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Beauty of Thailand’s regattas
Written by Administrator    Friday, 10 August 2012 14:03    PDF Print E-mail


Thailand's regattas are exceptional well organized events, usually 4/5 days of racing with international yachts in several classes. The locations are scenic, tropical islands with white palm-fringed beaches. All simmering in the sun when you sail around them with the wind in your hair.
After racing the big stories are told at the sailors bar with a beer and in the evenings there are all sorts of parties at resorts, clubs and beach venues where good food is served and the drinks are included. Daily prize giving, music and fireworks make the night. " Twenty-five years ago, Mom Tri Devakul, owner of The Boathouse restaurant in Kata Beach, joined forces with Bangkok-based lawyer, Chris King, and the Royal Varuna Yacht Club and launched Thailand's first regatta off the beach at Nai Harn on the southern tip of Phuket. The Phuket King's Cup Regatta – at that time a small, locally-contested regatta – was born, to honour His Majesty The King of Thailand (himself an award-winning sailor) on his 60th birthday. Today the King's Cup – now relocated to Kata Beach – is Asia's biggest keelboat regatta, attracting over 100 yachts and an international cast of owners, crew and charterers.
"The second regatta to appear on Thailand's yacht racing scene 12 years ago was the Phang Nga Bay Regatta (now just called The Bay Regatta), aimed at both the (then) few locally-based yachts and the "cruising yachties who had 'wintered' in Phuket. Dubbed the 'fun regatta', the racing was, and still is, secondary to the passage through the magnificent islands of the bay. Even today, when the fleet has increased to almost 50 boats, it is still very much a liveaboard regatta – still appealing to the less serious racers.
"In 2000, the Yacht Racing Association of Thailand (YRAT) launched its own regatta, the Hua Hin Regatta, out of Thailand's 'oldest' seaside town, a couple of hours drive south of Bangkok. Predominantly a dinghy regatta, but today extending beyond, the 350-strong fleet includes a horde of Optimist dinghies and the Super Mod dinghy, designed and patented by Thailand's monarch.
"Two years on came the Koh Samui Regatta. With few boats based on this small island off the Gulf (east) coast of Thailand, yet only a relatively short trip from Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia, this one became the 'other' Thai regatta that attracted the 'big' boats and the really serious racers. In its 10thh year it is still growing strong, but limited in its growth potential by the lack of locally based yachts and docking facilities.
"One year later, in 2003, the Langkawi Regatta was born. While not a 'Thailand Regatta' at that time many yachts had fled Phuket to make Langkawi their base due to the easier regulations governing length of stay for both yachts and owners; the first regatta was composed almost entirely of "Phuket" boats. Even today, eight years later, the 30-40 strong fleet has a healthy Phuket contingent and has a place in local sailors' hearts as an 'honorary' Thai regatta. Langkawi was the first of the area regattas to be marina-based.
"2004 saw the birth of Six Senses Phuket Raceweek, the first of Thailand's regattas to be pitched in the middle of Thailand's low or 'green' season'. Conceived by publishers IMAGE Asia, together with ex-King's Cup president, Andy Dowden, Raceweek has the most reliable (though not guaranteed!) breezes. Most years see some of the most exciting racing in the region –winds up to 30 knots are the norm. With a unique 'one-regatta-one-venue' format – the only one of Thailand's regattas to boast a real post-race regatta bar and to avoid busing people to different party venues each night – Raceweek is one of the country's favourite regattas.
"In 2005, Bill Gasson – one of the early King's Cup presidents and founder of the Koh Samui Regatta – decided it was time to start again. He founded the Top of the Gulf Regatta based out of Pattaya's Ocean Marina. Like Hua Hin, this regatta has an impressive entry list, but the majority are again locally-sailed dinghies. However, with the growth of yachting in Pattaya, and along the coast towards Cambodia, keelboat and multihull numbers have grown – and the Platu Class is the biggest one-design fleet to cross the start line in any local regatta."
Rolien's Insights
"Every regatta has its own distinctive flavour. Phuket King's Cup, being the oldest and most established regatta, offers the most racing boats and most extravagant parties at different resorts every night.
"Phuket Raceweek, being very ambitious, has a more 'being run by sailors' feel. Based at the Six Senses Evason coming back to the beach is good fun with lots of sailors' talk. As a photographer, it one of the most interesting regattas as it usually the windiest, which means the best chance of getting spectacular shots and dramatic skies.
"The Sawasdee.com Samui Regatta is a tropical lifestyle regatta, which attracts both 'big' boats and serious racers. You also get that intimate feel due to the sailors' bar open every afternoon after the races at John Stall's Tradewinds.
"The Bay regatta is the most scenic regatta. Everybody lives onboard, which creates a special onthe- water atmosphere with parties at different venues around Phang Nga Bay every night.
"The Superyacht Rendezvous is a growing event attracting superyachts from all over the world. It's special for me as a photographer as one morning I did an aerial shoot from a helicopter."
Asian Superyacht Rendezvous
While not a regatta, the Asia Superyacht Rendezvous, is an exclusive international event for both motor & sailing superyachts, held annually in Phuket, in mid-December. The Rendezvous is the longest-running superyacht event in Asia, boasting the largest gathering of superyachts in the region.
Guests enjoy three days on and off the water along with two sailing events, the sampling of Thailand's culinary delights while taking in the natural beauty of its shores. The emphasis is on a fun gathering with some vessels departing afterwards to explore the Andaman seas during the holiday season. The exclusive event entry is by invitation only but not limited, the only stipulation being the vessel must be over 100 feet LOA.