The principal attraction of Iloilo Paraw Regatta are the double outrigger boats called “paraw”. This native sailboat has been in existence for no one knows how long. But the fact remains that the people of the Iloilo Strait are still to this day using the paraw as a means of transportation as well a source of livelihood. With a fresh breeze, and an Ilonggo at the helm, the paraw is a strikingly fast boat, making 20 to 30 kph through the waves. Indeed, the paraw was the inspiring prototype from which the Westerners have developed what they call the trimaran, the fastest sailboats now on the planet.
Paraws are fitted with outrigger floats of bamboo to stabilize the boat and prevent the slim main hull from tipping over. The outriggers curve upward toward the bow to refine their impact on the waves, and most importantly serve as platforms on which the crew can stand to use their weight to create further stability against the tipping force of the wind in the sails. For maximum speed, the outrigger will not be submerged, but just kiss the surface of the water.
Built up from a carved keelson with plywood planking for the sides, the hull is pointed at both the front and back ends, with the rudder hung off the side astern. The key feature of the hull is its slim shape, with a length to beam ratio of 20 to 1. Such proportions create a knife-like effect to cut through the water, freeing the boat from displacement constraints. Also, sideways drift, or leeway, is largely eliminated. For racing purposes, the boats are divided into classes on the basis of waterline length.
Originally made from woven matting, sails nowadays are stitched up from synthetic awning materials. The small forward sail, or blade jib, feeds the wind into the powerful, low-aspect driving mainsail, the boom of which extends several feet beyong the boat’s hull. In ideal conditions, the paraw can sail close to the speed of the wind. For racing, no limits are imposed on the size of the sails.