The world’s fastest, longest and hardest race for traditional fishing vessels


Indonesia’s nautical event of the year!

2010 Sandeq RaceWant to do something very interesting and rewarding in your sailing career? Many foreign crews have found that by sponsoring these traditional Indonesian fisher folk not only keeps their magnificent sailing culture alive but also has a very memorable effect ensuring these exciting sailing craft will go down in history.The annual Sandeq Race is one of the main nautical events in Indonesia, where many sponsorship packages are available, including space on the sails and individual participating boats. Your participation would assure the presence of your organisation in national and international electronic and printed media – with a connotation that differs significantly from ‘normal’ advertising and sponsorship - for a cost of only a fraction of ‘normal’ media rates.

Jan 2011 Makassar, South Sulawesi, Indonesia
Vice Governors office in the ancient seafaring capital of Makassar have asked AsianYachting to publicise that the century old-traditional sandeq outrigger fishing boat race will be starting in a latter time slot this year on Monday 5th September in Mamuju and end in Makassar on the 16th September.

Despite organising annual races in the Mandar area about 300km north of Makassar for the last 11 years - Sandeq Racing is only just coming to the notice of the broader public. In past years a lot of these spectacularly fast sailing craft were lying in mothballs as the crews decided to go to Mamuju and Donggala in search of tuna because the flying fish caviar prices are in the cellar this year. Oh! I have often wondered what those flimsy looking things where doing as they quickly whizzed by sometimes well out in rough seas crossing the notoriously dangerous Makassar Straits. Race participants or crew are usually drawn from the local coastal fishing villages along the way.

Coming from a western world full of high tech carbon fibre construction and multi million $$ racing campaigns, It seems ironic that providing a little public awareness and promotion for these simple, traditional bamboo outrigger sailing craft, which are mainly held together with fishing line and jute can produce enough personal pride and cultural dignity in developing a 3rd world community to become the main driving force for sustainable and appropriate development that no multi-billion dollar ‘project’ could bring.

2011 Sandeq Race Schedule

2010 Sandeq Race Monday, 5th Sept: participants gather at Mamuju harbour

Tuesday, 6th Sept This year the race starts in Mamuju with a parade of the participants and sails down the coast to Deking, Malunda

Wednesday, 7th Sept Then straight into the eye of the South East Monsoon winds from Deking to Somba

Thursday, 8th Somba - (Big spectacular open water round course along Rangas - Labuang Gonda - Pambusuang - Karama - Rangas) to finish up in Majene.

Friday, 9th Triangular course off Majene.

Saturday, 10th Restart Majene then across the notorious windy Bay of Polewali

Sunday, 11th Triangular course set off Polewali. All along the coastal course of the race, local governments will hold cultural festivities and events to entertain competitors and spectators.

Monday, 12th The race continues from Polewali onto Ujung Lero and ends up in Pare-Pare.

Tuesday, 13th An extended Harbour Race will be set in the Bay of Pare-Pare, right in front of the second largest city in South Sulawesi.

Wednesday, 14th Departing Pare-Pare after extended festivities the fleet then moves onto Barru.

Thursday, 15th Leaving Barru the boats then continue on to Makassar, finishing in the late afternoon in front of the famous Losari Beach in the heart of Sulawesi's capital city.

Friday 16th Sept: Makassar Friendship Challenge In past years a series of events were planned during the reception and as this region is steep in seafaring traditions it is usually celebrated with more boat-racing, exhibitions, music festivals and other events all over the city. Any visiting yacht in Makassar and the participants of the Sandeq Race are invited to run a fun race of some 15nm - who is faster? a Sandeq or a modern day yacht? Be assured, our lean white sandeq racers won't leave you much of a chance – ‘ah, rubbish’, we hear you say…. ok, we’ll give you a little hope: We will invite everybody, yachties and sandeq, to switch some of your crews beforehand! Thus maybe several of the most fearsome sandeq-racers might not be onboard their boats, and the yachts just might perhaps …. .

You can either join the Sandeq Race onboard a escort vessel, or try signing up as a race participant or sponsor one of the sandeq's by contacting the Race Committee.

2010 Sandeq RaceContact the Sandeq Race Committee


Songline CruisersSongline Cruisers expect to have up to 4 Traditional live aboard Indonesian Pinisi's escorting the traditional fishing boats and following the fleet on the race program for travelers interested in a real cultural experience among Indonesian people that seldom see tourists can be viewed at

This year they are offering a package program where you can join on any of the dates mentioned on a per night basis (2 day/1 night minimum) @ US$90 per day or the complete program for US$720 per person. More details can be obtained from SongLine Cruises of Indonesia, Jalan Rukun No. 4 RT8 RW 2, Ciganjur, Jakarta Selatan, Indonesia. Phone: +62 (21) 787-5021 HP: +62 (858-80-246-295)

If you prefer to stay on a traditional fishing boat, you should come to Mandar a day or two before the race starts and make your arrangements with the owner.  The committee will assist you in finding a suitable vessel!

