Pattayamail — Vol. XI No.24 13 June — 19 June 2003 Features

30 Янв 2014 | Author: | No comments yet »
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The Koh Samui Regatta:

Seaboard Sailors Excel

Story and photos by Peter Cummins, Pattaya

The Second Koh Samui International Regatta was an outstanding success. Some 300 sailors, regatta managers and supporters descended on the beautiful island, with 53 yachts, ranging from the super-maxi Swan 80 from the Philippines to the five-metre beach-launched catamarans.

Beach Cat prepares to round mark.

Australia and Hong Kong tack to the windward mark in the opener: Bangkok Airways Race.

The flying Taipan: a new breed of Cat.

The powerful Philippine Swan 80, “Maligaya” heads down-wind.

A casualty of the strong winds: “Come on in, the water’s fine!”

Preparing for the race.

Our Pattaya, Jomtien and Sattahip sailors fared extremely well: David Bell was third in Keelboat Division Three; Damrongsak Wongtim and Antony Chapman were second and fourth, respectively in the Beach-launched Catamaran Class, with Bob Garner fifth and Les Nyerges sixth (out of a fleet of 33).

Furthermore, Les Nyerges won the Catamaran Division Two and Damrongsak won the Division Three. A great showing by our own ‘boys’ in very strong winds.

‘The Samui Week’, as it is becoming known, with almost consensual support from the island’s private and public sectors was virtually a “celebration of life”.

The times are depressing and the Thai tourism industry, as in most countries, has become a ‘child of the depression’: the invasion of Iraq, horrendous acts of terrorism, the SARS outbreak and shrinking economies are playing havoc with tourist arrivals. Airlines are curtailing flight schedules and laying off staff while the planes are travelling at about half capacity. Most hotels are at about 30 percent of capacity and many are sending staff on unpaid leave. Although this is the low season, nevertheless, the slump is extraordinary.

Thus, an event like this shines like a lighthouse on the dark sea of international gloom, sending a message to the world-at-large, through the great media coverage it attracted, that there still are good times, happy days and nights, fun and camaraderie. The Samui Week embodied all of these.

Local Thai and Thai-based sailors comprised a strong contingent, with more than 16 Catamarans (Nacras) entered from the ranks of the regatta co-organizer, the Royal Varuna Yacht Club, as well as an all-Varuna crew on Gary Baguley’s Jeanneau 36-ft. yacht, sailing out of the Ocean Marina in Jomtien.

Close racing featured throughout the regatta.

Away go the keelboats.

Hong Kong’s “Mandrake” eases off to the mark.

Jacques Mury, GM of the Central Samui Beach Resort awards Thais, Damrongsak Wongtim and crew.

Les Nyerges, winner of the Catamaran Class, will soon be adding the Pattaya Mail Plus to his world-wide TV programmes.

Catamarans line up on Chaweng Beach.

The organizing committee this year, for the first time, presented an exquisite perpetual trophy, designed by Waterford Crystal, to the overall winner, Aussie Ray Roberts, with similar trophies going to winners of the other five divisions.

A sight which became familiar during the week was Pattaya-based Bill Gasson’s new power catamaran, “The Buzz Cat”, monitoring the racing. This four-times Phuket King’s Cup Racing Class champion and co-founder of the Samui event, has forsaken the trials and tribulations of a racing yacht for the comforts and ease of a power boat. He had a leisurely motor voyage from the Ocean Marina at Jomtien to Koh Samui and was high-profile around the courses as one of the race managers.

Professional race officer and international judge Mark Pryke and his fellow-Aussie Kim Thomas lent their expertise for the second time, stamping their imprimatur on a first-class international regatta.

Again, it was the sponsorship which made this event possible. Last year, it seemed the whole private sector of the island was displaying Regatta Supporter signs. This time around, even more residents came out in support. Joining the principal sponsors, Bangkok Airways, Central Samui Beach Resort, Coconut Land and House, Santiburi Dusit Resort and Singha Beer, were: ArtAsia Press, Central Samui Village, Chez Andy, Impiana Resort, Le Royal Meridien, Paradise Beach Resort, Poppies, QBE Insurance, Sunsail, Tradewinds and the Weekender Resort, to mention a few.

Ron Sparks, managing director of QBE Insurance, a consistent sponsor of yachting and regattas for many years, could be regarded as representative of the legion of supporters. He was very up-beat about the event which, he feels, does so much to promote the island, its people and its infrastructure, in an environmentally-friendly way. “We are looking to increase QBE sponsorship in future years,” said Ron at the end of the regatta.

The Regatta was jointly organized by the Royal Varuna Yacht Club, the Royal Thai Navy and the Yacht Racing Association of Thailand and all racing throughout the spectacular week started and ended off the Central Samui Beach Resort at Chaweng Beach. In order to give the maximum media exposure of the beauty of Samui to the large contingent of news-hounds and TV crews covering the action — and to honour the sponsors — racing took place, for the most part inshore for spectator appeal, designed to feature most of the scenic spots on the island.

