The 20th Samui Regatta, organized by Regattas Asia, hit the water again in late May with over 6o international sailors racing off of Chaweng Beach.

As the post Covid-19 recovery continues, fewer boats are currently travelling around Asia. However, the pedigree of the Samui Regatta competitors remained undisputed and included Australian Olympic Sailor Steve McConaghy. With crews traveling from as a far away as Hong Kong, Australia, Europe and New Zealand to compete.

In past years, pre-COVID, the Top of the Gulf Regatta was held in Ocean Marina in Jomtien, making it an interesting two-regatta draw for the sailors from Hong Kong, who could fly back from Pattaya after the ToG and return to Samui a couple weeks later. But the ToG has not been held since 2019.

Simon and his partner Kae Wattana of Regattas Asia have never considered canceling the event as they are bound and determined to promote Koh Samui as a great sailing destination. The regatta also has long been a boon to the local economy as sailors spend their hard-earned cash at many of the local establishments.

There were five days of racing with a lay day scheduled for Thursday and the closing party set for the Nora Beach Resort & Spa on Saturday evening.

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Day One

PRO and race organizer Simon James combined the mixed designs of boats together into one class for two races; the first was a three-lap windward-leeward race. And the second was a course that hugged the northern coastline of Samui rounding Koh Kong to port and heading back to the start boat/finish line.

Racing was scheduled to start at 10am but the wind tempted and teased, pushing the start back to 11:10am, where there was a more constant breeze. When they did get going the sailors had between 5-10 knots of breeze on the first race with the wind gusting to 17 knots in the second.

Sam Chan’s Freefire, a TP52, set the early pace easily winning the first race on corrected time after handicaps were applied by just oer 2 mins over Terry Foster’s Tenacious, an Adams 10. McConaghy’s Venture, a Beneteau 40.7 placed third, and Andre Den Braven’s Sail Quest Graffiti, a Whiting 36. placed fourth.

The second passage race, heading up towards Koh Phangan saw Tenacious edge out Freefire on corrected time by 20 seconds, while Venture and Sail Quest Graffiti repeated their placed third and fourth place finishes.

Trinai Bhanusiriyawatra, Vice President of the Tourism Association of Koh Samui, handed out the day’s prizes at the buffet dinner, held in front of the Banana Fan Sea resort, where local dignitaries (Mr. Chokchai Ruangsri, secretary-general of the Koh Samui Tourism Promotion Association, and Mr. Wichawut Jinto, Governor of Surat Thani Province) and members of the TAT had officially launched the regatta the night before.

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Day Two

Sailors enjoyed champagne sailing conditions on the second day of the event. The competitors sailed two races: the first, a three-lap windward-leeward; and the second, a nice coastal race that the skirted the north end of Samui and then Haad Rin on Koh Phangan.

The first race was as close as close can be with Sam Chan’s Freefire beating Terry Foster’s Tenacious by three seconds on a corrected time of 01:12:17 to 01:12:20 with Venture following at 01:13:09, shortly afterwards. Doesn’t get much closer than that.

The second race was a marathon in the extreme heat with Sam Chan’s Freefire, facing heavy winds and strong currents, crossing the line first at 02:22:43 of elapsed time to 03:25:08 for Tenacious & 03:20:35 for Venture. Sail Quest Graffiti, struggled against the strong current without a spinnaker after damage on the first day.

Saard Panyawan provided the start and mark boats this regatta. He has a remarkable story having represented Thailand in windsurfing at not only the Los Angeles (1984) and Barcelona (1992) Olympic Games, but he is also the winner of many Southeast Asian and Asian championships (he was the kitefoiler out on the course, today). His daughter Natalie is an accomplished mountain biker and has represented Thailand internationally.

At the evening party, sailors saluted the late great Marty Rijkuris, whose birthday was May 22nd. Marty passed in 2019 but the Koh Samui Regatta was the jewel in his ASIAN Yachting Grand Prix. It was here that he would hand out his “Skipper” & “Yacht” of-the-year awards. Marty felt a special warmth for the Chao Samui (Samui people) and many remember him very fondly.

Khun Bond, Director of Sales & Marketing for the Resotel, handed out the day’s prizes at the buffet dinner held in front of the Banana Fan Sea resort.

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Day Three

In the two-decade storied history of the Samui Regatta, no one has ever staged a pursuit race before.

Sailors were delighted with the course selection: after sending the fleet on a coastal race and a few windward-leewards on the first couple days, PRO & Regatta Organizer Simon James decided to break new ground and send them on the regatta’s inaugural pursuit race, a 17-mile-long course towards the south of the island. Yachts competed for not only the Pursuit prize, but were also scored under the IRC Handicap system for the overall series points.

The sequence was such: first off was Sail Quest Graffiti, followed 12 minutes later by Tenacious, and then 17 minutes later by Venture, with Freefire, the last to cross the start line, 55 minutes later.

With 11 knots of breeze, Graffiti sprinted off the line heading out to sea, while Tenacious and Venture prowled the start line waiting for their time to come. Once underway, Tenacious headed out to sea while Venture decided to hug the shore line. However, the wind gods had a different idea, while the wind remained with Sail Quest Graffiti, the two later starters were becalmed for some 20 mins before the breeze stablised again.