The Great Sandeq Race 2007
Sean Clifford and James Blacket sponsored and sailed a Sandeq in this year's race.
Here is their story.

The Bughis and Mandanese people of Sulawesi, Indonesia have since ancient times (15,000 years) been masters of the sea. They may well have been the inventors of the catamaran and the trimaran. They are still today working seamen and boat builders - fisherman harvesting flying fish eggs for your sushi roll (those little honey coloured ones). The boats they build are surprising and dare I say it - perfect for purpose.

When the Mandanese and Bughis return from the sea with their catch they traditionally race each other home.  Today they fish with powered boats but they still want to race their mates in their free time - competition is fierce and blood has been spilt yet they have grace on the water and require no rules. There boat of choice is a sandeq class tri prahu - a sublime machine - 35 ft long, 1200 sq ft of sail - 8 crew - 6 on makeshift trapeze. Their Hobart race is the Great Sandeq Race - in August - 54 starters this year from Mamuju to Makassar - over 300 nautical miles in 6 legs with harbour races on lay days. It is a festival of sail and culture.

Our contact with race organiser, German marine archaeologist Horst Liebler led us to the event. He is a special person with knowledge gained over many years. Fluent in most languages he assembles an army of volunteers in a moving race HQ that is impressive. How about 20 Vespas flying flags blaring music to advertise your regatta?

Getting there was fun - a flight to Makassar via Denpaassar and our team minibus heading north to the start - fortunately Sean's Indonesian is fluent. The road side fish, crab and prawn farms have restaurants BBQing ridiculously cheap produce - the traffic Indon style - you know what I mean bloody dangerous.- the scenery fantastic - volcanic mountains - hot river bottoms and rich forest. Next day just south of Margini we left the main road and headed for 'our' village Pambusuang to meet our crew and the renowned skipper - Capitan Kial - literally Captain Hook in Indonesian.

These people have a great life - the village of 400 or so live harmoniously by the warm ocean, their catch in high demand - unlimited water flows from the mountain behind and their vegetable gardens are fantastic - they eat like kings in a hot and spicy style. The men are hard survivors of the ocean - 50 Kg ringing wet but as strong and tough as an 80 Kg athlete. Our feelings of affection for our crew and hosts are still with us.

It was straight into the boat for practice - a little like your first sail in a skiff - the power of the boat and the size of the racing rig - the lack of trapeze belts - Yeek! The start of the race is 120 nautical miles north - so at first light the whole village gathered to bless us and give us luck for the race - the pride is palpable. Our boat, their boat is a contender, especially if it blows. The Timor wind (south easterly and predominantly headwind) blew and the Nurul Aswad (Sword of the Stone) exploded forward - pretty comfy at 16 knots on the GPS - and then it began to freshen - 28 knots of boat speed before the Capitan called a halt, to protect the gear. Our pickup boat and crew accommodation despite doing 12 knots is over the horizon behind. The Sandeq at speed is superb. Both Sean and I could not believe the lightness but incredible strength in the open sea of these boats - the race awaits.

Mamuju was a sea of flags, banners, music bands, food stalls - a half mile along the shore gleaming Sandeq fresh crews from all over Asia - keen and ready for battle. The race is a Le Mans start - hopeless if you are at the wrong end - but tactics even here are the key to moving forward. A really major tactic in light weather is to get out the paddles - it's legal. These guys can paddle forever, flexing the boat to the rhythm of the sea and surging on. Sean and I were wrecks at the end of day 1 - relaxing in the heated river at Lamuju hoping for wind - 46th place.

Leg 2 - was to our home port of Majine so our spirits were high for a good result. Capitan Kial hangs in despite the light wind - our paddling started at 7 am and at 7pm that night was still ferocious - the lights of Majine and the freshening night land breeze on the nose promised relief. This is where the Capitan shone. This is his home waters and he knows the bay like the back of his hand. Pitch blackness and sandeq's racing for the finish blind crossing each other at speed - the Capitan planning his killer lifting tack to perfection. We are dead on our feet almost unable to lift the boat out of the water. 24th place

Leg 3 - Majine to Poliwali. Another big day 8 am start into a freshening Timor wind. The beach is to short to start all boats so the fleet is divided into red and blue. We start in the second group and immediately jump away in the heavy beating conditions - finally fat Aussies are fast - boats are being nailed left and right trying to lug their big gear through 5 ft of swell and chop. Sean got really nailed by a growler while on the trapeze, ending up clinging to the outrigger and hoping. (The trapeze Indon style does not use a trapeze belt. Rather a loop of stocking is hung around the elbow and upper arm - surprisingly comfortable - but don't let go!) We go to sea chasing the front group and really making ground. The breeze lightens but we now have only 4 boats in front unfortunately 2 of them who worked the shore are in our group - 3rd place

Leg 4 - Poliwali to Parepare - The fresh conditions of yesterday become fickle however our boat still improves - 5th place. This is as good as it got 11th overall and 3 legs to Makassar - we faded with the wind but battled on to Makassar - an achievement in itself.

