Royal Varuna Yacht Club celebrates 60 years of sailing history and tradition

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His Majesty the late King Bhumipol Adulyadej was a regular visitor and sailor at the club during its formative years.
His Majesty the late King Bhumipol Adulyadej was a regular visitor and sailor at the club during its formative years.

Thailand’s famed Royal Varuna Yacht Club held a celebration for its 60th anniversary on Saturday, November 18 with over 200 members joining the gala dinner event held at the club’s ocean-side premises in South Pattaya.

His Majesty King Maha Vajiralongkorn, then the Crown Prince, places a garland on a Laser sailing boat presented to him during the grand opening of the new Royal Varuna clubhouse in 2004.
His Majesty King Maha Vajiralongkorn, then the Crown Prince, places a garland on a Laser sailing boat presented to him during the grand opening of the new Royal Varuna clubhouse in 2004.

The main dining terrace was resplendent in a 1950’s theme to reflect the period of the club’s inception.  Jazz and classical style music was provided by the Royal Thai Navy band and a unique puppet performance brought additional entertainment for those in attendance.

Flag Commodore Mark Hamill-Stewart paid tribute to a number of loyal staff members who have contributed to the club’s performance for more than 20 years and also to those involved in the many important events successfully hosted at the club.  The highlights include the World OK Dinghy Championships in 2013, the recent Optimist World Championship in July this year and the promotion and development of sailing sports to the International Schools in Thailand.

“The Club is not merely the buildings, the land, the staff and its members.  It is a true case where the sum is greater than the constituent parts,” said the Commodore.  “I would like to mention a few members who have stood the test of time and have made very significant contributions to the heart of the Club almost since its inception and there are of course many others who have made significant contributions, these deserve recognition.”

He continued, “Angelo Gaultieri, who became Commodore 45 years ago, is a regular contributor on the committee and with the Phuket King’s Cup; Richard Van Den Heuvel is still a valuable member of the committee; Peter Cummins played a big part of putting RVYC on the map, both with his relationship with His Majesty the late King Bhumipol Adulyadej, but also his prolific writings about the Club in various media.  Al Chandler has also been a very proactive supporter of junior sailing from being a president of International Optimist Dinghy Association (IODA) in the 1970s onwards to active and generous support throughout the years, including the latest IODA Optimist’s World Championships.”

Commodore Mark Hamill-Stewart address the club members and guests at the 60th Anniversary party, November 18.
Commodore Mark Hamill-Stewart address the club members and guests at the 60th Anniversary party, November 18.

The event was a memorable occasion, bringing members together in celebration of this milestone, which culminated with a spectacular fireworks show.

The Royal Varuna Yacht Club was founded in 1957 by HSH Bhisadej Rajani and Walter J. Meyer and other members at a time when Pattaya was little more than a sleepy little coastal village.  A two-story wooden seaside house with a beach ideal for sail-boats was located as the site of the first Varuna clubhouse, now a restaurant close to Bali Hai pier.

Flag-Commodore Mark Hamill-Stewart (centre-rear) poses with staff members who have all contributed to the Club’s success over the past 20 years.
Flag-Commodore Mark Hamill-Stewart (centre-rear) poses with staff members who have all contributed to the Club’s success over the past 20 years.

As Pattaya began to develop and the concrete closed in, the Fourth Commodore, Rachot Kanjanavanit (l967-l970), secured the present site – one of the best on the Eastern Seaboard – designed the clubhouse and, in October, l967, led the move “over the hill” to Pratumnak.  The modern new clubhouse is a more recent affair and was opened by His Majesty the current King, then the Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn in 2004.

His Majesty the Late King Bhumibhol Adulyadej and HRH Princess Ubolratana, both keen sailors, regularly sailed at Royal Varuna Yacht Club.  His Majesty became an enthusiastic and skilful helmsman, tutored by Prince Bhisadej who assisted the King in building his own enterprise craft, the “Rajpatan”.  One of the memorable outings was in March of l965 and consisted of a race from Varuna to Koh Larn, with the British Royal Consort Prince Phillip also participating as a guest sailor.