A Royal Thai Navy landing barge collected some 20 catamarans from Royal Varuna in South Pattaya and, with two Thai Navy yachts from the Sattahip navy base under tow, sailed for Samui. The barge ran into a massive storm front and had to cut the yachts loose, for they were in danger of submerging. This was probably the indicator of the strong winds which battered the fleets (“nicely”, as one sailor said it).

In the very opening race, less than half the Catamaran fleet managed to finish the course. For the Bangkok Airways Ocean Race, the 53-strong fleet started off from the Royal Thai Navy committee boat anchored in Chaweng Bay, in relatively light conditions. The flotilla tacked south and by the time they had cleared the wind-shadow of the Samui Coast, they were sailing into the “very teeth” of a south-westerly, averaging some 18-knots, gusting to 25, and big seas which spelled lots of action and excitement on the way to the mark set off Lamai Beach.

The casualties had started: dismastings, some crew washed overboard and capsizes a-plenty during the long haul thereafter to the windward turn mark near the Hin Ang Wang rock outcrop. There, Bill Gasson’s catamaran, the “BuzzCat”, had anchored, monitoring the yachts as they rounded the black square buoy. The “BuzzCat” was “buzzing” all right, as the frequent calls from the race management teams scattered around the course ensured that all was under control.

As the last craft rounded the Hin and started the down-wind leg to the finishing line at Chaweng, Bill sped off to rescue one last catamaran team, dis-masted and drifting for more than an hour and a half. The two sailors sitting on their hulls, mast and sails draped across their stricken craft, summed it all up, very succinctly, after downing the water and beer which Bill promptly dispensed: “Yes, we have been out here a long time but the weather is perfect, the water is warm and the scenery is magnificent,” shouted the skipper from his water-level perch. “By the way, you wouldn’t have another beer or two would you?”

That set the pattern for a week of yacht-racing, partying up and down Samui’s beaches and sheer exuberance from every quarter. The wind persisted, though as one sailor said it: “there were enormous wind-shifts — as much as 40 degrees. In fact, according to Antony Chapman, one of the Royal Varuna Yacht Club contingent of Nacra sailors, “One minute you and your crew were trapezing, hanging out there for dear life; the next minute you were desperately scrambling for the leeward side as the sails back-filled and the boat is about to come down on top of you!”

Ah, this is the ‘stuff of legends’ (at least nautical ones), to use a great clich . But the Thai teams, used to such unpredictable wind-shifts from their sailing in Sattahip’s Dongtan Bay, thrive on such conditions.

Finally, the Central Samui Beach Resort Race sailed around Chaweng Bay, the last of the six which comprised the 2003 Second Koh Samui International Regatta, Aussie Ray Roberts sailed “Hollywood Boulevard” to a clear win over Philippine maxi, “Maligaya”, skippered by Andres Soriano and Malaysian Peter Ahern’s “Yo” in the Keelboat Class One, finishing also in that order in the overall final.

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In Keelboat Class Two, Singaporean Melissa Olivit’s “Big Buzzard” beat Aussie Greg Coops’ “Abraxus” and Steve Walker’s “Next page”, out of Singapore, also finishing in that order in the overall rankings.

The Class Three battle saw Mark Jewell’s Singapore entry, “The Dogs II”, continue on his winning ways, to take the overall honours in five straight wins. Scott Duncanson’s Thai entry “Somtam Express”, second on the day, also took second place in the final. Third-placed Catherine Fong’s “Attitude Eight” out of Phuket, had to concede third overall to Pattaya entry David Bell’s “Marara” which finished fourth on the day.

Certainly, one of the highlights of the week-long racing, was the fierce competition between the top beach catamaran sailors, with the new Australian-designed and built Taipan 4.9, mostly out of Singapore, pitted against the Royal Varuna Yacht Club’s fleet of Nacras, with the odds heavily in favour of the Taipans.

There were many from Varuna, such as Jens Huhn, who came to the regatta — and, indeed, supports many events — not necessarily expecting to win, but giving their all for the joy of sailing and the camaraderie which was so evident at Samui.

Aussie Daniel van Kerckhof finished the last race with a first placing, consolidating his superiority in the Cat Class, while a superb second placing by Thai sailor Damrongsak Wongtim vaulted him to second place overall, on a count back, ahead of New Zealander Scott McCook, sailing out of Singapore, who finished third on the day.

