Banda Aceh – At least 26 yachts from nine countries are set to participate in the first Sabang International Regatta, which begins on Tuesday and continues until Sept. 25. Contestants will cover more than 500 kilometers, sailing across the Malacca Strait from Phuket, Thailand, before resting at Malaysia’s Langkawi Island and finishing at Sabang’s Weh Island.
Islamuddin, deputy mayor of Sabang and the local event organizer, said the international maritime event was the first to be held on Indonesia’s westernmost island, which is famous for its unspoiled beaches and breathtaking coral reefs.
“The SIR is held to promote Sabang’s tourism. We hope it will become an annual event for the city of Sabang so that many domestic and foreign tourists will come and enjoy its natural beauty and the hospitality of its people,” Islamuddin told the Jakarta Globe.
Indonesia is not participating in the regatta. Australia is sending eight yachts, while New Zeland is sending five. Malaysia has four yachts, England will have three and Germany will have two in the race. France, Italy, the Netherlands and Thailand each have one yacht.
“They will start from Phuket on Tuesday. On September 16, participants will head for Sabang. Hopefully the first yacht will finish in Sabang on September 19,” Islamuddin said.
Participants will spend two days, after a welcoming ceremony on Sept. 20, visiting tourist attractions such as Gapang, Ipoh beach and Rubiah island.
On Sept. 21 and 22, contestants will participate in a race in Sabang Bay, which is the main event of the entire regatta.
The following day, participants will sail to Banda Aceh to participate in the tsunami memorial tour, visiting sites devastated by the 2004 tsunami as well as museums and landmarks to commemorate the catastrophe.
“We will continue to develop Sabang’s tourism, particularly other sectors besides maritime. We will focus on developing our arts and culture so tourists will not only see the beauty of our beaches but also enjoy Aceh’s impressive culture and traditional values,” Islamuddin said.
Sabang was one of the areas most devastated by the tsunami that hit Aceh in 2004. Firmansyah Rahim, the Ministry of Culture and Tourism’s director general of destination development, said earlier that the city had rebuilt its infrastructure to support tourism.
“We are trying to develop interesting travel packages to promote the region. It has lots of potential and many dive spots,” he said.
Firmansyah added that Sabang was being developed as one of 18 planned stopping points in Indonesia for luxury yachts.
Munawar Liza Zainal, the mayor of Sabang, said there were several economic selling points in Sabang not only appealing to travelers. Sabang also has much to offer potential investors.
“Unlike other districts, Sabang issues business permits itself so investors do not have to try to get them from the central government,” he said. “Sabang is also a duty-free island where we do not impose a luxury tax.”