The first boat from Mondolkiri province to compete in the Water Festival took home
top awards as the fastest and most beautiful vessel in the November 7-9 races. The
75-member team split the $200 award presented by the Royal Palace.
"We did not expect to win in the races, because it is the first time we competed
in the Water Festival," said Khoy Khun Huor, vice governor of Mondolkiri province,
who helped sponsor the boat.
The unprecedented victory was celebrated in Mondolkiri. Most of the crew came from
ethnic hilltribes such as Jarai, Tampeun and Kreung, accounting for most of the province's
population. Many had never visited the capital before.
"Before, everybody thought that Mondolkiri province was a remote place,"
said Khun Huor. "So we decided to sponsor a boat to join the Water Festival
with other provinces to display our ethnic culture and show that the gap between
this province and others is not so large."
Prum Bun Yi, a member of the Water Festival Committee, said the boat won over judges
on many counts.
"This boat was the most beautiful and the fastest because its shape was properly
proportioned, it had good decorations, the racers were well disciplined and dressed
in ethnic clothes and the dancer [on the bow of the boat] kept good rhythm with the
rowers," he said. "Anyway, this boat won six times during the three days
of the Water Festival."
The boat, christened the Mondolkiri Meanchey Boramey Phnom Doskramom, was built in
early 2003. The name translates as Powerful Victory of Mondolkiri and adds the name
of the province's most sacred mountain, Phnom Doskramom, at the end.
Say Chhum, chairman of the Cambodian People's Party permanent committee, helped fund
construction of the boat along with Khun Huor. The boat cost more than $10,000.
The racers were also given food, clothes, accommodation and other materials. A few
of the more experienced team members came from nearby provinces in order to train
the rookie crew.
The racers wore shirts woven by hilltribe artisans. The black button-down vests sported
multi-colored stripes running down the length of them.
After the race, the boat was stored in the Saang district of Kandal province. The
province plans to race the boat again next year.
"If we take it back to Mondolkiri, it will take time and much money," said
Khun Huor. "It's better to keep it there and save the money to support the racers."
This year 376 boats registered to compete in the water festival. The boats generally
entered one race per day competing in two-boat heats. The winner of each heat faced
the winner of another the next day. In the event of a tie, both boats advanced as
winners. As a result, many boats receive first, second and third place honors.
This year, the official results stated that 73 boats received first place, 129 boats
took second place and 119 boats received third place. Only 36 boats took fourth.
Some boats did not compete.