PHUKET: I’ve spent the last week in Pattaya at the Ocean Marina Yacht Club, reporting on the 12th Top of the Gulf Regatta. I find it’s always good to look outside your ‘home’ town to learn, get some new ideas and a fresh perspective, and the Top of the Gulf Regatta can provide some great lessons for all.
Firstly, it is a unique regatta. The organizers brought together the local club sailing scene and decided they wanted to take it up a notch and create an international regatta in the Gulf of Thailand and promote the region. That was the basis of launching the event 12 years ago and they also incorporated the Platu Coronation Cup (which was launched in 1996) and the Thailand Optimist National Championships (which were launched in 1976) under the one umbrella.
The diversity of the regatta is its uniqueness and its strength. In Phuket there are some great regattas and sailing events, and for the most part they are keelboat and multihull events. That’s understandable as that is also the composition of the local fleet. In the case of the Phuket King’s Cup Regatta, mid-sized keelboats (35-45 foot) have proven attractive to many charterers over the years to the point that between 40 and 50 per cent of the regatta fleet today is made up of charter boats.
After introducing dinghy sailing into the Phuket King’s Cup Regatta approximately five years ago, the regatta has now attracted a good-sized Optimist fleet, as well as a few Lasers. The Phuket Yacht Club has its Sailing School, and the Phuket Youth Sailing Club, led by Kathy Gooch, has its youth sailing program with Optimists and Toppers. However, Phuket youth sailing is still very much in its infancy.
Sattahip, just up the coast from Jomtien, where Ocean Marina Yacht Club is based, is home to the main dinghy fleet of the Yacht Racing Association of Thailand and because of its proximity to the home of the Top of the Gulf Regatta, and the strong relationship the two have, there were 140 youth sailors competing in the Optimist class for the Thailand Optimist National Championships.
Add to that a strong Laser fleet from Royal Varuna Yacht Club as well as a collection of 420s, and the dinghy fleet is a sight to behold – one rarely seen in Phuket.
In order for boating to grow in Phuket, lessons need to be learned from elsewhere. Talking with many different figures within the local marine industry, there is definitely the desire to develop youth sailing and the acknowledgment that this is key to the long-term development of the industry.
What was interesting when talking with the Yacht Racing Association of Thailand was their interest and willingness to help support the growth of sailing all around the country. They can see the strength in their home town area of Pattaya, but are keen to boost sailing elsewhere in the country.
There’s an opportunity here to grow boating at the grassroots level, and to bring the industry together in a common long-term goal. Perhaps this is something the Thailand Marine Business Association could support or lead.
Duncan Worthington is a long time Phuket resident and through Infinity Communications (www.infinity-comms.com) consults to leading consumer brands, hospitality and marine clients in Thailand. In his ‘spare time’ he runs the marine portal www.MarineScene.asia. #OnDeckPhuket
— Duncan Worthington
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