The 2010 Sawadee.com Regatta (9th annual) took place in the waters around Koh Samui from the 31st May-5th June. A favourite among competitive and social sailors, the five-day regatta is one of Asia’s leading sailing events and is also part of the Asian Yachting Grand Prix Championships. Participants came from across the Asia-Pacific region including Thailand, New Zealand, Australia, Singapore and Hong Kong.

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In addition to the competitive sailing, the Sawadee.com Regatta is also about
fun parties and is firmly established as a “must attend” regatta on the
international sailing circuit. Its headquarters are the Centara Grand
Beach Resort on Chaweng Beach, which has been the home of the regatta since its
inception and that has now become synonymous with the event.

Koh Samui, rich with natural resources, white sandy beaches and coral reefs,
is the perfect location for an international regatta that not only provides great
sailing, but that also supports tourism on the island and helps raise the profile
of Thailand as an idyllic and exciting vacation destination. The regatta
provides the perfect blend of Thai charm and world-class sailing.

The Participants

After winning the Top of the Gulf Regatta, Ray Roberts had an unbeatable points lead for the Asian Yachting “Skipper of the Year” award going into the Samui regatta. And since Neil Pryde elected not to race at the TOTGR, he left the door open for Roberts to run away with the coveted prize. However, Evolution Racing had only a one point lead over Hi Fi for the “Yacht of the Year” award heading into the final regatta of the season. Frank Pong's 76ft Jelik II (Boracay) and the Nick Burns/Fred Kinmonth co-owned Mills 51 EFG Mandrake, both ventured from Hong Kong to round out the contestants for the Racing Class in this regatta.

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As this is the final AYGP event each sailing season, it’s where the Champion Skipper dons the tailored Armani-Koh Samui Blue Blazer and the winning boat receives the champagne-filled Perpetual AY Cup at the magnificent prize-giving party held on the spacious lawn in front of the spectacular Centara Grand Beach Resort on the last day of racing.

The IRC Class yachts in this regatta ranged from 30 to 45 feet in length and some serious contenders for the title were among the entries. Ben Copley's Club Swan NY 42OD Katsu squared off against David Ross’s Kerr 32 Kukukerchu, which has had considerable success in Asia and was boosted by having some of Adam Minoprio's ETNZ/BlackMatch Racing crew onboard. The biggest boat in this class was Robert van Paridon's Beneteau 44.7 Tantrum who would like to step into shoes of their sistership, Ichi Ban, who won here the last two years. The Royal Thai Navy entered identical Farr MRX Naval Academy 1 & 2 boats, skippered by Lt Weerasit Puangnak and NC Boonyarit Sukmuang, respectively. Although getting a little long in the tooth, these boats have consistently picked up numerous King's Cup and TOTGR titles over the years. And Brad Kirk's Farr 42 Dynamite competed. It is well known in Australia as back in its heyday the yacht swept the major regatta scene before Brad bought it to Thailand a few years ago.

This picturesque tropical playground is very popular with the big Premier Cruiser boat owners who like nothing better than some hard racing and some high class entertaining in the comfort of their own boat. Dr Ian Nicholson's Dubois 80 Intrigue was the biggest boat in the fleet and also down from Hong Kong came Peter Churchhouse and his Warwick 64, Moonblue 2. He knows the waters well and has won here before. Jon Wardill's well-traveled Cassidy 55 Australian Maid made its second appearance after clinching victory in the Rolex China Sea Race recently. Down from Ocean Marina, Gary Baguley's Holman & Pye 52 El Coyote hoped to finish a couple places higher than last year and Pana Trungkabunchar's all Thai crew on the X512 Lawana was the local favourite.

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The Bareboat/Cruising Class had an interesting mix of entries. Keeping with tradition, and as a tribute to the late Andrew Short, family and friends from the CYCA in Sydney who crewed and won this class for him over the last two years, were back with the renamed Oceanis 461 Andrew Short – Constanza. Skippered by his old mate, Scott Finisten, the aim was to rekindle the spirit of “Shorty”. Nigel Hopkins Oyster Lightwave 48 Celere also participated with a group of Sunsail charter boats. Singaporean yachting stalwart Bob Ashman made an appearance on the Sunsail 43 Danaya and the Singapore Management University (SMU) were donated a Sunsail 39 Bussakorn, (courtesy of Sunsail Thailand) which was skippered by Shaun Toh. The young, yet experienced crew provided a formidable challenge to other competitors. The other Sunsail 43 CEO 1 (Milliebella) was Brian Pozzey’s. John Stall was in charge of the Atkins 34 Lanta Concept, which gave Samui youth sailors a crewing experience and something to remember for the rest of their lives.

