump up for this race.”
MLPKLD took home bronze medal in Open 12 and silver medal in the Open 22 categories.
Another first timer from Kapuas Hulu, Kalimantan, Indonesia made an impressive debut during the International Dragon Boat Race winning the bronze medal in the Mixed 22 category.
Its manager Hairudin S Pd said they were informed by their higher management about the Sarawak Regatta and decided to participate.
“The dragon boat race here in Sarawak is better. Here we have more countries participating and more contestants competing,” he said.
He explained that back in Kapuas Hulu, the races were usually between various clubs in the region.
Even if the Sarawak tourism ministry decided not to hold the race in September again, Hairudin said the team was still hoping to join again next year.
But this isn’t the end for the Kapuas Hulu team in Sarawak. Made up of high school students of ages ranging from 16 to 18 years old, Hairudin said that they will be competing during this weekend’s Sarawak regatta.
Another team also made up of students aged around 18 to 20 was Singapore Polytechnic. At least a year of training bore fruit for them as they stood out as champions in three out of four categories in the Mixed 12, Mixed 22 and Open 12.
It was the second time the institution sent its team and they have been doing excellently so far.
“We did a very good job, it’s fantastic. The organisation was good. We had a very good race here,” said team coach John Goh Poh Soon on their wins. Goh pointed out that in last year they won two of the categories.
On whether they would be able to participate in next year’s competition following Abang Johari’s announcement, he said they most probably we won’t be able to join. “We have to follow the school’s schedule.”
The college is currently having their six-week break but will resume in November.
Apart from Sarawak International Dragon Boat Race, Singapore Polytechnic team also competes in local races back in their homeland. The previous team from the same institution had also gone to Taiwan and Malaysia to participate in dragon boat races.
The race saw 12 other international teams including Tokyo Dragons (Japan), CLP Castle Peak Power Station DB Team (Hong Kong), Chinese Taipei (Taiwan), Blue Phoenix Dragon Boat Club (Philippines), Philippines Titans (Philippines), Dragon Riders (Singapore), Sambas (Indonesia), Sabah Dragon Boat Association (Sabah), Penang Island Paddlez Club (Penang), Muda Agriculture Development Authority (Kedah) and International Islamic University (IIUM).
Other winners were Philippines Titans (bronze medal in Mixed 12), Blue Phoenix Dragon Boat Club (silver medals in Mixed 12, Mixed 22 and Open 12), Wali Wali Oya (bronze medal in Open 22) and Sambas Indonesia (gold medal in Open 22).
In addition to the competitive race, Sarawak International Dragon Boat Regatta 2015 had a special event on Sunday evening with a friendly match participated by Abang Johari, Assistant Minister in Chief Minister’s (Bumiputra Entrepreneurs Development) Datuk Mohd Naroden Majais, permanent secretary to Tourism Ministry Datu Ik Pahon Joyik, Ministry of Tourism staff, residents of Kuching, team managers, race officials, and tourists from Germany.