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Page updated May 31 2022
The Background, Origins and History of Sail Indonesia
Maritime exchanges between the Northern Territory and its northern Asian neighbors are a centuries-old tradition, for hundreds of years Indonesian Makassan fishermen regularly visited the northern Australian coastline in search of trepang

The modern era of yachting contacts between Northern Australia and its northern neighbors began in 1973 when a small number of yachts from the Cruising Yacht Association of the Northern Territory in Darwin began a yacht race from Darwin to Dill in what was then Portuguese Timor. The first Darwin to Dill Yacht Race ran in 1973 and again in 1974, but it was short-lived and ceased in 1975 when Indonesia took over the former Portuguese colony.

In search of other sailing destinations, the Darwin to Ambon International Yacht Race was established, organized by the Cruising Yacht Association of the Northern Territory and beginning in 1976 with just six local participants from Darwin and it grew through the years into a fully fledged yachting event on the world cruising calendar. The Darwin to Ambon Yacht Race ran until 1998 and became very well known world wide within the sailing fraternity and throughout Indonesia. During the early nineties there were a number of follow on events from the Darwin Ambon Yacht Race. This included a second race from Ambon to Bitung in northern Sulawesi across the equator 400 miles to the north and a series of regattas off the city of Ujung Pandang now known as Makassar in south Sulawesi. These events peaked in 1995 with the Arung Samudera (Sail the Oceans) event held to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the founding of the Republic of Indonesia. In that year, over 130 Darwin, Australian and international yachts left Darwin for both Ambon and Bali to participate in a series of sailing events in Indonesia which culminated in the Bali to Jakarta Yacht Race run in conjunction with the Bali to Jakarta Tall Ship Event. In 1999 ongoing civil unrest in Ambon caused the Darwin to Ambon Yacht Race to be cancelled after 22 years.
In December 2000, as a result of an initiative by Mr Aji Sularso and the Indonesian Ministry of Tourism and the Minister of Maritime Affairs, it was decided that an attempt was to be made to arrange a co-ordinate series of yacht races and rallies beginning from both Darwin and Fremantle to Bali, then on to Pulau Seribu north of Jakarta and then on to Batam Island south of Singapore.
The intention was for these events were to be sailed under the auspices of PORLASI (the Indonesian Yachting Association) and APLI (The Indonesian Sailing Association) to take the yachts through Indonesia and on to the Raja Muda International Regatta in Malaysia then on to the Kings Cup in Thailand.
Mr Aji Sularso proposed the name Sail Indonesia in remembrance the success of Sail Indonesia '95 and to keep costs down and to provide maximum exposure a decision was made to run these events by using the internet exclusively, with no phones, no facsimile, no staffed offices instead using only a web site and email. This yachting event was a little different to all others; it had no sponsors, no office and no publicity other than the web site, but importantly it made sure that the participants were the main focus and by ensuring they were invited to join exciting events across Indonesia that they would tell others and invite other yachts to join in following years.
As a result in July 2001, a fleet of 16 yachts left Darwin for Bali, however the fleet from Fremantle did not eventuate. This initial event was regarded as a success and plans were made for a second event in 2002. This event attracted a total of 20 yachts this again was a success with a send-off party in Darwin and a great welcome in Bali. As a result of discussions with the participants other destinations in Indonesia east of Bali were considered because once they had reached Bali the beautiful cruising areas of the islands to the east were behind them.
In February of 2003, the Indonesian Confederation of Marine Tour Companies, GAHAWISRI, was asked by the Indonesian Central Government for ideas to increase awareness of marine tourism in the Eastern Part of Indonesia. This idea was discussed at length and it was decided at a meeting in Bali that there would be a second event - a yacht rally from Darwin to Kupang located on the western end of Indonesian Timor. This event was to be run in conjunction with the Darwin Bali Yacht Bali Race.
The event was supported by GAHAWISRI and to keep cost down and to ease the path through the Indonesian bureaucracy, GAHAWISRI helped to arrange for each yacht the vitally important Indonesian Cruising Permit known as a CAIT. GAHAWISRI’s involvement, as well as their knowledge of the Indonesian maritime regulations, ensured wide support for the event with their contacts within all levels of government, the Indonesian maritime industry and local operators.
As a result in July 2003 two fleets left Darwin; the first group of 24 yachts went to Kupang and a second group of 23 yachts left for Bali one week later with the intention that they would link up in Bali for a combined dinner and presentation. This did not eventuate as the yachts that went to Kupang found that the marine beauty of the Eastern Part of Indonesia had a lot to offer and they went cruising. Only one yacht from the fleet to Kupang made it to Bali in time for the celebrations and the presentation dinner went ahead without the rest of the fleet.
The success or otherwise of a rally to Kupang was an unknown but due to the hard work of a number of people in Jakarta, Bali, Darwin and Kupang it was an overnight success with the yachts and their crews enjoying themselves; most importantly they told others of the great welcome and experience they had. There were some teething problems for the government officials in Kupang as the arrival of a large number of foreign yachts was a new experience for them.
In early 2004 with the intention of raising the awareness of the Eastern Part of Indonesia as a destination, the town of Kalabahi on the island of Alor 110 miles north of Kupang in cooperation with Yayasan Cinta Bahari Indonesia promoted and organized a cultural festival on Alor to coincide with the arrival of the yachts in Kupang in an effort to attract them to Alor and show them the attractions of the area. With no sponsorship for the event, organizers were delighted when entries began to arrive at an alarming rate. The intention in 2004 was to limit the numbers going to Kupang to 30 yachts and any over that number could go to Bali. However, the numbers wanting to go to Kupang as their first port of call climbed to 43 and after discussions with the authorities in Kupang, the organizers decided to ‘give it a try’ and see if 43 yachts could be managed and accommodated. It was an overnight success and continues to be to this day.
