Bay Regatta sets sails for 26th time

Regattas Asia have done what no one else in this region were able to do: stage a regatta every year throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. That’s right, the Bay Regatta didn’t miss a beat – this year’s version being the 26th straight.

Twenty-six international crews registered and were spread over five classes (IRC Monohull, IRC Cruising, Cruising Monohull, OMR Multihull & Cruising Multihull) sailing through some of the world’s most stunning karst topography on their four-day nautical journey. This was the largest number of entries in a big-boat regional regatta since the Phuket King’s Cup in 2019.

Held from February 22-26 this year, the Bay Regatta is a series of passage races – an event format that catches the attention of the region’s best sailors. This four-day sailing trek throughout Phang Nga Bay focuses on fun. Attracting the serious, the not-so-serious and the not-at-all-serious “racing” sailors, the regatta appeals to those who enjoy the stunning sailing grounds of the area and a different destination each day.

Each evening, the regatta anchors at a different venue and the sailors go ashore. Those staying ashore –the majority of the fleet – book accommodation and either eat in the local restaurants or enjoy the official event functions, which engage with the local community. Most of the expenditure of the regatta goes directly into the local economies of the areas the regatta visits. This has been the case since the regatta was launched and it will remain so for the future - an excellent example of how sports tourism works to the benefit of communities and local economies.

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This year, the fleet started just off of Ao Po Grand Marina on Phuket's east coast, after registration and an opening party yesterday evening at the lovely Supalai Scenic Bay resort, the yachts sailed south. On the first day, the 25-mile course, sponsored by Really Good Deli, set off from Koh Naka Yai, and passing the lime-stone karsts of Koh Sup to starboard and rounding Koh Yao Yai to port, before passing through the gate (located at Hin Mu Sang Mu Nua) and finishing at overnight anchorage of Koh Yao Noi.

A party and awards ceremony took place at the charming Holiday Resort at Koh Yao Noi. Dan Fidock of Really Good Deli presented the awards at the prize-giving ceremony.

On day two, the OMR class took a 20-mile course, sponsored by the Phuket Marine Industry, which left from east of Koh Yao Noi rounding Koh Pang to starboard, then passing Koh Pak Bia to port, and then passing Koh Ka and Koh Ka to starboard. The rest of the fleet moved past through the gate to Koh Kaya (between the island and the committee boat), and then rounded Koh Ngang to port, passing between Koh Daeng and Koh Samet finishing between the committee boat and Koh Ya Man.

Day three saw the fleet sail just off of Ao Nang with the evening party being held at Pra Nang Villa where prizes were given out racing for day two by James Haste and day three by a representative of the Tourism Authority of Thailand.

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With 18-20 knots of breeze forecast, the fourth and final day of the 26th Bay Regatta got underway as PRO and race organizer Simon James set off the yachts in two exciting starts, with the multihulls enjoying clear air for the first start followed by the mass monohull classes for the Coca Cola Haad-Thip Race, a 35-mile sprint back from Krabi to Ao Chalong, anchorage on Phuket.

The wind was definitely not a problem on the last day as it increased to 20+ knots with a spring tide against the wind creating challenging conditions. For the first time in many years, all classes sailed course 12.

Starting from an off-wind line between the committee vessel & Koh Yaman, yachts passed the famous "Chicken Islands" Koh Dam Hok & Koh Dam Khwan to starboard before heading west, passing through the gate at Hin Mu Sang Nua before a 15-mile southwesterly sprint to the finish, at the entrance to Ao Chalong.

Dirk Weiblen and his crew on No Fear capsized just south of Koh Yao Yai – while competing with the Firefly 850s, but the sea state caused them to nosedive and pitchpole into the water. Twin Sharks and Blue Noze immediately stopped racing to assist while the race committee was alerted.

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After a failed attempt to right the vessel due to the conditions and sea state, the inverted hull was towed to shelter, where its waterlogged hull and rig were eventually righted with the assistance of two race-committee support vessels and Shiraz, a passing yacht. Once the boat was again under control, it was towed into Ao Chalong near the Phuket Yacht Club.

Except for ego, all crew were uninjured, with the full rigging remaining intact.

