Thailand, a yacht racing destination

It all began in 1986 when a select group from the elite Royal Varuna Yacht Club (RVYC) got together and decided to launch a regatta in Phuket in 1987 – as a special tribute for the sixtieth birthday of the then King of Thailand, His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej. Thus the Phuket King’s Cup Regatta (PKCR) was born.
Royally related architect M.L. Tridosyuth Devakul, affectionately known as ‘Mom Tri’, designed the celebrated trophy and generously provided his new Phuket Yacht Club Hotel at Nai Harn Bay as the regatta venue.
Starting with a combination of dinghies, seashore cats, keelboats and windsurfers, this regatta has grown to attract huge keelboats and ocean going catamarans and remains Thailand’s biggest regatta of its type by numbers, with a daily fleet of 90 yachts or extra.
Held always through the week that includes the previous Thai King’s birthday, December 5, the PKCR achieved worldwide fame in – and outside – the yachting fraternity for its events, where captains, crews, friends and others would join the revelry at a unique venue each night.
Since 1998, the regatta has been based mostly at Kata Beach Resort (now Beyond Resort Kata) on Phuket’s west coast and, in 2016, gained Best Asian Regatta of the Year within the Asia Boating Awards. With most of its fleet coming from abroad, PKCR deserted each the 2020 and 2021 occasions underneath the burden of the Covid-19 pandemic restrictions in Thailand.
Fast ahead 36 years from the first PKCR and Thailand is now house to 12 regattas, two superyacht events and action-packed weekend yacht racing programs at the country’s two principal ‘big boat’ golf equipment.
PKCR had it all its own method until 1998, when photographer John Everingham, along with a few yachting pals, founded the Phang Nga Bay Regatta, primarily to have the ability to capture gorgeous photographs of yachts crusing between the bay’s dramatic limestone karsts. In 2011, Phuket Yacht Club (PYC) – previously Ao Chalong Yacht Club – stepped in to save it from extinction, before handing the reigns over to Regattas Asia in 2012.
With a reputation change to The Bay Regatta (TBR) alongside the way, this occasion distinguishes itself by shifting from one island or seaside resort to another daily and was, in its earlier days, a favourite of live aboard cruising sailors. TBR units sail in January/February each year and has managed to keep away from lockdowns to sail uninterrupted throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.
The four years from 2002 to 2005 noticed the founding of three more noteworthy regattas in Thailand: Koh Samui Regatta (KSR) in 2002, Phuket Raceweek in 2004 and Top of the Gulf Regatta in 2005.
KSR was founded by former PKCR president and serial trophy winner, Bill Gasson, motivated by getting quality yacht racing going in his home waters, the Gulf of Thailand. KSR attracts the cream of the Asian fleet, the large racing class yachts from Hong Kong, however and not utilizing a strong local fleet has always struggled for numbers. In its sixth yr (2007), to keep it from going under, Grenville Fordham’s Image Asia Events – Phuket boat present organiser and South East Asia Pilot publisher – took on the organisation for one year.
Subsequently, after a couple of years’ stewardship by Callum Laing’s Mobyelite, TBR organisers, Regattas Asia, added KSR to their portfolio and have introduced that the 19th regatta in 2022 will transfer from its conventional slot in May to July, having missed 2020 and 2021 owing to Thailand’s Covid-19 pandemic restrictions.
Next up, July 2004 noticed the inaugural PRW, founded by Fordham and business companion Andy Dowden, each veterans of the PKCR organising committee. Based at the Evason Resort on Phuket’s southeast coast for eight years, PRW claimed the distinction of being Thailand’s only major low season regatta, when more difficult racing circumstances generally prevail.
Eschewing the Thailand regatta ‘template’ of a special get together venue every night time, PRW distinguished itself with its one-regatta-one-venue coverage, providing magnificent after-race five-star events at the host venue 4 nights out of five.
With the closure of Evason Phuket after the 2011 occasion – the year PRW was voted Best Asian Regatta of the Year, beating PKCR’s win by 5 years – the regatta relocated successfully to Cape Panwa Hotel in 2012. In 2013, Media Business Services acquired the rights from IAE.
Disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, and staged out of Phuket Cruising Yacht Club (PCYC) in 2021, PRW is reported to be close to finalising a deal for a new home for 2022 onwards, with new dates in late June.
Last but not least among the ‘big boys’, Pattaya’s Ocean Marina Yacht Club (OMYC) hosted the inaugural Top of the Gulf Regatta in May 2005. Another Gasson brainchild, TOGR capitalised on the Hong Kong and Singapore yachts heading for Koh Samui in May, fixing its dates immediately before the island regatta.
With Jackpot of ‘big boats’, TOGR makes up its numbers by incorporating dinghy and Platu events and attracting crew by advantage of its proximity to Bangkok. In 2019, the fleet of 13 ‘big boats’ was boosted by 12 Platus and around 180 assorted dinghies. Despite the distinction of being the one regatta in Thailand sailed out of a marina, Covid-19 pandemic meant TOGR was unable to happen in 2020 or 2021; the 2022 version, initially scheduled for April/May, has been postponed with no dates yet announced.
Then there are the ‘little boat’ regattas. There’s the Thailand Optimist Open Championship, founded in 1976 and raced out of OMYC, up to 2019 as a part of TOGR. The Coronation Cup, a Platu one-design event, was founded in 1996 and, from 2005 to 2019, has formed a half of the TOGR fleet.
RVYC hosts a separate dinghy occasion, the Admiral’s Cup, in January/February every year, featuring an 80-90 strong fleet of principally Optimists, with a sprinkling of Laser dinghies. And then there was the Hua Hin Regatta, founded by the Yacht Racing Association of Thailand (YRAT) in 2000; a principally dinghy occasion featuring a broad variety of designs, the final version was in 2017.
Phuket’s PYC organises weekend sailing and three annual membership events. There’s a multihull mini-regatta founded in 2008 that, since the Covid-19 pandemic, has strangely allowed monohulls to taint its reputation as “Asia’s biggest multihull-only event”. Then there are two oddly-named races, The ‘Jai Dee (Good Heart) Regatta’ and the ‘Sailors’ Regatta’ – as though different regattas are black-hearted occasions concentrating on non-sailors… Someone at PYC must have a strong sense of irony.
Then there’s Pattaya’s OMYC, which also has a really energetic weekend racing fleet – albeit disrupted by Covid-19 pandemic-related restrictions.
Finally, Phuket plays host to 2 superyacht occasions: the Asia Superyacht Rendezvous (ASR), founded in 2002 with the last recorded rendezvous taking place in 2019 and the Kata Rocks Superyacht Rendezvous (KRSR), first staged in December 2016 and working every December all through the Covid-19 pandemic years. Not real races, both ASR and KRSR are invitation-only events for superyacht homeowners, captains and various high net price people to community, play ‘boat games’ and get together.
No different Southeast Asian nation can declare as wealthy and various an all-year-round yachting calendar as Thailand – a sadly undervalued and under-utilised ‘resource’ when it comes to high worth national tourism advertising..

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