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Traditional Okinawa sabani boats to race Sunday

Date Posted: 2012-04-20

Oars go into the water and sails up the masts Sunday morning in northwest Okinawa as the 2nd Sailing Sabani Boats Race launches from 21st Century Beach in Nago.

Some 20 boats will race the 20km course as organizers focus attention on reviving Okinawa’s superior sea culture, which included techniques for sailing and shipbuilding. Knowledge of the Sabani, a traditional wooden sailboat, has been waning in the post-World War II era, since the gasoline engine overtook sails as a method of propelling boats.

The first Sabani race was two years ago in Yanbaru in Nago City, with Nago City Mayor Susumu Inamine, firing the signal to raise sails and get the ocean race moving. The race will start and finish at Nago City’s Forest of 21st Century Beach.

Entry to the 21st Century Beach in Nago is Sunday at 8:30 a.m., with opening ceremonies and course explanations at 9 a.m. The race begins at 10 a.m., with the 20 boats having a maximum five hours to challenge the course.

Following the race, starting about 1 p.m. at 21st Century Beach, spectators will have opportunities to learn about the Sabani boats, and to experience a ride on one. Organizers laid out this year’s race course along the coast near Highway 58 to allow maximum spectator participation.

This race continues the Okinawa objective of educating the public about the colorful, historical past of the Sabani boats. In 2000, the Sabani boats were thrust in the limelight with a 36km race from Zamami to Naha in conjunction with celebrating the Okinawa Summit. From 16 teams then, to 39 teams the 11th time such an event was run several years ago, the Sabani races have become emotional and popular.

“We hope this race will become a new special feature of each season in Yanbaru,” a race spokesman says, “as another main sightseeing point in Yanbaru.” He says the race has links to education, the local area, and promoting the sea culture.

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