Leg 5 - Parepare to Barubaru - The light timor wind shifted to allow a  reach along the coast - a magnificent backdrop of forested mountains right to the sea kept us away from their wind shadow, searching for breeze - the paddles are out the breeze backs on the nose and it's another grinding beat 29th place.

Leg 6 - Barubaru to Makassar - The light weather continues but the scenery and the paddling are outstanding. We are tired but happy with our achievement - 34th place.

Final place 24th - The whole Sulawesi sandeq experience was fantastic - the place, the people, the boats. If you have any further interest google sandeq. Sean and I are returning this year for a crack and invite others who might be interested in sailing or spectating passengers to drop me a line at:
James Blacket

Restoration of the 13m Sinar Indah

AsianYachting has been asked to help Ali's widow Ama Suryana with the restoration of the 13m Sinar Indah originally built for fishing in Kalimantan 6 years ago before it gets cut up for firewood. For 15 million Indonesian Rupiah IRP (or about US$1,800) you pick your own boat to sponsor, or for Rp 10,000,000 (about US$1.200) the committee chooses a boat for you.

A professional punggawa and racing crew will be picked among the family and friends of the coastal fishing village and local boat builder and sailmaker Takim has been asked to head up a boat repair team and make the biggest and best locally made sailing rig to prominently display the main sponsors logo. Every boat gets a free 100 sqm roll of sailcloth from the committee and as we will use at least 11 rows of sail cloth, something like 110m2 more sailcloth will be needed. The race philosophy is "If the wind’s too strong, we’ll reef – no way we wanna be beaten again because of shortness of sail area!”.

Winning the race is the dream of many a sandeq sailor. As crude installations for an inboard engine have been made and she has been laid up for over a year ever since Ali was killed at sea just before the 2002 race... The general consensus is that Sinar Indah would go better and profit by completely reworking the following areas according to time and budget.

1/ Bigger and equal sized floats. (Hasanuddin, who is the fore-most sandeq builder of Pambusuang has just taken delivery of a whole truck load of beautiful big bamboo 15m long) Yes, they are great, at 4-500.000 rp a pair. However, they should be stripped soon to dry out completely before the race.

2/ Some fining and lightening of the hull, including increasing depth of false keel to give some convex in the mid body floors and refining the entrance and run off areas.

3/ Bigger Mast and booms.. in my humble opinion she could carry a 110m2 sail to advantage (Takim is a good sail maker, he re-cut and sewed Jabal Rhamat’s sail in a single day during last years race.)

4/ New or strengthened cross beams.

Other items highly sought after by all boats where using modern exotic materials is frowned upon is 14mm three strand Nylon rope as 50m is needed for a single boats mainsheet and locally made traditional wooden blocks (Double and Single with becket size 4 ½” or 5”).

As sailing a Sandeq is not like running a Western dinghy or yacht we will also be looking into becoming a member of a racing crew and participate in a shore publicity team by being in Mandar about 10 days before the start to train together with the local sailors for what is being billed as "the world’s fastest, longest and hardest race for traditional fishing vessels". I have been advised that "One thing you can be assured off is that your new found sailing pals will be wanting to win the race! Allot more than you!"

This year's race is organised as a joint operation of Indonesia's Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, the Indonesian Navy and South Sulawesi's provincial government. Since 1995 a week full of racing and cultural events has attracted tens of thousands of spectators all along the coastal townships and villages of the race.

The first Majene-Makassar blue-water race was held in 1995 as part of a community development project initiated by The Coastal Societies Research and Development Project (P3MP) of Hasanuddin University, Makassar. The main objective behind organising racing as a development project for traditional fishermen is ‘sensitising’ the public to a wealth of possibilities that lie in a bottom-up development policy based on the traditional knowledge and the actual needs of the people.

Past Media Coverage

Last year's race was covered especially by RCTI, Indonesia's leading private TV channel, while all other Indonesian TV stations reported in news and special features; all in all, TV news and features accrued some 2h of media coverage in all major TV stations across the country.  Studio UMI, Japan’s leading production house for maritime documentary films, shot an international film about the event that right now is in the last stages of editing.  And of course, as it has been since 1995, the race was a topic of news, features and series in all leading Indonesian newspapers and magazines.

