Sunday, May 17, 2009

Labuan International Sea Challenge - A Sea Challenge like no other

By Aziz Idris in Labuan

Scores of people recently gathered at the Labuan International Sea Sports Complex to catch the highly-competitive Labuan International Sea Challenge (LISC) 2009, which ran from April 28 to May 3.

Since its opening in 2002, the Labuan International Sea Sports Complex has continued to be the venue of choice for every major sea sport and tourist event on the island.

This sprawling six-hectare facility provides an all-weather open stage, exhibition hall, souvenir shops, food stalls and various sea sport and family recreation amenities. It also houses a Marine Museum, and sales offices of local tour operators.

Organised by the Labuan Tourism Action Council, the week-long tournament was Malaysia's biggest sea sport event. This year, over 20 events were lined up, attracting more that 3,000 local and foreign participants who forked out more than RM200,000 in cash prizes - including trophies, medals and certificates.

The challenge brought together the region's best anglers, kayakers, swimmers, oarsmen and water sport enthusiasts to participate in high-level competitions.

The highlight events this year were the Labuan International Game Fishing Tournament, the Sprint Kayak, Labuan Cross Channel Swimming Challenge and Round Island Kayak Challenge.

The International Game Fishing Association (IGFA) regulated by Labuan International Game Fishing Tournament, a six-day fishing expedition around Layang-Layang Island, is considered a prestigious and challenging deep-sea fishing tournament in Asia. It is also part of the IGFA Offshore World Championship qualifying round.

Ariffin bin Hj Zainal once again did Brunei proud in the Round Island Kayak Challenge after he was named champion of the event, clocking in with an impressive time of 5 hours 21 minutes in the Men's Single Open.

The Round Island Kayak Challenge introduced in 2003 - comprising individual and double categories - covered a distance of 54 kilometers. It is one of the longest and toughest kayak races in Malaysia.

The course ran along the perimeter shoreline of Labuan Island and definitely tested the skills and stamina of local and international participants.

In the Double's Men Open category, Abdul Mahmud Hj Muhammad and Saini Hj Hamid emerged in second and third places.

In another section of the Labuan International Sea Sport Complex, impressive catches for the Labuan International Game Fishing Tournament could be seen stacked onto long tables. The fish, ranging from Barracudas and Red Snappers to Giant Groupers, were caught within a six-day duration in a specific fishing destination 16 hours away.

Apart from the main events, a number of other mini-competitions and side activities were also held throughout the duration of the festival.

The well organised event attracted people of all ages from all walks of life. Even the smallest event, the 'Umang Race' or 'Hermit Crab Race' attracted quite a crowd.

The race is also quite popular in certain regions of the Caribbean, such as Jamaica, where they are placed in the centre of a ring, and whichever crab reaches the outside first is named the winner.

Other activities such as the children's story telling, fashion show and colouring competition, treasure hunt, beach volleyball, beach rugby, pillow fight, pole climbing challenge, traditional food competition, duck catching and LISC Auto Show 09 were among the activities that roped in scores of people.

The finale of the Sea Challenge was one of the events that was not easily forgotten. Competitors as well as the loyal crowd - who came every day in a show of support - gathered at the stage area of the Sea Complex, where they were entertained by an array of performers that included veteran singer Dato Katijah Ibrahim and Dato' M Daud Kilau, AF3 superstar Mawi, Malaysian female rock star Ella and comedy group 'Senario.'

And what is a closing ceremony without fireworks! It was, all in all, an excellent end to a very splendidly organised event.

Since 1999, the Royal Malaysian Navy and the Royal Malaysian Air Force has assisted the IGFA International Game Fishing Tournament in providing security and rescue for the event.

Courtesy of: Borneo Bulletin Sunday

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