he Phuket King's Cup Regatta was inaugurated in 1987 to celebrate the 60th birthday of His Majesty the King and has been held annually every year since in honour of His Majesty who graciously agreed to be patron of the event.
The Regatta has progressed from modest beginnings into an event that is now widely recognised as the largest regatta in Asia. The Phuket King's Cup Regatta has a unique combination of top standard racing, spectacular scenery and sailing conditions and outstanding social events. Each year, His Majesty the King sends his personal representative to present the King's Cup trophies on his behalf. This special Royal Awards Ceremony is the highlight of the event.
Racing takes place over five days in several classes of yacht including everything from high-tech racing machines to cruisers, multihulls, one-designs, classics and dinghies. Competitors and their yachts come from all over the world, including strong contingents from Asia, Australia, New Zealand, America and Europe.
The 2010 event saw more than 100 boats take part. These ranged from some of the world's top racing yachts (with a number of world class sailors onboard) through to amateur racing, cruising and classic sailing yachts. Over 1,000 participants representing more than 35 nationalities enjoyed the competitive sailing and memorable social events.
This year, the Phuket King's Cup Regatta enters its 25th year and is aging gracefully with a bumper fleet expected. As Phuket gains an ever-stronger reputation as a premier sailing destination in Asia, the Phuket King's Cup Regatta will continue to lead the way drawing international sailors from around the world to Phuket's shores in December. The Origins of a Regatta
The Phuket King's Cup Regatta has an impressive pedigree. Prince Bhisadej Rajani – a member of the Thai royal family started sailing as a student at Cambridge University in England in the mid-1940s. Upon his return to Thailand, Prince Bhisadej became an ardent advocate of the sport and came to be known as the 'godfather' of yachting in Thailand. He soon introduced the patron of the Phuket King's Cup Regatta, His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand, to sailing.
In the subsequent years, things have moved a long way from those early 'do-ityourself' days of dinghy sailing and wooden boats.
With its benevolent climate and generally calm seas, and the spectacular scenery of Phang Nga Bay and the Andaman Sea, it is easy to see why sailing has a major presence in Thailand – and why Phuket is considered to be the region's – yachting 'capital'. Phuket is, for many cruisers, their final destination – often permanently as many, seduced by the region's attractions, never quite get round to leaving.
But going back to those early days, it was when international corporations started opening offices in Bangkok, bringing with them expatriates keen to be involved in outdoor activities, that sailing really took off. Nearby Pattaya offered beaches, idyllic islands and the tranquil waters of the Gulf of Thailand. Joining together with a large number of Thai nationals also keen on sailing, they formed a sailing club in Pattaya, now named the Royal Varuna Yacht Club. One inspiring sailor was Dr Rachot Kanjana-Vanit, 1993 King's Cup winner. Having studied overseas, he came back to Thailand hooked on sailing. His house looked over one of the klongs (canals) in Bangkok. Eager to sail, but with no boat, he built his own. His budget was minimal, so cardboard sheets were stuck together to form his first hull, a wooden pole used as a mast and a bed sheet for a sail.
As his budget increased he went on to build more boats, including Cedar Swan, the fast catamaran that came first in the 2008 Phuket King's Cup Regatta, captained by the late Dr Rachot's son, Khun Radab Kanjana- Vanit.
Dr. Rachot, an architect, was a good friend of another sailing enthusiast, ML Tridhosyuth Devakul, architect for the Le Royal Meridien Phuket Yacht Club Hotel. Dr Rachot and ML Tridhosyuth Devakul worked on the Yacht Club Hotel together, where the setting set them thinking about a sailing event off the beautiful west coast of Phuket.
They took their idea to Bangkok where, together with then President of the Royal Varuna Yacht Club – Christopher J. King – they formulated plans for the first Phuket King's Cup Regatta, celebrating his Majesty the King's 60th birthday. It was 1987.
Bangkok and Pattaya were not the only focal points of organised sailing activities in Thailand. A large expatriate community formed in Phuket, as the tin mining industry boomed and, as in Bangkok, both expatriates and Thai Nationals were drawn to sailing. Phuket had its fair share of enthusiasts and formed its own club in the late 1960s: The Phuket Yacht Club. With the enthusiasm for sailing in Thailand, it is not surprising the Phuket King's Cup Regatta has become so successful over its 24-year history. It has changed considerably over the years, not least in terms of the organisation, but also in terms of location, classes of boats, sponsors and numbers of entrants.
But one thing has remained constant: the Phuket King's Cup Regatta has always been one of the most popular sailing events in Asia.