Thailand sailing ahead in 2012
By Jules Kay
A New Year means a new schedule of sailing events across the Asia region and Thailand, as always, is one of the principle locations for the on water action. With fine tropical waters on both sides of the Thai peninsular the regattas run throughout the year, attracting world class boats and crew from around the globe to compete and enjoy the legendary onshore hospitality that has become synonymous with the best yachting dates on the calendar.
Thanks in part to the popularity of the various regatta's held off the coasts of Phuket, Phang Nga, Pattaya and Koh Samui, Thailand's appeal as a boating destination is growing every year. Stunning sailboats and motor yachts fill the country's main marinas and it's no longer uncommon to see multimillion dollar superyachts moored off the beach, their owners and guests flying in to enjoy the spectacular cruising grounds and make the most of the sophisticated amenities available just a dinghy ride from their vessel.
Private yacht charters are also becoming a popular vacation activity for visitors, especially for luxury travellers in search of the ultimate personalised tropical experience. An appealing combination of indulgences for many guests is to rent a luxury private villa to stay in total personalised comfort, then charter a high-end yacht, either to sail, snorkel and dive or simply to enjoy the breathtaking marine scenery so easily reached by boat. No less than 5 superyachts over 28 metres were transported to Thailand from Genoa aboard Dockwise Yacht Transport’s M.V. Combi Dock in October, the largest quantity of superyachts to arrive in Asia at one time.
The rise in the number of large leisure vessels either visiting or available for charter in destinations like Phuket and Koh Samui also means these luxury craft regularly participate in the Kingdom's regattas, either competing or following the races to give their guests a close up view of the spectacle. In December, the King's Cup on Phuket, Asia’s most famous regatta, drew sailors from Thailand, China, Russia, Singapore, Australia and the United Kingdom. Larger yachts in the line up included a spectacular Swan 82, SY Chao Ren Plus One that sailed down from China, as well as the stunning Swan 76 sloop SY Silandra V, which will be cruising to and from Thailand for several months as part of a round the world voyage.
A full schedule of Thai regattas, as well as an international Boat Show will inspire, challenge and entertain crews and spectators in 2012 and each event offers its own particular highlights and attractions. The sailing calendar begins in February with The Bay Regatta from 1-5 Feb, one of the more relaxed competitions on the circuit known for its picturesque sailing routes and anchorages amid the majestic scenery of Phang Nga Bay and Krabi. Then in late March, some 6000 yachting enthusiasts are expected to gather at the Phuket International Boat Show, or PIMEX, hosted by the Royal Phuket Marina from 29 March to April 1st. A dazzling line up of new boats from some of the biggest brands in the industry will be on display at the show, which last year saw a A 25 per cent increase in exhibitors with USD100 million of product on display and around USD20 million of sales made.
The action returns to the open sea in May with the Top of the Gulf Regatta from 4th to 8th May, hosted by Ocean Marina in Pattaya. The event includes a number of unique sailing events such as the Coronation Cup, the Thai Optimist Nationals and a beach cats divisions, making it the largest regatta in Asia by number of boat entries. At the end of the same month, from 28th May to 2nd June, Koh Samui's Tropical Island Regatta, a fun filled event on and off the water, and the season finale of the Asian Yachting Grand Prix.
July is known as Green Season on the Andaman coast, with more turbulent monsoon seas providing the perfect conditions for Phuket's Six Senses Race Week. The event attracts serious international yachtsmen and was voted ‘Best Asian Regatta of the Year’ at the Asia Boating Awards in 2011. The regatta features six or seven classes, including a cruising class, bareboat and charter yachts. The regatta's highly competitive, performance racing schedule is complemented by fun courses around the islands for the less experienced competitors.
Finally in December, the Phuket King’s Cup began as a modest regatta back in 1987 to commemorate the 60th birthday of King Bhumibol Adulyadej. Initially a mixture of monohulls, catamarans and lasers, over the course of 25 years the event has attracted an ever wider variety of vessels in various classes. Last year's event was considered a classic and featured top class competitive sailing between Grand Prix racing yachts, live aboard cruisers, multihulls, classics and for the first time this year - kiteboarders.