Sungai Sarawak ‘perfect’ for Dragon Boat racing

ALL SMILES: Talip (fifth left) with team leaders of participants of Sarawak Regatta’s Dragon Boat Exhibition Race and Ik Pahon (right).

FOR THE RECORD: Thai team officials with state cultural performers.

KUCHING: The still waters of Sungai Sarawak and surging crowds are perfect for the International Dragon Boat Race, said the technical team engaged by the state to check on its viability.

As for Sungai Sarawak, the still waters during the Sarawak Regatta last weekend are safe when the state held its annual crowd-puller, said Santha Rasagara, a committee member of Asian Dragon Boat Federation in charge of technical aspects.

Santha, who represented his vice-president Lai Chew Hock here, told reporters that he would like to see an international-standard Dragon Boat race to be held biennially in Sarawak but as it is now up to the state government to turn this into reality.

They will be holding a post-mortem before submitting its technical report to the state Ministry of Tourism, he said when met on the sidelines of the Appreciation Dinner in conjunction with the Dragon Boat Exhibition Race, held at a leading hotel here on Sunday night.

He pointed out that the Sungai Sarawak is an ideal venue for Dragon Boat races as it is quite still and safe apart from the other advantage which is the large enough size in crowds.

“I can see public support and the water of Sungai Sarawak is still. These are the good things. Still water is safe. As for crowd support, I can see that the number here is much better than that in some places. However what is lacking here are the number of available pontoons and watch towers,” he said.

There are established Dragon Boat races in places other than Sarawak and they are Putrajaya, Melaka, Kedah, Perlis and Sabah.

Ironically neighbouring Sabah has seen Dragon Boat races for about 20 years already, he pointed out.

In Hong Kong, Macau and China for instance, the calm sea and lake are the preferred venues, he said.

International Dragon Boat races when compared to the traditional ones, must be regulated, he explained.

The federation will ensure that strict rules and standards will be adhered to in their bid to attract international participants to Sarawak, Santha said.

“Teams must have licence. And the weight and length of their boats must be according to international specifications. There must be at least 22 members in any one team including a steerman (coxswain) and drummer each,” he said.

Current categories of race accepted are the 200 metres sprint, 500 metres, 800 metres and 2,000 metres long distance type.

Another technical committee member James Tan who accompanied Santha told reporters that they would like Dragon Boat race to feature in the Olympic.

“Nineteen countries have made Dragon Boat race a medal event. It is so popular in Asia. And we (federation) will try to get it into the Olympics,” said Tan.

A Thailand team won the Dragon Boat Exhibition Race in the Sarawak Regatta on Sunday and they won because the team members are a disciplined lot.

“They are disciplined. They have centralised training and trained almost everyday,” said Tan.

The Thais beat teams from Singapore, Penang, Brunei Darussalam, Republic of Indonesia, Sandakan Sabah and a team of mixed internationals here last weekend.

Earlier at the appreciation dinner for the Dragon Boat Exhibition Race organisers and the technical team members, Assistant Tourism Minister DatukTalib Zulpilip said Sarawak Regatta is traditionally associated with peace-keeping.

The tradition was initiated by one of the White Rajahs — Charles Vyner Brooke — to remind people of racial harmony and peace during the Brooke rule, he said.

On the Dragon Boat Exhibition Race, Talib said he hoped the actual one could start during next year’s edition of Sarawak Regatta.

Talib, who is also Sarawak Economic Development Corporation chairman, gave away the top prize to rowers of the Thai team led by Wornut.

He then presented souvenirs to participants of the exhibition race.

Also present at the dinner were permanent secretary to the Ministry of Tourism Datu Ik Pahon Joyik, Sarawak Tourism Board CEO Datuk Rashid Khan, Republic of Indonesia Consul-General to Sarawak Djoko Harjanto and Tourism Malaysia director Muhamad Salahuddin as well as Thailand province of Nathaburi MP Wornut Srinon.

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