The yachts received a fantastic welcome in Kupang with tours, dinners, fashion shows and cultural events provided for their entertainment. Then most of the yachts headed for Kalabahi where they received an even more spectacular welcome and were able to see Indonesia as is not often seen even by the most experienced traveler, far from the well worn tourist destinations. It received rave reviews and was written about in a number of international yachting magazines as well as publications specializing in unusual travel destinations.
In February 2005 the Indonesian sailing foundation Yayasan Cinta Bahari Indonesia (YCBI) announced that a second stopover after Alor had been arranged at Riung on the island of Flores featuring a festival and cultural displays. Rally entry papers were sent out during the last week in March and soon sixty yachts had entered. Within 4 weeks of entries being open 70 yachts had registered and the event was closed to further entries.
In August 2005, 69 yachts arrived in Kupang almost overwhelming the local Custom Immigration and Quarantine staff all did a magnificent job processing the arriving yachts and the visit to Kupang was wonderful success.
The whole town turned out to greet and treat the yachts to the first of four cultural experiences arranged by the Yayasan Cinta Bahari Indonesia in cooperation with the office of the Kupang Mayor and the local Tourism Department. The warm welcome to Indonesia climaxed with a gala dinner and cultural show hosted by the Governor of Nusa Tenggara Timor. After 3 days of socializing, shopping and land tours, the yachts then headed north for the island of Alor.
These events were very new to the Indonesian Government Departments and everybody was on a steep learning curve. There were some small initial problems but overall the development of these events have been positive and successful well beyond the planners’ expectations.
In 2005 to reflect these changes the program was changed from the original concept of a Darwin to Bali Yacht Race to promote and to include many other destinations throughout Eastern Indonesia, the original web site was no longer updated and this second English language web site at was established to promote all of Indonesia as a destination for cruising yachts.
Sail Indonesia has now become the largest yachting event in the ASEAN region competing for that title with the King's Cup in Thailand. The numbers of yachts have climbed steadily with 96 in 2006, 123 in 2007, 122 in 2008 and in 2009 total of 157 yachts arriving in Indonesia from both Australia and Malaysia.
Each year there are an increasing number of stopovers as yachts make their 3 month journey across Indonesia, the 2011 destinations now offered across Indonesia can be seen on the 2011 Schedule Page.
This event has truly become Sail Indonesia. The stopover in Kumai in south Kalimantan at the sanctuary where orangutans are reintroduced into the wild, often after a life of caged living has been described by many as one of life’s highlights, ranking alongside meeting the mountain gorillas in Rwanda.
In an attempt make this rally a truly international event in 2005, an inaugural follow-on rally was arranged following the route up the west coast of Malaysia leaving Singapore with the Malaysian island of Langkawi as its destination. This partnership event has now become known as Sail Malaysia and has the full support of the Malaysian Government’s Tourism Department and it too is an annual event.
In 2007 Raffles Marina in Singapore became a partner in these events and is now the official stopover in Singapore.
In 2009 Sail Indonesia worked in partnership with Indonesia's main marine event Sail Bunaken in 2009 which was held off the city of Manado in north Sulawesi. 132 yachts left Darwin for Saumlaki on July 18 however the fleet was disrupted with some yachts choosing to go north for Sail Bunaken while others went directly to the west and as a result some stopovers were bypassed and some were cancelled.
In 2010 the program of events returned to the traditional Western Passage program west from Darwin to Kupang as in previous years with a second route that included Sail Banda then on to Ambon and Wakatobi before the yachts then headed south to join the Western Passage group in Flores.
In 2011 107 yachts departed from Darwin participating in both the Western Passage and the Eastern Passage, with the eastern Passage yachts taking part in Sail Wakatobi.
In 2012 Sail Indonesia worked in cooperation with Indonesis's main marine event for 2012 Sail Morotai.
In 2013 was another great year with Sail Komodo across NTT the islands west from Timor west including Timor, Alor, Flores, Sumba and Komodo) to being the main maritme event for Indonesia.
For 2014, 2015 and 2016 Sail indonesia worked without the participation of any other major events and for 2017 we worked in in co operation with Sail Sabang at Sabang Island on the northern coast of Sumatra.
The Internet
During the early 1990s as the Internet and Email became more common and the sailing community quickly became one of the most enthusiastic users of this new medium. The reason of course is that they were always moving and receiving mail was always a problem. Long gone are the days when Sailing Clubs and Yacht Marinas had large amounts of mail being held for visiting yachts.
Most yachts now use onboard email systems that enable them to email anywhere as they cross the oceans of the world and it became routine for Sail Indonesia to be communicating with a 40 foot yacht cruising anywhere in the world. Immediate and cheap communication is now routine and has been a key factor in the success of our rally.

The Future
It is difficult coordinating and arranging regattas and rallies across international borders which in fact may become five countries as the plans to include Thailand are finalized, but that is the challenge.

As these events are managed only using the internet and email, the operational costs are kept low and the people involved are mainly volunteers. The main objective is to make these events a success through giving the sailors an amazing experience and being responsive to their suggestions and needs. This has been a key success factor, as they will tell others about the event and their experiences and there is now no need for any advertising or promotion of these events.
The use of email has made this easy, often a yacht will email in and say “My friend on the yacht ????? participated in Sail Indonesia last year and had a great time and we would like to do it this year” and that is how it has grown and progressed. The support of the Indonesian Central Government and their wish to see these events succeed has been a major factor in the popularity of Sail Indonesia.
While there is no overall governing body, Sail Indonesia is the key part of this group of organizations that use the Sail Indonesia and Sail Malaysia Rallies as promotional events to raise awareness of tourism and especially marine tourism in both Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia.

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