Hakim Hayat & Izah Azahari
The Brunei River was brimming with modern and traditional boats of varying makes, designs and colours yesterday, as local and international teams demonstrated their rowing prowess in the Brunei Darussalam Regatta 2019, the country’s most significant boat race competition.
An annual watersports event since its revival in 2012, the regatta drew thousands of boating enthusiasts and visitors to the Dermaga Diraja in the capital.
Adding more thrill and excitement to the regatta was the presence of His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien, Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam, who took part in a special boat race category in the afternoon.
His Majesty’s arrival at the Dermaga Diraja was welcomed by Minister of Home Affairs Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Kerna Dato Seri Setia (Dr) Haji Awang Abu Bakar bin Haji Apong; Minister of Primary Resources and Tourism Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Ali bin Haji Apong; and Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports Major General (Rtd) Dato Paduka Seri Awang Haji Aminuddin Ihsan bin Pehin Orang Kaya Saiful Mulok Dato Seri Paduka Haji Abidin, in their capacities as Joint Advisors of the Brunei Darussalam Regatta 2019 Executive Committee.
His Majesty was joined by His Royal Highness Prince Haji Al-Muhtadee Billah, the Crown Prince and Senior Minister at the Prime Minister’s Office; His Royal Highness Prince ‘Abdul Malik; His Royal Highness Prince ‘Abdul Wakeel; and His Royal Highness Prince Mohamed Bolkiah.
Organised in conjunction with His Majesty’s 73rd birthday celebration, the all-day event saw 12 boat race categories being contested, with six held in the morning and another six in the afternoon.
Among the contested events were 15-, 20-, 25- and 30-rower fibreglass boat races between district teams; youth under 30 years; ministries; private sectors; institutions of higher learning; and colleges and secondary schools.
The competition finally culminated in a traditional boat race marathon with 30 rowers.
Apart from members of the public, the racing participants also included the Cabinet Ministers, state dignitaries, members of the Diplomatic Corps, heads of government departments and guests from the private sector.
Displaying plenty of enthusiasm and energy, His Majesty captained a team of 15 rowers in the 15-Rower Fibreglass Special Boat Race category against seven other VIP teams, to initiate the event’s afternoon segment.
Among the rowers in His Majesty’s team was the Sarawak Deputy Chief Minister, Minister of International Trade and Industry, Terminal and Ports Development and Second Minister for Urban Development and Natural Resources Datuk Amar Haji Awang Tengah.
Also taking part in the special boat race category were His Royal Highness Prince Haji Al-Muhtadee Billah, who led his own team; His Royal Highness Prince ‘Abdul Malik, who led the Mukim Penghulu and Village Head team; and His Royal Highness Prince Mohamed Bolkiah, who also led his own team.
Under the monarch’s stewardship, His Majesty’s team emerged as winners in that particular category, while the teams led by His Royal Highness Prince Mohamed Bolkiah, His Royal Highness the Crown Prince and His Royal Highness Prince ‘Abdul Malik placed second, third and fifth respectively.
Following the race, His Majesty watched several other events held as part of the regatta, before boarding a boat from the Dermaga Diraja jetty to Pulau Si Bongor in the Brunei River, to flag off the 5km 30-Rower Traditional Boat Race Marathon.
Later, His Majesty toured the Brunei Darussalam Regatta Exhibition 2019 at the Art Gallery Dermaga Diraja, themed Melestarikan Warisan Teknologi Melayu: Memburis Perahu, which depicts the centuries-old tradition of boat-making in Kampong Ayer.
The exhibition also featured galleries of previous regatta events, including those from the 1970s.
Afterwards, His Majesty consented to present prizes to the winners of the six categories contested in the afternoon session.
Laksamana Sinampuan, a strong team of 30 rowers from Lawas, Sarawak, were the champions of the 30-Rower Traditional Boat Race Marathon.
Earlier in the day, His Royal Highness Prince Haji Al-Muhtadee Billah had flagged off the regatta’s 25-Rower Inter-Ministry Traditional Boat Race – which was won by the Prime Minister’s Office – before later presenting prizes to the winners of the different boat race categories contested in the morning session.
According to the event organisers, apart from enlivening the celebrations for His Majesty’s 73rd birthday, the main goal of the annual regatta is to strengthen societal cohesion through sportsmanship, both within and outside the country, in addition to boosting local tourism.
Apart from local rowers, the major calendar event also saw the participation of international rowing teams from Malaysia and China.
Since its revival in 2012, the Brunei Darussalam Regatta has succeeded in revitalising the golden era of traditional boat racing along the Brunei River, while stirring interest among local youth and drawing crowds back to the capital.
His Majesty’s involvement in the regatta demonstrates his enthusiasm for the traditional sporting event, of which His Majesty’s late father, Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Muhammad Jamalul Alam, was also a keen participant.