In July 2003, with the help and support of CYANT, two fleets left Darwin; the first group of 24 yachts went to Kupang and a second group of 23 yachts left for Bali one week later with the intention that they would link up in Bali for a combined party/presentation. This did not eventuate as the yachts that went to Kupang found that the marine beauty of the Eastern Part of Indonesia had a lot to offer and they went cruising! In some ways this could be consdiered the start of what is now called Sail Indonesia.
The success or otherwise of a rally to Kupang was unpredictable but due to the hard work of a number of people both in Darwin and Kupang it was an overnight success with the yachts and their crews enjoying themselves; most importantly they told others of the great experience they had. There were some teething problems for the government officials in Kupang as the arrival of a large number of foreign yachts at the same time was a new experience for them.
In early 2004, with the intention of raising the awareness of the Eastern Part of Indonesia as a destination, the town of Kalabahi on the island of Alor 110 miles north of Kupang in cooperation with Yayasan Cinta Bahari Indonesia (YCBI) promoted and organized a cultural festival on Alor to coincide with the arrival of the yachts in Kupang in an effort to attract them to the area. With no sponsorship for the event, organisers were delighted when entries began to arrive at an alarming rate. The intention was to limit the numbers going to Kupang to 30 yachts and any over that number could go to Bali. However, the numbers wanting to go to Kupang as their first port of call climbed to 43 and after discussions with the authorities in Kupang, the organisers decided to ‘give it a try’ and see if 43 yachts could be managed and accommodated. The rest is history.
The yachts received a fantastic welcome in Kupang with tours, dinners, fashion shows and cultural events provided for their entertainment. Then most of the yachts headed for Kalabahi where they received an even more spectacular welcome. They were able to see Indonesia as is not often seen even by the most experienced traveler, far from the well-worn tourist destinations. It received rave reviews and was written about in a number of international yachting magazines as well as publications specialising in unusual travel destinations.