Sarawak Regatta is a popular event in Kuching featuring a race between tradition longboats. These longboats are decorated with colourful designs and are of differing lengths, with some having up to 30 paddlers and others with just a few. The practice dates back to the 1800s and was intended to put as end to the warring of the local tribes.
This annual event is the showcase of boat race with participation from various government agencies, private sectors and also participants from the neighbouring countries of Indonesia and Brunei. Teams from villages around Sarawak make it a grand affair and also a great occasion for families from outside Kuching to visit the city. The blue-ribbon event is the coveted ‘Raja Sungai’ (king of the river) title in the ‘bidar’ category. Each longboat carries thirty paddlers and this category is always a closely fought affair.
The day programme includes “Brooke Swim”, kayaking and duck catching. Other activities include displays of crafts, exhibitions and a food fair.
The significance of regattas in Sarawak dates back to 1872 during the James Brooke era. It started with the intention to stop racial wars among local tribes where headhunting was largely practiced. James Brooke then 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.
The Sarawak Regatta takes place along the Sarawak River. The 1.3 km Kuching Waterfront provides ample vantage points to watch the action on the water.