State Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun, who officiated at a welcoming dinner in conjunction with the race said he was delighted with the organising and progress of the event.
He was also particularly happy to see the Chinese community belonging to various associations giving great support to the race as evident by the number of participants (1,500).
The annual event is a reboot, after the Federation of Chinese Association (FCAS) took over its organising this year, despite opposition from SCCA (Sabah Chinese Cultural Association) which had organised close to 30 races before.
The event used to be organised by the Sabah Chinese Cultural Association.
However, beginning this year, the mandate went to the Federation of Chinese Associations Sabah.
"So far so good. The whole idea is to have more Chinese involved in organising the race," he said. "For next year, we are also very grateful because the Federation also came up with their own money for this year's race," he said.
"I am pleased to see the committee working very hard and I think they deserve support from all members of the Chinese communityÉthis race is not specifically for tourism, but to continue the tradition of the Chinese community," he added.
Masidi also stressed that the Ministry was not taking away from anyone to give another to organise it.
"(But it is because) The previous organiser (association) was actually also a member of the FCASÉso we just want the parent company to do it, that's all," he explained.
The day one champion trophy went to the Hin Ann Association Kota Kinabalu, while the West Coast Sze Yi Association and Nan Han Association Sabah took second and third placing, respectively.
Masidi's Assistant Minister Datuk Pang Yuk Ming, Federation of Chinese Associations Sabah President Datuk T.C Goh, Kota Kinabalu Hokkien Association Chairman Datuk Clement Yeh and leaders of other Chinese associations were also present.
Thousands braved the hot weather and converged at Likas Bay for the inaugural event, Saturday. A total of 1,500 participants from 112 teams took part in the race on the first day with 10 teams - more than last year's.
This year South Australia, the Philippines and Brunei are also fielding about 40 men each.
"To me there is no case. We just carry out our duty and our mandate," he said when met halfway through the race. FCAS President Datuk T.C. Goh said there is no issue, thinking the students received the mandate from the government.
The event started with all the participants taking their sportsmen oath, before the first race began at 8am.
From 9.30am onwards, one by one rowers were seen being carried out on stretchers to the first aid camp, suffering under the heat, dehydration and exhaustion.
According to first aid leader and general practitioner, Wah Hai Sit, it is normal to see such events in such hot weather, while a regular race spectator claimed that it was the first time that many people had fainted in years.
The spectator named Zack claimed he saw some paddlers being asked by other teams to row for them, which may have been the result of exhaustion.
A total of 21 races were held in the first day heats with one finals - the FCAS Trophy 800m for Local Chinese Community.
The race was won by Hin Ann Kota Kinabalu Association, followed by the Sze Yi Association and the Sabah Nam Ann Association.
Goh said the aim to have the new trophy was to encourage more Chinese to take part in the event, as the dragon boat races have been dominated by non-Chinese in recent years.
"We have seven Chinese teams competing. But it is not a problem that the event has been dominated by the non-Chinese and they are much stronger than the Chinese teams," said Goh, adding that he may introduce a new category to have fair mix of races in a rowing team.