After a late breakfast, Freefire started just as the wind kicked in and set off to chase the fleet. As the breeze picked up the boats converged all rounding the Hin Ang Wan reef together. It was then a sprint back up the coast to see who would win the honors.

As the yachts rounded the final headland into Chaweng Beach, the boats experienced some major wind shifts and the fleet compressed again for a very close finish.

The spry 75-year-old Sam Chan, skipper/owner of Freefire said he first took up sailing while studying at the University of Manchester in the 1960s. Chan, who has long been a regatta regular, showcased his crew’s skill set by bringing home first-place in both the Pursuit Race and IRC Open Classes today. Venture took second in the Pursuit Race followed by Tenacious and Sail Quest Graffiti. IRC Open saw Venture follow Freefire in second with Tenacious and Sail Quest Graffiti tied for third.

Sail Quest Graffiti’s performance was remarkable as she was sailing not only without a spinnaker, so could not take advantage of the big gusts on the off-wind legs, but were also without their co-skipper, who was described by the crew as "missing in action" from the day’s activities.

The days prizes were presented by Khun Vorsit Phongkumphan, Vice President of the Nora Group in front of the Banana Fan Sea resort again.

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Day Four

Following a lay day on Thursday, the regatta picked up again with great sailing conditions. Race management team continued to break up the courses, this time sending the fleet on a windward-leeward course for the first race and a passage race up to Koh Phangan and back for the second.

The five dozen competitors in attendance, a similar total to many major events, continued to pledge their delight with the regatta and many have already promised to come back next year.

The scoresheet was identical for both races as Sam Chan’s Freefire continued on its tear winning two races and six of the seven in the event so far, leaving the yacht in first place with just 6 points. While Terry Foster’s Tenacious sat two points back with 13 closely followed by Steve McConaghy’s Venture’s two second-place finishes today leave it in third spot with 15 points. Sail Quest Graffiti had a great sailing day, finishing close to the other yachts and brings up fourth spot with 23.5 points.

So, although Freefire has the regatta wrapped up it will go right down to the wire for second-and-third place as Venture and Tenacious, who have finished seconds apart on races throughout the regatta, will battle it out to see who takes the silver chalice.

At the evening presentations, the awards were presented by Coca Cola Haad Thip, Thailand's leading provider of soft beverages, who are a longtime supporter of Asian Regatta. As everyone enjoyed another great buffet dinner held in front of the Banana Fan Sea resort.

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Day Five

With only one race left in the schedule, yachts started a final windward-leeward on the final day of the regatta as many participants had indicated a preference to pack up early and go home after a long week of terrific racing.

Going into the final race, Steve McConaghy’s Venture knew they had to beat first-place Freefire to take second spot overall, but alas Freefire won the final race by 31 seconds on corrected time. Thus, while Venture finished second on the last day it finished third overall. Terry Foster’s Tenacious flipflopped with Venture, placing third on the final race but second overall. The Sail Quest trainee crew on Andre Den Braven's Sail Quest Graffiti were a little over-powered by the gusts today, placing fourth.

Sam Chan and his crew on Freefire made sure they did not make the trip from Hong Kong in vain as they won seven of the eight races to capture the 2023 Samui Regatta.

Sail Quest Graffiti finished fourth overall, but was the winner of the “Samui Regatta Dogged Determination Award”. Without their spinnaker - which could not be replaced or repaired - they have managed to keep up with the rest of the yachts. The yacht’s skipper Andre Den Braven spends six-weeks-on and six-weeks-off as the skipper of a dredging rig in Kazakhstan. His crew is made up of his wife Nong, a very capable sailor. Also on board is Tim McMahon, who runs Sail Quest sailing school, and a number of students who recently graduated from Tim’s school. The design on the mainsail of this boat, a tagger in action, reflects the spirit of the crew on board.

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Regattas Asia has set the dates for the 2024 Samui Regatta from May 18-25 and is hoping to link with the Top of the Gulf & Tioman regattas in a format that will even attract more sailors to the event. Simon says he has already had enquiries from the US, Canada, China, Oman and Dubai about competing in the event next year.

The atmosphere and camaraderie the regatta created was wonderful as many Samui Regatta veteran sailors have their favourite bars, shops and restaurants that they return to, pumping a lot of money into the local economy, which was left shellshocked by COVID-19.

As one regatta participant said, “It was a great success; no boat or person was injured, everyone had a great time & we got a of great sailing in.” Ten nations were represented in the event with competitors coming from as far as Australia and New Zealand.

The Nora Beach Resort & Spa staged the final party on Saturday evening, and what a show they put on with a sumptuous buffet and great musical entertainment. A number of prominent local and regional government officials were in attendance at the final awards ceremony as were members of the Yacht Racing Association of Thailand (YRAT).

In regattas, it’s natural to focus on the competitors and as such many of the people that help make the regattas happen behind the scenes get little notice. But it should be noted that the person running the mark boat in this regatta is retired US Navy Commander David Rucker, who flew 76 combat missions as a helicopter pilot in the Vietnam War and celebrates his 80th Birthday this year.

Making an appearance at the regatta was Grenville Fordham, who organized the Samui Regatta one year and founded the Phuket Race Week regatta. He was in the area gathering information for his comprehensive chartbook, Southeast Asia Pilot.

Regional regatta watchers were in agreement when they noted they can’t remember a recent regatta that has been run as smoothly as this Samui Regatta with no postponements or cancelations (

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