Sultan leads from front
Hakim Hayat & Azaraimy HH

ONCE again, the Brunei River was transformed into a colourful extravaganza as joy and excitement filled the air during the country?s biggest and most-awaited annual boat race competition, the Regatta Brunei Darussalam 2014, yesterday.

Joining thousands of paddlers from inside and outside the country competing in different categories was His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam, who took part in a special race in the afternoon, and subsequently presented prizes to the winners.

Earlier in the morning, HRH Prince Haji Al-Muhtadee Billah, the Crown Prince and Senior Minister at the Prime Minister?s Office flagged-off the first race category of the Regatta Brunei Darussalam 2014.

The whole day event saw 12 traditional boat races, two water taxi races, two jetski, eight speed boat races and a grand finale of a traditional boat marathon involving 30 paddlers. Apart from ordinary people, participants of the boat races were also made up of Cabinet Ministers, state dignitaries, members of the foreign dignitaries, as well as heads of government departments, and guests from the private sector.

Also in attendance during the afternoon leg of the event were HRH Prince ?Abdul Malik, HRH Prince ?Abdul Wakeel and HRH Princess Ameerah Wardatul Bolkiah.

His Majesty was greeted on arrival at the Dermaga Diraja by Joint Advisors of the Regatta Brunei Darussalam 2014 Executive Committee, Minister of Home Affairs, Pehin Udana Khatib Dato Paduka Seri Setia Ustaz Haji Awang Badaruddin bin Pengarah Dato Paduka Haji Awg Othman; Minister of Industry and Primary Resources, Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Utama Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Yahya bin Begawan Mudim Dato Paduka HajiBakar; and Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports, Pehin Orang Kaya Perkerma Laila Diraja Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Hazair bin Haji Abdullah.

Demonstrating his enthusiasm for the regatta, which was popular back in the 1950s and revived only three years ago, His Majesty took part and led a team of 15 paddlers to victory in the Fibreglass Boat Special Category race, kick-starting the afternoon?s events.

In the special race category which saw a total of eight teams competing, the monarch led the Regatta Brunei Darussalam 2014 Committee ?A? team while HRH the Crown Prince led the Committee ?B? team.

The special race category was won by the Regatta Brunei Darussalam 2014 Committee ?A? team led by the monarch. In second place was the Committee ?B? team led by HRH the Crown Prince and the State Decorated Persons? team finished in third place.

After the race, His Majesty went to an exhibition at the Dermaga Diraja which featured among others pictures from the Brunei Regatta, particularly during the golden era of the Brunei River in the 1950s where His Majesty?s late father, Al-marhum Sultan Haji Omar ?Ali Saifuddien, also took part. Continuing his father?s legacy, His Majesty has participated in the regatta since its revival in 2012.

From the royal dais, His Majesty witnessed other events including the 20-paddlers invitational fibreglass boat race, the 60 SST speedboat category and the Open 4 Stroke Jetski race. Cheers from the spectators watching the events resounded throughout the day from the Dermaga Diraja and along the banks of the Brunei River.

In a grand finale to the race categories, His Majesty boarded a boat from the jetty of the Dermaga Diraja and proceeded to the mouth of the Lumapas River to flag off the 30-paddlers Marathon Traditional Boat Race.

Fourteen teams from Brunei Darussalam and Malaysia took part in the most-anticipated category where solidarity and strong competitive spirit could be clearly seen. The event was won by the Putera Kuala Lawas Team.

At the end of the event, His Majesty consented to present prizes to winners of five race categories and received a ?pesambah? from the Minister of Home Affairs.

According to the Ministry of Home Affairs, the Regatta Brunei Darussalam 2014 received a good response, as the number of participants in all categories has increased and for the first time teams from Singapore and Nanjing, China participated.

The event continued to receive participation from teams around the Brunei Bay region. The Brunei Regatta, according to the Ministry of Home Affairs has the potential to be developed further to include other aspects that can strengthen the societal cohesion and can help the nation?s economic sector in the area of tourism.

Other than that side activities were also held during the event including a Local Product Festival, water performances and One Village, One Product exhibition. The Ministry of Home Affairs said the side activities were an added value to the Regatta Brunei Darussalam 2014. - Borneo Bulletin (3 March 2014)