The 2019 Spice Islands Darwin Ambon Yacht Race began in champagne conditions on the morning of Saturday August 3rd.  A good, fresh breeze and blue skies greeted the ten entrants as they jostled for position on the start line in front of Stokes Hill Wharf at the Darwin Waterfront.  An enthusiastic crowd gathered on the wharf and a group of supporters enjoyed a sponsored chartered cruise to watch the start and bid the 70 participants fair winds and safe passage.

At 634 nm, the race is slightly longer than the Sydney to Hobart and takes place in the glorious tropical climate of the north, attracting boats and crew from around Australia and beyond.

It’s not only the sailing that draws people in, but also the fabulously warm welcome showered on all participants while they are in Ambon.

The friendly people, carnival atmosphere and fascinating sites to explore make this a ‘must do’ event on any yachtie’s calendar.  It’s also a great way to kick off a sailing adventure around the Indonesian islands with Banda a day’s sail away and the gorgeous Kai Islands, Ternate and Sorong are all within easy cruising reach. 

First to start was Wallop, a Jeanneau 507 skippered by a regular Ambon race participant, Marcus Ilton.  The rest of the fleet was hot on their tail and within minutes they were under spinnaker and heading out of Darwin Harbour. 

The breeze kept up throughout the day and it looked like there may have been a chance of the race record of 53 hours and 25 mins being broken by the current record holder, Geoff Hill on Antipodes, a Santa Cruz 72, but in the end Anitpodes crossed the line in just over 58 hours, taking out line honours and the IRC trophy for 2019.

Darwin to Ambon Cockatoo1

The delightful Cockatoo a 29.5 foot Crowther made her return to Ambon after a 23 year break, having first competed (and set the race record) in 1987 and then participated regularly until 1996.  She made a memorable return skippered by Matt Punch, Deb Negus and Brian Hallett, taking out the trophy for the multihull division and staking her place back onto the race honour board.

Another notable mention must go to Rick Setter and his Mottle 33 Pandora.  Rick and his two crew ducked inside Stokes Hill Wharf less than one hour before the start to make some last minute repairs to their main sail, completing the job just in time for the start gun.  Pandora sailed all the way and made it to Ambon on Thursday evening, four and a half days after leaving Darwin, a great effort.

Doug Sallis’ Hanse 575 Colie

Doug Sallis and his Hanse 575 Colie took the trophy in cruising monohull.

The reception received by all participants in Ambon has to be seen to be believed. Dancing, singing, dining and good times featured throughout the week which culminated in a festive presentation event on Saturday August 10th.  The Ambon Sailing Community and Ambon City Government certainly know how to make everyone feel welcome.

This year a call went out to participants for donations of ukuleles as Nico Tulalessy, Chair of the Ambon Sailing Community had initiated the ‘Ukulele Kids Project’ aimed at getting kids off computer games and singing and playing ukuleles.  The project has been so successful the Ambon City Government has introduced it into some schools’ curricula and many kids are keen to get involved.  The race participants donated 32 ukes in total and were rewarded with a concert performed by around 100 kids on the beach in Amahusu.

A visit to a local school gave participants an opportunity to meet the students before being treated to an exhibition of traditional dance.  Each year the race provides donations of books, games and school resources to a different school in Ambon and a highlight of many of the crew’s time in Ambon is the visit to the school.

The Father and son team of VITAMIN B
The Father and son team of VITAMIN B

The host of the race, Dinah Beach Cruising Yacht Association ensures that there’s plenty of opportunities before the race to catch up with old friends and get to know newcomers so by the time everyone makes it to Ambon it’s a great reunion. 

The Spice Islands Darwin Ambon Yacht Race is truly a race for all comers – with four divisions and yachts (and crew) of all shapes and sizes there is something for everyone.  This year’s crew included six husbands and wives and eight fathers and sons, making it a real family affair.

If you’re keen to know more or to register your interest for the 2020 race (August 8, 2020) contact In 2020 the Ambon Race will also make up part of the SAIL NORTH SERIES a best of 3 races series covering a variety of great offshore races.  More info can be found at