The Darwin to Ambon Yacht Race and Rally is an event to explore some of the 17,000 amazing islands of the Indonesian Archipelago, under the umbrella of the Sister City Program between Ambon City and Darwin City.
The event is supported by the Indonesian Ministry of Culture and Tourism and the Ambon City Government, together with the Dinah Beach Cruising Yacht Association Incorporated, the Northern Territory Government and the Darwin City Council.
The 600-mile downwind race attracted six yachts in its inaugural year in 1976. For months afterwards, conversation amongst returning yachties was dominated by stories of "champagne sailing", overwhelming hospitality, lovely friendly people, the scenic beauty, the cultural diversity, and the food - making the race and rally an annual event not to be missed.
In 1998, the race and rally were participated in by 100 yachts. But unfortunately when it reached its glory in 1999 with up to 140 yachts from different countries intending to join the race, the event had to be canceled due to sectarian conflicts hitting Maluku at the time.
The event was not held for the next 8 years. In 2007, the race was revived after peace had returned in Maluku which is also known as the Spice Islands.
Now the race`s organizers want to reintroduce the event internationally and hope to attract at least 30 participants in 2012.
"The promotion in ASEAN will be intensified as yacht and sailing clubs in the ASEAN region are growing now," Helen de Lima, coordinator of the Darwin-Ambon International Yacht Race, said in Ambon, Maluku Province, on August 3, 2011.
In addition to the Southeast Asian region, the promotion will also be held in Tokyo (Japan) and New Zealand, as well as in several Australian cities such as Sydney, Perth, Darwin and Tasmania, according to her.
"We will organize a Darwin-Ambon roadshow for a month in Australia`s major cities as well as in Hong Kong and New Zealand where there are many international sailors," Helen said.
The roadshow will be fully supported by the Indonesian culture and tourism ministry, the Australian government and the Darwin administration, in cooperation with Dinah Beach Cruising Yacht Association Inc. has been handling the yacht race since 2007.
This year's rally which started in Darwin harbor, Northern Australia, on July 23, was joined by 19 yachts mstly from Australia and one from the Netherlands.
The race and rally sent yachts 634 nautical miles from Darwin to the village of Amahusu in Ambon Harbour,where they were given a lavish and entusiastic welcome by the locals.
The flag-off of the participants was marked with start sign from on board the HMAS Ararat patrol boat in Darwin port by Ambon Mayor Jopi Papilaja and Darwin Governor Tom Pauling.
The yacht race was divided in four categories, namely racing monohull (IRC) followed by six yachts, racing monohull cruising (six yachts), racing multihull (five) and rally (two).
This year`s competition attracted the yachts Australian Maid, Walk on the Wildside and Sue Sea who had just battled in the Fremantle to Bali Race 2011, according to information posted on the official website of Darwon-Ambon International Yacht Race and Rally.
They challenged the local racing yachts for the Monohull Racing Record of 68:57 hours set by Skipper Garth Curren in 1997 aboard the Walk on the Wildside.
Over the past 15 years Walk on the Wildside has been competing on Australia`s west coast and has won numerous major line honor victories. Walk on the Wildside has been recently re-rigged and technology updated to defend her title.
The 2011 fleet also had some other impressive contenders, Australian Maid, Skipper Jon Wardill, winner of 3 Darwin-to-Ambon yacht races, Gameset, Skipper John Mulkearns, winner of the 1996 Darwin-to-Ambon Yacht Race aboard the Andromeda, and Freedom Express, Skipper Ross McCombe who arrived 2nd in Ambon, 2010 in his first Darwin-to-Ambon Yacht Race.
Fantasia led by Skipper Andrew Stransky came out as the first winner in the Darwin-Ambon International Race 2011 as it was the first to reach the finish line at Amahusu village beach, Ambon, on July 25, 2011.
The boat from Brisbane, Australia, recorded 57.37 hours after sailing at a total distance of 634 nautical miles or 1,174.68 kilometers from Darwin (Australia) to Ambon, Maluku Province, Indonesia. Fantasia also won in the racing multihull division.
The boat with a crew of five, however, failed to break the record made by Zuma captained by John Punch which reached the finish line after sailing for 53.29 hours in 1998.
Walk On The Wildside captained by skipper Garth Curran received a special prize for breaking the record by arriving at the finish line in 64.05 minutes, or 4.52 minutes faster than the previous record of 68.57 minutes in 1997.
During the race`s presentation in Ambon on July 30, Garry Lambert, the Alderman at Darwin City Council said that his government would always support the Darwin-Ambon International Yacht Race and Rally because the event has helped strengthen the ties between Australia and Indonesia.
The race had brought the people of Darwin in north Australia and Ambon in Maluku Province (Indonesia) closer to each other, Lambert said.
Garry Lambert was optimistic that the yacht race has improved in terms both of quality and quantity of the participants from year to year, especially after the end of the sectarian conflicts in Maluku which had started in 1999.
He hoped that the number of participants could reach up to 100 boats, as what had happened in 1998.
After the final party in Ambon for the Darwin to Ambon Race and Rally participants, the Sail Maluku Rally took adventure lovers to neighbouring islands and other fantastic destinations.
Coinciding with the start of the Darwin-Ambon yacht race on July 23, 2011, the marine affairs and fisheries ministry`s Secretary General Gellwynn Jusuf officially launched the Sail Wakatobi-Belitong yacht rally 2011 in Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia.
"A total of 111 participants from 18 countries are taking part in this rally," Gellwynn said in a press statement recently.
After it was seen off in Australia, the yacht rally participants were divided into two teams. One team sailed eastwards and arrived in Saumlaki on July 26-30, 2011, and continued their voyage to Ambon, Buru, Wakatobi, Bau-Bau and Makassar, South Sulawesi.
The second team sailed westwards and arrived in Kupang on July 27-31, 2001. It continued its sail to Alor, Lembata, Ende and Alung, East Nusa Tenggara.
The two teams will then meet in Labuan Bajo on August 31 - September 5 from where they would sail together in the same route to Lombok Utara, Bali, Karimun Jawa, Kumal and Belitung on Sumatra Island on October 5-12 before they end their trip in Singapore.
The journey will pass among other things old forts and many villages to explore and breathtaking scenery abounds.
Indonesian waters offer some of the best cruising grounds as the area abounds with numerous volcanic islands inter mingled with coral atolls. (*)