The Darwin to Dili rally - from Darwin on the north coast of Australia, to Dili in East Timor (Timor Leste) departed on Saturday (9th July) with participants setting sail in brisk south-easterly conditions.
Darwin Dili Rally starts with a bang
The Darwin-based 15 metre yacht 'Parlay',one of the largest in the rally and skippered by Ray Jones, was the quickest away, followed closely by the other boats.
The rally gun was fired by Mr Miguel Lobato, General Inspector of Games, Timor-Leste (pictured above).
Back in 1973 the route of Darin to Dili in East Timor was used for Australia's first yacht race to another country, and was followed the next year by a repeat race, but it was then postponed for 36 years due to political turmoil in Timor. These days it is a rally, with more emphasis on collaboration than on competition.
The yachts are expected to start arriving in Dili on Tuesday if the current wind and weather conditions continue, having covered a distance o 426 nautical miles. The rally occurs at a good time of the year, the season when circumnavigating boats of many nationalities are likely to be passing Darwin on their way around the world.
Part of a definite modern era, the Sail Timor-Leste Darwin Dili Yacht Rally is a web based event, organised and managed using the internet and email only. They do not use telephone, mail or fascimile.
East Timor, or Timor-Leste, welcomes visits by yachts and has planned a good welcome and touring for the visiting yachts in the rally. Rally participants will be able to enjoy the spectacular scenery that Timor-Leste has to offer, both above and below the water, as yachts are able to cruise through Timor-Leste waters for up to 3 months. The 2011 Rally also allows participants in the Darwin Dili Yacht Rally to link up with the Sail Indonesia Rally, giving participants the opportunity to experience both exotic cruising destinations.
The rally is auspiced by the Timor-Leste Government and supported by the NT Government with logistical support from the Cruising Yacht Association of the NT Inc.
For more information about this year's rally, position of the boats, and the opportunity to join next year's rally, go to the www.sailtimorleste.org!website
Maritime exchanges between the Northern Territory and its Asian neighbours are not a new phenomenon. For hundreds of years, Indonesian Makassan fishermen regularly visited the northern Australian coastline in search of trepang. In more recent times, the Darwin to Ambon Yacht Race (commencing in 1976) and the Sail Indonesia Rally (commencing in 2003) have farewelled large fleets of yachts each year as they leave Darwin’s shores for various
destinations in Indonesia and beyond.
But, it was the Darwin to Dili Yacht Race in 1973 that founded the modern era of yachting events from Darwin to SE Asia. It began when a small number of sailors from the Cruising Yacht Association of the NT in Darwin began a yacht race from Darwin to Dili in what was then Portuguese Timor. Six yachts participated in the 1973 Race, taking 4-5 days to reach
Dili. The 1973 Race created a number of firsts:
• The first Australian yacht race to a foreign country
• The first overseas yacht race catering for multi and mono-hulls, and commencing in Australia and
• The first time that the people of Darwin and the people of Timor actively collaborated in a sporting event that was to result in friendly co-operation, good will and mutual respect.
The people of Timor have a longstanding affinity with Australians, beginning with the Australian soldiers trapped on the island during World War II and who, with the help of the Portuguese and the Timorese, became a thorn in the side of the Japanese occupation force.
It was fitting therefore that the inaugural Darwin Dili Yacht Race in 1973 coincided with the survivors of 'Sparrow Force' conducting their first reunion in Timor since the war. It was a time to renew many old friendships from harder times and to establish many new friendships from better times.
The support of the Timor-Leste Government and their wish to see this event succeed will go a long way to ensuring the Rally grows as an annual event. Meeting the interests and needs of sailors and yachts is a key success factor for the event and as Timor-Leste offers some of the most spectacular cruising and diving in the world, the future looks sound.