Despite the ever increasing multihull fleet in the Kingdom only four made an appearance in Koh Samui. Kirati Assakul's (Nim) Crowther’s 42 Sonic sailed down from Ocean Marina and took on two locally made bi-plane rigged catamarans and another that looks more like a pepped up Tornado cat. Kunta (Samui Ocean Sports) Radical Bay Team Zazen is one of the original bi-plane rigged boats built on Koh Samui. Mick Grover's Yachting Siam 750 Mia Noi was launched a couple weeks before the regatta on the neighboring mainland and underwent sea trials to get ready for the event. And Kim Thomas planned to take them all to the cleaners with his slightly bigger Tornado look-alike Storm.

The Racing

The Racing Class was as competitive as anyone could have hoped for. Ray Roberts and his crew were strong all week and in the end Neil Pryde and his crew aboard Hi-Fi succumbed to the challenge from Evolution Racing, who also won the 2009-10 Asian Yachting “Skipper of the Year” and “Yacht of the Year” honours, which the crew took back with them to Sydney.

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Despite almost colliding with the start boat in the pre-start maneuvers and coming close to ending their challenge for the title, Ray Roberts TP52 Evolution Racing went on to finish both races on the final day a mere boat length in front of arch rival Neil Pryde's Welbourne 52 Hi Fi, to claim the title. Having that little edge going upwind made all the difference and despite Neil Pryde employing close covering tactics and splitting to either side, when the boats came back together again, it was Ray Roberts’ boat that prevailed.

However, they did not have it all their own way as Frank Pong's 76ft Jelik II jumped up to claim a win in Race 9 and the Nick Burns/Fred Kinmonth co-owned Mills 51 EFG Mandrake slotted into second place. This result had a few heads turning and some point-score recalculations to see what could happen on the last race of the regatta. Racing this close is why the crews return to Samui year after year. All bets were off though when Frank Pong steered Jelik II down the wrong side of the finish boat and failed to correct the mistake. Roberts and Pryde carried on gybe for gybe in close quarters right down to the finish line, when Roberts took the advantage and crossed a few seconds in front.

In the IRC class, by winning Race 6, David Ross' Kerr 32 Kukukerchu posted four wins and went on to clean with one race left to run. Ben Copley's Club Swan NY 42OD Katsu had been fighting it out for line honours all week but could not overcome Kukukerchu's advances and ended up in second place overall. Robert van Paridon's Beneteau 44.7 Tantrum finally broke through to win Race 7 and secured the third spot on the podium.

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In Premier Cruising, buoyed with a win on the second-last day, Peter Forsythe and Jing Lee's X55 Xena went out more than ever determined to capitalize on the situation and did just that. Adding two wins to their tally, took them directly to the top of the podium and brushed aside any other claims to the title. After leading coming into the final races, two second-row starts did not help Jon Wardill's Cassidy 55 Australian Maid’s cause and saw them drop to second place overall. Gary Baguley's Holman & Pye 52 El Coyote were always pushing for a good result but after a good battle had to settle on third spot on the podium.

The Bareboat/Cruising class tuned into a two-boat race coming on the final day. Nigel Hopkins Oyster Lightwave 48 Celere came on strong to take the fight to Scott Finisten's defending champion Andrew Short - Constanza for the last two races. A pre-start dog-fight resulted in both boats being over the start line and recalled by the race officer. In the ensuing melee Andrew Short - Constanza managed to come out on top and by winning both races went on to win the title in honour of their departed skipper. Celere ended up in second overall and the Singapore Management University (SMU) Team on the Sunsail 39 Bussakorn, skippered by Shaun Toh, prevailed over John Stall's Atkins 34 Smooth, as those boats finished third and fourth, respectively.

In the Multihull Class, after scoring four wins in a row, Kirati Assakul's Crowther 42 Sonic all but secured victory. Despite scoring second and third places on the final day, they stood proud on top of the podium. Livening up the contest, with two wins on the last day, Kim Thomas' bi-plane rigged catamaran Storm stepped up to second spot on the podium and beat off the locally built boats. Kunta's (Samui Ocean Sports) Radical Bay Team Zazen put on a good show in the early stages but dipped a little towards the end to finish third.

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Each day of racing saw the regatta fleet take to the waters in fabulous sunny conditions – conditions that support the event’s nickname as the “Tropical Island Regatta”. For six days and seven nights, crews, spectators and international media were treated to a perfect week of some of the closest racing that the regatta has ever seen. Combine the great sailing with the party and festival feel and it’s no wonder that so many skippers and crews will be returning for the 10th running of the Sawadee.com Regatta when it sets sail on 30th May through to 4th June 2011.

