Regatta returns to KB waterfront

National 2 minutes, 23 seconds

BELAIT

DESPITE downplayed expectations from organisers, hundreds of people were in Kuala Belait town over the weekend to witness the much-anticipated Belait River Carnival, with the highlight regatta taking place on Sunday to make a first appearance at the Belait waterfront after a three-year absence.

The noise and mingling from visiting locals and tourists made for a festive mood reminiscent of boat races and regattas of yesteryear along Belait River – the last of which was organised in 2010 in conjunction with the birthday celebrations of His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam.

According to event's Chief Secre-tariat Irwan Reno Nordin, organisers had underestimated the public and competitor turnout for Sunday's races, as past experience had shown such public events to be very difficult to draw support.

“To be honest, we were very surprised by the large showing. Normally, to pull together ten teams or even 20 teams for any competition would be quite an achievement but we received about 40 teams registering for the races,” said Irwan.

The chief secretariat added that the new-look waterfront – yet to be officially launched – in front of the Cendera Kenangan Tower had made it very accessible for rowers owing to a dedicated jetty and parking area, while the extended viewing area allowed the public to easily watch the races from the banks of Belait River.

“We are very grateful to His Majesty's government for provi-ding the new facilities, which have really made a difference in this event… however, we are looking at some weaknesses in organisation that should make future events easier to manage. For example, we may hold races for different boats on separate days as today's turnout caused us some logistical issues,” added Irwan.

The regatta, organised by the Belait District Office in collaboration with the National Traditional Boat Race Association of Brunei Darussalam, attracted teams and individual rowers from as far as Temburong.

The district's largest sporting event of the year featured a host of boat races, from the individual jet ski races to larger and more powerful engine speed boat races. As with any regatta, the showcase races featured traditional rowboats, each carrying about 20 rowers competing in various categories including for private companies, mukims, government departments from the district as well as ministries.

During the afternoon finals, guest of honour Minister of Home Affairs Yang Berhormat Pehin Udana Khatib Dato Paduka Seri Setia Ustaz Haji Awang Badaruddin Pengarah Dato Paduka Haji Awang Othman boarded an observation boat to flag off the opening race between Mukims from all over Brunei.

Brunei-Muara's Mukim Tamoi – represented by Generasi Anak Mukim Tamoi (GAMTA) paddlers – matched their pre-race billing as the most experienced team by finishing first, although local boys from Mukim Seria ran the champions ragged to finish close runners-up.

Also present were Belait District Officer Hj Haris Othman, Legislative Council members, village heads and penghulus from the district.

The Brunei Times