Twin Sharks and Blue Noze, who suspended racing when No Fear went over, were compensated by being awarded finishing points equivalent to their known race position when they stopped racing.

The seven-boat OMR Multihull class saw Dan Fidock’s Parabellum winning their fourth straight race, their fourth line honour SMASHING the Krabi-Chaolong course in a time of 1:34:40. Making it a family 1-2 on the day, Dow Fidock's Stealth 11.8 Saffron came in second with Glywn Rowlands’ Twister II, a Stealth 12.1, finishing third and showing the strength of the locally built Stealth boats from local sponsors Asia Catamarans.

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James Haste and his crew on Bonza were on their way to set their own course record when they ran into rudder trouble and ended up finishing fourth. Overall, the series concluded with Parabellum first, Twin Sharks second and Twister II third.

In the IRC-Racing Class, Aquarii led all the way on the final day, with line honours and a handicap win, closely followed by the single-handed Thomas Valentin on his Classe Mini 6.5 Brisk in second place with DSA Venture in third place.

Overall, the 5-boat IRC Racing Class saw Peter Winter’s Australian team win on Aquarii, a Sydney 40 Mod, with DSA Venture, a First 40.7, coming in second. Niels Degenkolw’s X ¾-ton Phoenix had to settle for third as the harsh winds hampered their progress on the final day. Thomas Valentin’s Brisk, a Classe Mini 6.5, was fourth –– the single-handed sailor received a standing ovation from the other sailors at the awards ceremony –– while Aliaksandre Racheuski’s Uminoko, a Farr One Ton, rounded out the class.

The IRC Cruising Class saw Paul Merry’s Night Train, a Hanse 415, win every race with Andrey Arbuzov’s Birds & Bees, a First 44.7, and Aleksei Brunov’s Moonshine, a Sun Odyssey 45, next tied on points. Moonshine took second overall based on a better performance in the last race.

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In the eight-boat Cruising Monohull Class, Hans Rahmann's 70ft Yasooda loved the strong conditions on the final day and led the monohull fleet back in to Ao Chalong with a new course record of 3:05:11 for the 35-mile course. After handicaps were applied, Yasooda remained in pole position, closely followed by Snap Dragon and Wind of Change.

But overall, Steven Wong’s Snap Dragon, a Peterson 46, retained top spot with Hans Rahmann’s J/V 70 Yasooda, placing second in this class. Creating another record, with a combined age of over 450 years, Jack Christensen’s crew on Lynda, a Bavaria 49, was third. They were followed by Sergei Dikanov’s Wind of Change, Fons Wang’s Sumalee, Duncan Fraser’s beautiful Hanse 575 Gale Force and Mayo Hood’s Chinnon 2 with Tony Byrnes’ late entry Zingara rounding out the class.

Defending champion Rick Fielding’s Mojo, a Fusion 40, took home both line honours and the overall title, breaking his own speed record of 19kts in the three-boat all-Australian Cruising Multihull class. Bo Wharton’s Troppo, a Lagoon 410, followed closely in second and Bob McIntyre’s Allegro, a Stealth 13, placed third. Of course, Fielding, who is known for playing to the crowd, did just that during his acceptance speech at the awards ceremony.

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The final party was once again held at Kan Eang 2 restaurant, overlooking Chalong Bay and a great time was had by all. Since its inception 26 years ago, the Regatta has been described as the “party that sails around”. This year's event just keeps entertaining all those who participate and certainly didn’t disappoint this year.

The Race Management team did a great job setting the courses, manning the starts and keeping things in order. Kae Wattana and her Regattas Asia team ensured everyone was happy on shore, providing plenty of good food and drink. A big shot out to Simon’s team on the water - Susie, Chandran and Khun Lep - who as always, made sure all the starts and finishes were correctly posted and recorded under some very trying conditions at times. And a big shout-out to Premier Composites who supplied the start boat, Atari VIII.

The Bay Regatta was originally described thus: “The regatta allows participants to experience the best of southern Thai hospitality and the unrivaled sailing grounds in the area. Boats sail amongst 200-metre-high karsts and past hidden bays on their way to nights under-the-stars in idyllic anchorages.”

That description still rings true today.

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