The unique puppet performance brought fun and enjoyment to all.
The unique puppet performance brought fun and enjoyment to all.

On September 14, 1968, His Majesty the late King, accompanied by HM the Queen, the Crown Prince and the Princesses, officially opened the Royal Varuna Yacht Club at its current location at Kasetsin Beach in South Pattaya.

During the following decades, a quantum leap in enthusiasm for yacht racing took place, with the original – mostly wooden – Fireballs and Enterprise sailing boats being replaced by the sleek Hobie Cats, single-handed Lasers and an assortment of other fiberglass catamarans.  These craft require much less maintenance than the original classes, an important factor in the busy lifestyles evolving among the Thai and expat communities, reflecting a faster-moving world-at-large.

From left: Capital TV’s Les Nyerges, Royal Varuna Yacht Club General Manager Baz Osborne, Pattaya Mail Media MD, Peter Malhotra and former RVYC Commodore and sailing author Peter Cummins enjoy the atmosphere at the party.
From left: Capital TV’s Les Nyerges, Royal Varuna Yacht Club General Manager Baz Osborne, Pattaya Mail Media MD, Peter Malhotra and former RVYC Commodore and sailing author Peter Cummins enjoy the atmosphere at the party.

Ruchai Kanjanavanit, brother of Fourth Commodore Rachot, actually introduced the Optimist dinghy into Thailand in the early 1970s with the little dinghy carrying the auspicious number THA 1.  It was shortly afterwards, however, that Al Chandler realized the potential of the Optimist craft for the training of juniors – and for helping ensure that a pool of young sailors was ready to move into adult classes.  Al placed his time, his formidable drive and personal resources behind the development of the Optimist in Thailand.

Royal Varuna Yacht Club has given much time and effort to the development of youth sailing and will no doubt continue to do so.  The Club has consistently co-operated with the Royal Thai Navy and the Junior Sailing Squadron of Thailand (JSST) and, makes RVYC facilities available for training, practice and racing.

The Royal Thai Navy band played 50s & 60s period music at the party to bring back memories of yesteryear.
The Royal Thai Navy band played 50s & 60s period music at the party to bring back memories of yesteryear.

With 450 members, Royal Varuna is a family oriented club for sailors of all abilities, from the uninitiated to serious racers.  The Club offers a year-round sailing program with cruising and racing and also sailing tuition for adults in its extensive sailing program under RYA accreditation from the UK.

For more information about the Royal Varuna Yacht Club, visit website: www.royal-varuna-yacht-club.com.

(Above) The modern Royal Varuna and (below) the first clubhouse located at Bali Hai when Pattaya was no more than a sleepy fishing village.
(Above) The modern Royal Varuna and (below) the first clubhouse located at Bali Hai when Pattaya was no more than a sleepy fishing village.
This photo from 1970 shows a group of prize winners with their trophies after a round the islands race at Varuna.
This photo from 1970 shows a group of prize winners with their trophies after a round the islands race at Varuna.
The modern uniquely styled clubhouse is shown fully decorated on opening day in 2004
The modern uniquely styled clubhouse is shown fully decorated on opening day in 2004
Promoting junior sailing through the Optimist dinghy schools program has become an important directive for the Club.
The Topcat World Championships were held at the Club in 1997.
The Topcat World Championships were held at the Club in 1997.
The Royal Varuna Yacht Club occupies one of the prime beachside locations in Pattaya.
The Royal Varuna Yacht Club occupies one of the prime beachside locations in Pattaya.
The Club welcomed international sailors from around the globe when it hosted the 2017 Optimist World Championships in July this year.
The Club welcomed international sailors from around the globe when it hosted the 2017 Optimist World Championships in July this year.