• Thai sailors rise to the top at 25th Anniversary Phuket King’s Cup Regatta

    26 January 2012

    The Phuket King’s Cup Regatta attracts more and more Thai sailors each year and 2011 saw Thai sailors taking podium places throughout the Series.

    The Royal Thai Navy entered two boats into the competitive IRC2 racing class, skippered by Chief Petty Officer First Class Wiwat Poonpat (Royal Thai Navy 1) and CDR Pornprom Sakultem (Royal Thai Navy 4). The Royal Thai Navy teams have sailed consistently well at recent regattas in Thailand, and true to Thailand’s history as a successful sports sailing nation, “Royal Thai Navy 1” swept to victory in IRC 2 Class again this year. 

    Burapha University also had representation in IRC2 with a crew skippered by Satian Puranawit and a boat named after the University. He spoke of the Regatta’s prominence and appeal; “I’m so excited to join the Regatta for the first time, and so glad to bring students who are national athletes in the name of Burapha University to compete with sailors from around the world. This is a phenomenal event for the international sailing circle in Thailand.”

    “The Regatta improves the Thai athletes’ skill to a higher level because they compete with many experienced sailors, learning a lot with each race. It also attracts more Thai youths to sailing. The competition was well organised and had very good race management. We will definitely be competing again next year if we have support from the University and from other sponsors.” 

    Fellow Thai skipper Suwan Poopoksakul skippering “Lawana”, an X-512, battled in the highly-competitive and international Premier Class with entries from China, UK, Hong Kong, Australia, Malaysia, and Thailand. In fact, a majority of the vessels competing in the Phuket King’s Cup Regatta had at least one Thai crew member. Overall, there were 74 Thai sailors who took part in the competition, making the Kingdom the fourth most highly represented nation in the whole Regatta. 

    “The Phuket King’s Cup Regatta is the largest sailing event in Thailand,” explained Suwan. “In addition to holding the race in Phuket’s high season which has the best conditions for sailing, the Regatta is held every year in celebration of His Majesty’s birthday. That’s why Thai sailors gather, celebrate and enjoy the races with our friends at this event. Our Lawana team has joined the race for ten years, and we’ve also consistently seen the best international standard race management. Its success has been proven as we see more boats from around the world heading to Phuket every year.” 

    It is fitting that Thai sailors should demonstrate such capable ability at the Phuket King’s Cup Regatta which sails under the auspices of His Majesty the King of Thailand, and which is celebrating its silver jubilee this year. 

    His Majesty has inspired many Thai sports men and women across a wide range of sports, and nowhere else has that contribution been more significant than in sailing. Almost half a century ago (1967), His Majesty was victorious at the Fourth South East Asian Peninsular Games for which he received a gold medal in sailing. His Majesty continues to inspire sailors young and old, and sailing in Thailand is enjoying a renewed golden age. 

    “Sailing is one of the sports His Majesty loves to take part in,” said Biranubongse Bhanubandh, a sailor who has sailed since 1987 and began on dinghies. “20 years ago, sailing was regarded as an upper-class and costly sport. So its prevalence was limited to specific groups of people and the development was delayed. But then there were supportive factors to raise the popularity of sailing, especially the duty reduction which was a considerable turning point for sailing development in Thailand. It made sailing more affordable and led to the development of Thai sailors’ skills, and now we have world champion Thai sailors.”

    “I joined many keelboat teams in the Regatta, including Octopussy, Maduzi and Lawana. This year, I am Main Sheet (or Main Sail) position of Won Ma Rang (skippered by Kevin Whitcraft, President of Phuket King’s Cup Regatta Committee). As a sailor, I appreciate how the organising committee properly arrange everything. With seriously high standard of operations, the Regatta can facilitate both Thai and foreign sailors; better than other international sailing events in this region that I’ve joined before. Besides the race, everyone was also impressed with the parties, which are extremely enjoyable and reflect the best standard of the famous Thai hospitality.”  

    Saksit “Khet” Mangkalaseranee, Phuket-based business owner and crew member on “Windstar”, has raced very well in the Modern Classic Class, finishing second overall. He said, “We have eight crew members in total, and three of the guys are Thai sailors. The Phuket King’s Cup Regatta is a special event in its own right, and it’s also great for encouraging more Thais into sailing, for giving them a competitive step-up up as their sailing skills grow.

    The Regatta features the increasingly popular International Dinghy Class which is the perfect way for young Thais to get into the sport. We do everything we can to encourage more Thais to take up sailing; it’s always been our plan to do that. To have an international standard race entry, you often need to have an international crew; this blends sailors of differing levels of experience. That said, we are always on the lookout for talented Thai sailors to possibly join our team in the future.” 

    Last year, sailing prodigy and eventual winner in the Optimist Class, Anapat Ngarmdee (aged 11), attracted a lot of attention as he ran away with the class title. This year, Phuket native, Akapoj Kankaew, commanded a powerful overall victory in the six-race series which has become a popular part of the Phuket King’s Cup Regatta programme. A majority of sailors competing in the International Dinghy Class racing series were Thai, thanks to strong efforts by the Phuket King’s Cup Regatta Organising Committee who worked to encourage more Thai youngsters to take up the sport.

    Thailand can be particularly proud of its performance in the Optimist; Noppakao Poonpat is the World Champion, and the Thai team is the Team Optimist World Champion also; not coincidentally, Noppakao is the niece of Wiwat Poonpat, skipper of the winning Royal Thai Navy 1. 

    Sponsors of the 2011 Phuket King’s Cup Regatta include Kata Group Resorts Thailand, PTT Group, Siam Winery, Singha Corporation, AIA Thailand, PTT Global Chemical, PTTEP, Thaioil, Centara Grand Beach Resort Phuket, Boathouse and Sunsail. Media Partners include 91.5FM, Helm Superyacht Asia Pacific, The Nation, Phuket Best Group, Phuket Gazette, Phuket Magazine, Sail-World.com, SEA Yachting and YachtStyle Asia.

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