Majuro lagoon is the site of three annual canoe races, starting in February each year.

The three local races are:

  • Majuro Liberation Day Race (February)
  • Liberation day commemorates the historic event when the US liberated Majuro from the Japanese during WWII. For the Marshallese people, this day is a very important one and the leaders made sure that a traditional canoe race was a part of the festivities. They believe that the canoe is not only one of the most important tools for everyday survival, it also played a very important role during WWII.

  • Coconut Cup Regatta (April)
  • After the National Cup Race began, a local windsurfer, Jerry Smith had the great idea to have a race where any sailing craft, from luxury yachts to sailboards and traditional canoes could compete. Jerry called WAM and the Marshall Islands Visitors Authority (MIVA) with the idea and shortly after, the Coconut Cup Regatta was born. A noteworthy addition over the past few years is now yachts from Kwajelein sail in for the race. Jerry is gone now, but the race lives on.

  • RMI National Cup Race (May)
  • In 1995, when Outrigger Resorts from Hawaii were getting ready to manage the newly built Outrigger Marshall Islands Resort, their marketing executive, MaryLou Foley, came to the Marshall Islands and called Dennis for a meeting. One of the first things she asked him was what Outrigger could do to promote the Marshallese culture. A National Canoe race was Dennis’ answer and in 1996 the first Marshall Islands National Outrigger Cup race was held. For the next 7 years Outrigger was the major sponsor of the race,  joined by Mobil Oil and many local businesses and the local governments. Starting in 2004, the organizers obtained sponsorship from the Office of the RMI President and the Majuro Atoll Local Government as well as the Marshall Islands Resort. The Marshalls Energy Company continued to sponsor the recycle race for the kids.

Please contact us for specific information on race dates for this year.

Also held each May is the International Festival of Canoes in Lahaina, Maui. This is an annual Polynesian Canoe Festival that started in 1997 in which canoe building teams from Polynesia have 2 weeks to carve a canoe from local logs. The Marshall Islands has represented Micronesia since 2003 with the youngest crew of carvers in the event. The WAM trainees were given a one-time invitation to the event, and after the Festival Committee and Sponsors saw the 14-foot kõrkõr (small sailing and paddling canoe) the WAM trainees built, they invited them back for two more years. The WAM program is now invited to the Festival every year. 

Festival of Pacific Arts. WAM has represented the Marshall Islands at the following festivals:

  • 1992 VI Festival of Pacific Arts in Rarotonga, Cook Islands. The Enewetak walap voyaging canoe was officially deemed the fastest traditional craft in the entire Pacific.
  • 1996 VII Festival of Pacific Arts in Samoa. Two canoe builders featured a display of the walap voyaging canoe, including a lecture series given by WAM's Director Dennis Alessio.
  • 2004 IX Festival of Pacific Arts in Palau. A team of five trainees built a traditional Marshallese kõrkõr. Other Festival participants included canoe building teams from Micronesia, Melanesia, and Polynesia. Toward the end of the Festival, all of the newly built canoes were to sail together to where the final ceremony was to take place. The Governor saw the Marshallese canoe and told the WAM team not to put it in the water as it was too beautiful, and he instead put it in the Palau Museum where it still resides.

Jebro Commemorative Race in Aelõñlaplap Atoll. Held in March of 2003, this event was 10 years in planning. Held at the traditional site where legendary Jebro raced his 12 brothers for the highest stakes of becoming King of Aelonlaplap Atoll, the races attracted media and V.I.P.’s from all around the Pacific and Europe.

Festivities at the Jebro Commemorative Race include the famous Jobwa dancers of Ujae Atoll. Click here to see photos of this event.

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Story of the Sail ‘Leñtañur & Jebro’ Close

On the atoll of Aelõñlaplap lived twelve brothers who had to race in order to decide who would be the next Iroij (Chief) of Aelõñlaplap atoll.

On the day of the race all the twelve brothers were on the beach getting their canoes ready when their mother Leñtañur came along and asked her eldest son Timur. “Son, can I ride with you?” The son looked at his mom and notice that she was carrying a bundle and said “Oh no, I’m sorry but you and the bundle would be too much weight and will slow me down in the race, why don’t you ask my younger brother?”

So Leñtañur went to her second eldest son and asked him if she would ride with him, again he gave the same response as his oldest brother. Again Leñtañur tried with her other sons respectively, they all said no as she would slow them down for the race.

Finally Leñtañur came to her youngest son Jõbro and asked him if he would allow her to ride with him during the race. Without hesitation Jõbro welcomed his mother to ride with him. Just as the race was about to start, Leñtañur ask Jõbro to help her with her bundle. Obeying his mother, Jõbro helped her unfold the bundle, which was a sail. Meanwhile the race had started and Leñtañur told Jõbro not to worry and help her set up the sail. Once they got the sail up the wind carried the canoe with great speed across the lagoon. Much to the amazement of the older brothers who were paddling their canoes across the lagoon, Jõbro and Leñtañir passed each of them with much ease winning the race and the Iroijship of Aelõñlaplap atoll. “Jõbro elere rear ekõmanman eon aejõt e iakwe armij. Le eo aol eo kalia, Jõbro kalia”.


The Marshall Islands, represented by WAM, is the only Micronesian country to participate in the International Festival of Canoes, held annually on Maui