Sail Indonesia Hits Heavy Weather Again

LOVINA ~ Twelve foreign yachts taking part in Sail Indonesia 2009 arrived off Lovina two weeks before event activities were due to start at the northern resort centre and a week after organisers said they had lost control of the event’s 137-vessel fleet.

The yachts from Australia, Singapore and Britain, anchored off Binaria Beach after Sail Indonesia officials said the fleet had splintered into at least four groups, disrupting the Indonesian programme for the international event.

The 12 yachts unexpectedly arrived off Lovina in mid-September, surprising local officials who were in the midst of planning the official welcome and entertainment programme scheduled to start next Wednesday, according to Buleleng Culture and Tourism chief Putu Tastra Wijaya.

Lovina had planned to treat hundreds of Sail Indonesia participants from 20 nations to performances of traditional dance and other arts which are unique to Buleleng regency, he said.

However the latest update on Sail Indonesia’s official website, on September 7, reports that the Indonesian programme for the event has been “badly disrupted” by bad weather which caused some yachts sailing south to Wakatobi, in southeast Sulawesi, to turn back and sail down the western coast of the island.

“The fleet has now split into a number of groups,” said the update. “At this time some are in Labuahan Bajo for the Sail Indonesia programme of events and others are already in Bali while a number of yachts have gone to Batam just south of Singapore and others have already left Indonesia.

“At this time our team is busy with the fleet as they cross the country. The internet and email service at these places is (sic) not always reliable, so updates of this page may be delayed and photographs will be added late in September.”

Sail Indonesia 2009 started in Darwin, Australia, in mid-July and is scheduled to end on the Malaysian island of Langkawi.

It involves a three-month series of linked events across Indonesia, scheduled to being on September 16 and managed by Sail Indonesia, Sail Bunaken and the Indonesian Foundation Yayasan Cinta Bahari and supported by the national government and local government offices at event destinations.

Sail Indonesia last year was marred when yachts arriving at event destination ports in Indonesia were required to pay import duties despite agreement from Indonesian Customs authorities in Jakarta that participating vessels would be treated as in transit and therefore exempt from payment.

At the time, the government made a public commitment to ensure the bureaucratic blunder would not recur this year.

However the 2009 event’s website reports that chaos developed when the fleet of more than 130 yachts called at Saumlaki, in Maluku province, expecting to be met by a Customs team from Jakarta, and were told they must sail 150 miles north to Tual for processing of visas and passports and to be issued with their Customs Bond Exemption certificates.

Negotiations resulted in one Customs official arriving at Saumlaki the following day to process 350 crewmembers.

“After this initial hiccup, things began to get back on track but the procedures and interpretation of the regulations were changing on an hourly basis, with some people being asked to remain on board their yachts for 24 hours and others being asked to some to shore immediately after arrival,” said the report.

“The rally notice board was being constantly erased and re-written which only increased the amount of confusion among the participants, with one crewmember checking the notice board for details and a second crewmember checking 20 minutes later and reading a totally different set of instructions.

“The banks in Saumlaki do not change money and the automatic teller was often out of service, and when it was working, it would not accept many common debit cards. The only option was to change banknotes at a Chinese-owned shop, at about 85 percent of the published bank rate.”

The report on Saumlaki concluded by saying the Sail Indonesia participants had enjoyed some fine local hospitality before departing for either Tual in Maluka or the Banda islands.

Seventy yachts were later given a traditional welcome to Ambon and 52 yachts later reached Bitung, where sailors from the fleet joined 2,486 divers in setting a new world scuba diving record by staying submerged for 25 minutes. The event on August 16 and 17 was witnessed by officials from the Guinness Book of Records.

By late Wednesday, up to foreign 22 yachts had been seen in waters off Lovina – still a full week ahead of the five days of activities scheduled from Wednesday.

Many people in the Binaria Beach area say they know nothing about the event, and while Buleleng Tourism head Wijaya says promotion and publicity had been hampered, he was hopeful the Sail Indonesia presence would bring a substantial financial boost to local communities.

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