For 2002, Studio UMI was appointed once more as the official coordinator of production of filmed documentary, and in co-operation with NHK, Japan’s national broadcaster, plans to cover international news feeds around the event especially as several Japanese students of Ehime University will be participating as sailors on a sandeq.  Several national stations, including RCTI, METRO TV and TVRI, already have signalled their intent to cover the event.

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Two of the favorites: The King against the Queen!.

RAJA LAUT (‘King of the Seas’) – PADANG ARAFAH

Since she was launched, RAJA LAUT was renowned as the perhaps fastest boat of the village of Bala, Pambusuang – but, alas, she always was haunted by bad luck in the races she joined: In 1998 her mast broke on the first leg of the race (and no spares!); in 1999 it was her rudder (and the spare rudder proving much too small to balance the huge racing sail); in 2000 her crew made a wrong decision on her course in the third leg, throwing her back from being one of the leaders onto the eighth position in the overall placements; and in 2001 –because anticipating strong wind– her sail of only about 80m2 was much too small to keep up with those boats using 100m2 and more.

To overcome the bad luck which seemed to stick to her, the boat for the race of the year 2000 was even renamed from PADANG ARAFAH into RAJA LAUT – she then at least didn’t experience any technical mishaps any more …. For this year’s raced the crew allegedly is planning an intensive work schedule on her hull, including peeling off her thick cover of paint to make her as light a weight as possible. “And, we will use a sail of at least 11 rows [of sail cloth, something like 110m2]. If the wind’s too strong, we’ll reef – no way we wanna be beaten again because of shortness of sail area!”.

Uddin, one of her crew told us. The boat in 1999 was sold for an inboard engine for the owner’s new motor vessel to the Foundation Zephyr-Sama, and now belongs to K. Beise and H.H.Liebner who bought it off the Foundation last year. However, the boat ever since was still sailed and raced by her former owner, Pua Muhtia, and his family. In spring 2001, she was charterd by ActionTalks Ltd of London for shooting a documentary film about the traditions of harvesting flying fish caviar, which right now is in the last stages of editing.

ARAWUNGAN RATU PANTAI (‘Arawungan, Queen of the Shores’)

Since joining her first race in 1998, RATU PANTAI’s reputation as the perhaps fastest boat of Mandar boosted into a nearly numinous esteem: She did win the races of 1998 and 2001, was second in 1999 and fourth in 2000. Of all boats that ever joined the Sandeq Race, ‘The Queen’ flies the greatest number of flags of line honours and overall victories, which she this year will proudly display again on her stays! ‘The Queen’s’ fame is based on many a story about her fabulous exploits in races: In 1999, she was capsized by a foehn gust early on the third leg, rightened up again by her crew, and sailed on from the last position, however, managing to outsail two other participants until the leg’s finish.

After both times chasing the wrong course on the first leg, she in 1998 and 2001 did win throughout all other legs except on the last leg in 2001 whence she placed herself second only some minutes after LINCAH (‘Lively’). In the race of 2000, she suffered problems with her boom, and the frustrated utterance “aaah – terputar peloang (‘ay - her boom turned around unexpectedly’)” made by her captain and owner, Raopun, in front of the TV cameras after arriving seconds behind the proud REZKI BAKIA (‘Everlasting Fortune’), became a standing expression in Mandar villages for undeserved bad luck.

In the local gambling on the winner of the Sandeq Race, ‘The Queen’ each year collects the highest bets – in 2001 her crew even accepted wagers of 1:29, assured as they were that they would beat any other participant. However, ARAWUNGAN RATU isn’t invincible, and cases of a successful pursue feed incessant debates between Mandar sailors.

The crew of RAJA LAUT (‘Sea King’) claims that they had left her far behind on the first leg in 1998 before the King’s mast broke; ASSUKURU NIKMATULLAH (‘Praise the Lord’) caught and had nearly outsailed her in the Makassar Regatta in ’98 when her already injured boom cracked in a gust; ’99 BINTANG LERO (‘Star of [the village of] Lero’) gave her a successful chase on the last leg; in 2000 RAJA LAUT and NURUL ASWAD (‘Black Light’) overtook her when beating out on sea shortly after the start of the fourth leg; and in 2001 LINCAH managed to keep her abaft during the chase for the line honours of the last leg.

Outsailing RATU PANTAI is a satisfaction of it’s own – and there are quite some boats and crews who will try as hard as they can! Since she played the major role in the documentary film about the race of 2001,

ARAWUNGAN RATU PANTAI now enjoys a special patronage by Studio UMI, and will hopefully carry in her sail again the flying fish which lead her to the triumph of last year. And, charming Ms. Kyoko of UMI told us, that she “fell in love with the boat – and I’ll be there for sure to see her winning again!”

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