(Web Sawasdee Plc, one of Thailand’s leading inbound travel companies, is
the new naming sponsor of the regatta for the next two years. Through
www.sawadee.com and www.r24.org, the company provides online
travel/tourism-related information along with a user-friendly booking system
and a secure payment gateway.)

AYGP

The Asian Yachting Grand Prix (AYGP) first came together during the 2002-03 season when Peter Ahern and YO! became the inaugural Asian Yachting skipper and yacht of the year. He then followed it up during the 2003-04 season and Sam Chan's Freefire took the “Yacht of the Year” with higher points but as he shared the skipper’s role with his sailing master did not score enough points to become the “Skipper of the Year”. Neil Pryde completed the double during the 2004-05 and 2005-06 seasons with Hi-Fidelity and Hi-Fi Team Pryde respectively. In 2006-07, Frank Pong's Jelik clinched victory as it came down to the last race at the final event at Koh Samui. Ray Roberts DK46 Quantum Racing became the winner of the sixth running over the 2007-08 season after coming close on several occasions. After serious modifications last season Neil Pryde and Hi Fi with a record 20 points dominated the 2008-09 year to capture the title with two events to run. (Each season there are ten selected 5-star AY Grand Prix racing class events).

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SUPPORT FOR YOUTH SAILING EXTENDED

The Sawadee.com Regatta Samui has a tradition of giving back to support the individuals and the community that hosts it – as well as encouraging and supporting youth sailing across the Asia region. And this year was no different, with two additional initiatives that will contribute significantly to the development of competitive sailing.

Sponsoring “Garfield”!

The Sawadee.com Regatta Youth Fund announced a sponsorship of one
of Thailand’s sailing hopefuls of the future – Ms Nattakaran Panyawan (known
as “Garfield”). Garfield, aged 10, only began sailing in 2009 and entered her
first regatta – The Admiral’s Cup – in January of this year where she received
the “best beginner” accolade. At the Optimist Thailand Nationals at the Top Of The
Gulf Regatta, she placed 19th overall in the U12’s Division.

Garfield comes from a family of sailors. Sa-ard, her uncle, represented
Thailand in the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona and was a long-time
member of the Thai National Team. He was an Asian Windsurfing Champion
and is a 5 times Gold Medal Winner at the SEA Games. Garfield’s brother –
Nattapol, is also a competitive youth sailor, who will not doubt welcome the
challenge from his younger sister.

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Garfield, a member of The Yacht Club - Koh Samui, was one of the many
youth sailors that competed in the 3rd running of the “Samui Junior Sailing
Squadron Challenge” that took place on the racing rest day at the
Sawadee.com Regatta. It gives local children from the island the opportunity
to be out on the water experiencing the excitement of competitive yacht racing.
The challenge saw youth sailors in Optimist Class boats battling it out on a competitive course. Ironically, it was Garfield’s brother Nattapol who won the Samui Junior Sailing Squadron Challenge in 2009, with four wins out of four.

This year, there were five fiercely contested races - with the youngest contender – Richard Bjork - being only six years old. At the end of the day, at an awards ceremony on the lawns at Tradewinds Cottages, it was Nattapon Panyawan that took the top award. In second place was Thomas Fahey and coming in third was the very talented Stephanie Bjork. In the beginner’s class, Nicolas Eleo was first, followed by Tida Panyawah and Oliver Kerr.

Singapore Management University Challenge

For the first time, the regatta also welcomed a crew from Singapore
Management University (SMU). Courtesy of Sunsail Thailand, who provided SMU with a Beneteau Cyclades 39 Bussakorn, the young yet experienced crew provided a formidable challenge in their division.

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All year 1 and year 2 students, the SMU crew were joined by its sailing
alumni team who support with crew training the development of the SMU
Sailing Programme. The skipper was Singaporean Shaun Toh - a
seasoned sailor of ten years who began sailing optimists and lasers and moved on to keelboats last year. This was Shaun’s second visit to the Sawadee.com Regatta.

The SMU Sailing Club was established in 2003 by a group of 11 sailing
enthusiasts and was the first tertiary institution in the keelboat-racing scene.
The club has now grown to over 68 members, and has competed in several
events this year including the Singapore Straits Regatta, The Royal
Langkawi International Regatta and the recent Top Of The Gulf Regatta.
Andrew Tam, SMU Sports Officer, commented, “this is a young and dedicated
team that trains extremely hard. With the exception of Shaun Toh, many of
the crew competed in only their second or third regatta.”

Sponsorship of rising stars and support for youth sailing in general are all part
of the spirit of the Sawadee.com Regatta (http://www.samuiregatta.com).

 

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