The annually held Regatta is a historic event in Brunei, that according to Brunei Resources dates back to when Brunei was still under the British protectorate – it was a sporting event to ring in the new year back then. Locals used to call it ‘Benjawari’, a play on the word January which was a festive month during that time.
When Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien became the Sultan in 1950, the event was moved to September to celebrate the auspicious occasion, but caused a cease in referring to it as ‘Benjawari’. Nowadays, Regatta is held to celebrate His Majesty’s Birthday which falls during the month of July.
This year’s event brought excitement to the capital, where 12 fibreglass boat raced including a special 15-man fibreglass race that His Majesty took part in along with a few members of the royal family.
Invited international teams from neighbouring countries also competed, such as Indonesia and Malaysia. Among the international teams that joined were Laksamana Sinampuan from Lawas, Malaysia and Pasukan Olahraga Dayung Seluruh from Kalimantan Barat, Indonesia.
Laksamana Sinampuan won the five-kilometre marathon boat race and one of the team members, Awang Saini Abdul Ghani highlighted that the team consists of mostly youth members from Lawas. He added that it was a relief that they were able to win the race after two months of vigorous training back home.
While Brunei invited international teams to join the Brunei Darussalam Regatta 2019, local institutions also took part in the event. Universiti Brunei Darussalam (UBD) celebrated their win at the Higher Education institution fibreglass boat race.
“Regatta is one of the traditional and historic races in the country, and to be able to compete in one of the races is something special. After training for more than two months, its feels good to be able to win the race,” said Norasmelee Yusof, team captain for UBD Regatta team. He further mentioned that at first they were not able to cope with training given, but eventually got the hang of the activity and were ready to compete.
The event this year drew people of all ages, be it those who were bringing their family to experience the occasion for the first time or the older generation who were there out of habit and wanted to relive their younger nostalgic days.
The Museums Department took advantage of this event to open an exhibition that showcased the history of Regatta in Brunei, and the involvement of the royal family members over the years. Besides that, it also featured the history of boat making in Kampong Ayer, which displayed the types of boats used in the country.
The exhibition is open to the public until the end of the month, from 9.00am until 5.00pm, except on Fridays where the gallery will be open from 9.00am until 11.30am and 2.30pm until 5.00pm.
The regatta boat race has always been an anticipated event for Brunei with plenty of people flocking the capital to cheer on and support their favourite teams. Following the success of the race, the event closed with the unveiling of a sign that said “Jumpa Lagi di Regatta Brunei Darussalam 2020”, which translates to “See you again in Regatta Brunei Darussalam 2020”.