Traditional Sarawak Regatta starts September 12

Kuching – The Sarawak Regatta is a popular traditional longboats race in Kuching and will be held from September 12-14. The longboats will again be decorated – as every year – with colourful designs. They are able to accomodate up to 30 paddlers per boat.

The significant of regattas in Sarawak goes back to the Brooke era. It started with the intention to stop racial wars among local tribes where headhunting was largely practiced. The Brooke had instructed all tribes to instead challenge each other by having boat races to prove their power and strength.

The call to challenge each other through the boat race rather than headhunting was successful in bringing peace to the area. Today, longboat races or regattas are some of the major tourism events in Sarawak. The Sarawak Regatta, held at the Kuching Waterfront, has become one of the most sought after events in the tourism calendar. Due to the significant history of the regatta, this event is normally held in conjunction with the Malaysia Day celebration.

This annual event is the showcase of boat race with participation from various government agencies, private sectors and also participants from overseas such as Indonesia and Brunei. Other activities include displays of crafts and exhibitions by local entrepreneurs.

The day programme include “Brooke Swim”, kayaking and duck catching. Racing boats from the various villages around Sarawak will make it a grand affair and also a great occasion for families from outside Kuching to visit the city.

Sarawak Regatta has been a premier event with a distinct historical and cultural significant. It was held as early as before 1872 and was organized as an annual event taking place during the New Year. Sarawak Gazette had recorded in 1872, that the annual Regatta that year was held, on 29th February 1872 at the Sarawak River infront of the Astana. The European community in Sarawak and in the neighboring countries were invited to the Astana – for breakfast – before the race. Keen competition were also recorded for the Rajah Cup. The boat ‘Sri Matu’ built and manned by the Melanaus, was reported as the winning boat.

The Gazette records provided the indication that Regatta had been an important social event organized annually for social integration and goodwill for the people of Sarawak. Prominent political figure, the late Tan Sri Datuk Amar Ong Kee Hui, recorded that Rajah Charles Brooke used to send his yacht Maimunah1 to outstation to bring in the various Tuan Residents to join in the social event.

The tradition of holding the annual Regatta in the Sarawak River continued through the Colonial period and into the post-Malaysia period. During these periods the Regatta was organized by Resident and District Office with funds from the Government while the rest of the fund was raised through public donations.