Admiral Krayim, addressing the closing ceremony on behalf of Admiral Daweesak Somabha, the honorary chairman of the Regatta Organizing Committee, emphasized the support which the Royal Thai Navy renders to this and other regattas throughout Thailand. In his dual role as commander-in-chief of the Royal Thai Navy and the Yacht Racing Association of Thailand (YRAT), Admiral Daweesak placed the resources of the Navy and YRAT firmly behind the regatta. Together with the Royal Varuna Yacht Club in Pattaya, “This support has ensured the success of this event which brings so much credit to the lovely island of Samui and her people,” the admiral informed the gathering.

The Second Samui Regatta will be known henceforth as the “windy week”. Wind speeds averaged some 20 knots peaking, at times, to 40. It was a true test of “man and machine”, as well as the race management and the rescue facilities, which excelled on all counts.

As just one example out of several gear failures, dismastings and capsizes (Cats) during the week, Thai yacht, Schle Wood-Thanan’s “Pasaya” while having a wild ride before a wind reading 26 knots, registering 16 knots of boat speed, suddenly found the asymmetric spinnaker looking like streamers at a carnival: totally blown out.

Samui children also had a share in the regatta and during the awards dinner presentations were made to the budding artists, and the winner’s painting will serve as the logo for next year’s regatta. The paintings were then auctioned, with all revenues donated for the welfare of the children of Samui.

There was only one thing in the minds of the some 300 sailors preparing to return to the ‘four corners of the world’ from which they had come: “WE shall return next year,” said their spokesman, “and bring a lot of others who have not had the pleasure of experiencing this marvellous event, the beauty of Thailand, her people, her culture and her customs.”

The Third Koh Samui International Regatta is already “off and running” and, next year, tourism and the marine environment will again be a major beneficiary. It is interesting to note here that Thai teenage icon, Chulajak Chakrapongse has just initiated a conservation campaign to help people understand how vital the seas are to all of us.

Final Results of the Second Koh Samui International Regatta (counting five races out of the six sailed, for the final tally)

Keelboats Class One: 1. Ray Roberts, “Hollywood Boulevard” (Aus, 80 points); 2. Andres Soriano, “Maligaya” (Philip, 12); 3. Peter Ahern, “Yo” (Mal, 14); 4. Frank Pong, “Mandrake” (HK, 17); 5. Schle Wood-Thanan, (Thai, 18); 6. Sam Chan, “Freefire” (HK, 31); 7.Gary Baguley, “Magic Roundabout” (Thai, 33).

Class Two: 1. Melissa Olivit, “Big Buzzard” (Sing, 7.0); Greg Coops, “Abraxas” (Aus, 11); 3. Steve Walker, “Next Page” (Sing, 13); 4. John A. Busch, “Joan Marie” (USA, 23).

Class Three: 1. Mark Jewell, “The Dogs II” (Sing, 5.0); 2. Scott Duncanson, “Somtam Express” (Thai, 12); 3. David Bell, “Marara” (Thai, 16); 4. Catherine Fong, “Attitude Eight” (Thai, 24).

Catamarans (Counting five races out of the six sailed, for the final tally): First 20 only: (N = Nacra; T = Taipan). 1. Daniel van Kerckhof (Aus, T, 6.0 points); 2. Damrongsak Wongtim (Thai, N, 12); 3. Scott McCook (NZ, T, 12); 4. Antony Chapman (Thai, N, 26); 5. Bob Garner (Thai, T, 35); 6. Les Nyerges (Thai, N, 36); 7. Peter Herning (Thai, N, 37); 8. Jim Boyer (Aus, N, 39); 9. Alex Skaria (Thai, N, 42); 10. Yves Felix (Thai, N, 50); 11. Aaroon R. (Thai, N, 51); 12. David Lee (Sin, N, 53); 13. Alain Brancart (Thai, Hobie Cat 16, 71); 14. Jan Holldorf (Thai, N, 78); 15. Sutee Poonpat (Thai, Hobie 16, 80); 16. Suwan P. (Thai, N, 83); 17. Jeremy Curnow (Thai, N Inter 17, 90); 18. David Stanton (Sing, T, 98); 19. Roy Copp (Samui, N, 112); 20. Claus Dorfner (Thai, N, 116). 54);

7. Bob Garner (Th, T, 60); 8. Yves Felix (Th, N, 60); 9. Les Nyerges (Th, N, 67); 10. Peter Ole Herning (Th, N, 67); 11. Alex Skaria (Th, N, 69); 12. Aroon R. (Th, N, 74); 13. Sutee Poonpat (Th, Hobie Cat, 80); 14. Jeremy Curnow (Sin, N, Inter 17, 90); 15. David Stanton (Sin, T, 98); 16.

There were also three divisions in the Catamaran fleet with Aussies Les Nyerges and Daniel van Kerckhof winning Division One and Two, respectively, and Thai Navy sailor Damrongsak Wongtim, Division Three.

ABSOLUTELY, Khun Chulajak.

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