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Phuket Sports: King’s Cup bolsters Thai sailing interest

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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PHUKET: The Phuket King’s Cup Regatta (PKCR) attracts more and more Thai sailors each year and the 2011 event saw Thai sailors taking podium places throughout the series.

There were 74 Thai sailors who took part in the competition, making Thailand the fourth most highly represented nation in the whole regatta.

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.

Suwan Poopoksakul skippered Lawana, an X-512, battled in the highly-competitive Premier Class with entries from China, UK, Hong Kong, Australia, Malaysia, and Thailand.

“The PKCR is the largest sailing event in Thailand,” explained Suwan. Our Lawana team has joined the race for 10 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.”

Biranubongse Bhanubandh, has sailed since 1987 and began on dinghies. “Twenty 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.”

“As a sailor, I appreciate how the organising committee properly arrange everything. With a 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.”

Saksit “Khet” Mangkalaseranee, a Phuket-based business owner and crew member on Windstar, raced 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 PKCR 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 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.”

In 2010, 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 past event saw Phuket native, Akapoj Kankaew, earn a powerful overall victory in the six-race series which has become a popular part of the PKCR programme.

A majority of sailors competing in the International Dinghy Class racing series were Thai, thanks to strong efforts by the PKCR organizing committee who worked to encourage more Thai youngsters to take up the sport. Thailand can be particularly proud of its performance in Optimist Class; 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.

The Phuket Gazette and PGTV are sponsors of the Phuket King’s Cup Regatta. For information visit KingsCup.com.

— Neil Quail

 

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