37th Regatta Zamboanga draws 125 vintas, 3,000 spectators

ZAMBOANGA CITY (MindaNews/10 October) — Sunday morning, October 9, was sunny and the wind blew just hard enough, making the day perfect for sailboat racing. Lining the entire 200-meter stretch of the city’s Cawa-cawa boulevard, famous for its sunset view, were 125 small vintas (sailboats) that competed in this year’s Regatta Zamboanga, all blazing the shoreline with colors!

The boat race started in 1974 to make the indigenous peoples and small fishermen a part of the celebration of the annual feast of the city’s patron-saint Nuestra Señora del Pilar (Our Lady of the Pillar), which takes place every 12th of October.  Now on its’ 37th year, the race has continued to draw and wow tourists and local residents alike. At least 3,000 of them came to watch the event.

Participants to the 37th Regatta Zamboanga line up their colorful vintas (boats) along Cawa-cawa Boulevard in Zamboanga City on Sunday, October 9, 2011. The race is one of the activities of the fiesta celebration of Zambonga City's patron saint Nuestra Senora del Pilar (Our Lady of the Pillar) on October 12. MindaNews photo by Jules BenitezRegatta, which means a series of boat races, starts with an elimination round where sets of 10 vintas race across 150 meters starting from the shoreline and back. The winners in this round compete in the finals.

Racers rely only on their skills, stamina and wind in paddling their boats on the rough waters. The race is not timed.

In keeping with tradition, the city mayor fires the shot that signals each race to begin.

This year’s winner is the team of Hajad Hamid and Danny Ladja, both fishers from Sinunuc, a village in the city’s western coast. Their team received a prize money of P10,000.

All the participants of the race received P1,000 as participation fee.

Many of the racers came all the way from distant villages and had to spend the night in the boulevard as the Regatta starts early in the day.

Bakrin Apalad, an elderly Madaris teacher from Mercedes, had to sail his vinta from Mulu-muluan village for three hours the night before the race. “Mahirap kumita ng pera ngayon, sir,” (It’s difficult to earn money these days, Sir.) Apalad said, adding that the participation fee was an incentive for them to join the race.

Apalad had been joining the Regatta for over 20 years now. He won twice in his younger years. “Ngayon, mahirap na gumalaw kasi medyo tumaba na ako at madaling mapagod,” (I’m slower now because I have gained weight and easily tire), he said.

Apalad did not win in the elimination round this time. But for the old man losing did not matter. What is important for him is that his grandson, Haer, 18, raced with him for the first time. He wished that Haer will one day win in the Regatta. (Jules L. Benitez/MindaNews).