The 16th annual Sabani Race will be held on July 27 and 28. Zamami’s annual sabani race is the premiere sabani event in existence today. In addition to teams from throughout Japan, there are also multiple international constituencies represented in the field.
What is a sabani?
Sabani are traditional Okinawan fishing boats. Similar to dragon boats, passengers power their sabani by paddling with long thin paddles called “eeku.” However, sabani also feature a mast and long square sail for extra propulsion. The sail is called “fuu” and has around seven battens for structural support.
The Marylin Cup will be held in Zamami Village on July 27. Participants start in the water next to the Marylin statue on the road heading to Ama. The race loops around and between Zamami’s uninhabited islands before coming to a dramatic finish at Furuzamami Beach. Beginning at 10:30, the Marilyn Cup is a spectator-friendly competition as the boats are visible from multiple points on Zamami’s islands for most of the race.
Naturally, there will be a post-race party in Zamami Port at 18:00. The official party comes to an early end at 20:00 as competitors need to catch a good night’s sleep before their 32 km sprint to Okinawa Island the next day. Zamami’s various restaurants and pubs will surely serve as a venue for many after parties.
The Main Race takes place on July 28. Following a starting ceremony at 8:30, prayers will be offered to the goddess of the sea for the safety of the competitors, officials, and all those involved. The sabani boats will take off as the clock strikes 9:00. The Main Race begins with a running start as competitors dash across the white sands to their boats in an effort to gain the pole position.
The finish line is at sea off the coast of Naha City. The top teams should finish around 13:00–approximately 4 grueling hours and 32 km of paddling. There is a time limit set at 16:00 for boats bringing up the rear.
There will be an awards ceremony at 18:00 in the park next to the Tomari Port Terminal.
The sabani race is one of Zamami’s main events of the year. Book your ferry tickets and hotel as early as possible. For more information about making reservations, please check the Zamami Tourist Information English guide to Zamami Village.