Gasson’s swan-song overwhelms sailors at 10th anniversary Top of the Gulf Regatta

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End of an era as TOG Regatta founder signs-off in style

At the awards ceremony for the Ocean Marina’s 10th Top of the Gulf Regatta, held on the splendid fore-shore of the marina last week, Willian J Gasson (Bill), the founder and director of the event for the past decade, announced his retirement – his own “swan song”- so to speak, at the helm of the regatta.

In the golden glow of a beautiful Pattaya sunset, man-about-the-gulf, Bill told the gathering of competitors and sailing aficionados that he was passing on the burdens of organizing such an event to the Ocean Marina management.  But, during his address, someone slipped an admiral’s cap on his head: “OK, I take the hint,” said Bill, “I shall stay on as a consultant for future regattas.”  The assembled sailors, supporters, sponsors and managers shouted their approval.

The 10th anniversary Top of the Gulf (TOG) Regatta took place at the Ocean Marina Yacht Club in Na Jomtien from May 2-5 and saw a record fleet of over 420 craft and some 1,000 sailors from 30 countries take part.

Bill has founded regattas along Thailand’s coasts, from Phuket through Koh Samui, to the Eastern Seaboard, for some three decades, competing in many and winning the most prestigious Phuket King’s Cup on five occasions.

He figured, after establishing the first two, that the Pattaya-Jomtien littoral had the best sailing conditions and wind patterns.  Thus, the Top of the Gulf Regatta was ‘launched’, so to speak..

10th Top of the Gulf Regatta

This year’s TOG Regatta featured a record fleet of over 420 craft and some 1,000 participants, from 30 countries.  Winds were varied, ranging from a becalmed sea to front-line squalls and horrendous wind shifts.  These conditions challenged principal race officer Denis Thompson and his team, as well as the sailors, and kept them all on “full alert”.

Supatra Angkavinijwong, Deputy Managing Director of Ocean Property Co., Ltd., (left) bestows an admiral’s cap on Bill Gasson to mark the TOG Regatta founder’s final year in charge of the event. (Photo/TOG Regatta)Supatra Angkavinijwong, Deputy Managing Director of Ocean Property Co., Ltd., (left) bestows an admiral’s cap on Bill Gasson to mark the TOG Regatta founder’s final year in charge of the event. (Photo/TOG Regatta)

Most of the following story covering the regatta, has been extracted from the coverage of Infinity Communications – one of the many press and media teams covering the event.  These included Radio Mix 88.5 FM, SEA Yachting, Pattaya Mail, The Big Chilli, YachtStyle, Helm Superyacht Magazine and Guy Nowell Photography.

Sarawut Phetsiri (center) won the Double-Handed Monohull Dinghy Class with crewmate Totsapon Mahawichean.Sarawut Phetsiri (center) won the Double-Handed Monohull Dinghy Class with crewmate Totsapon Mahawichean.

The Regatta was managed through the Yacht Racing Association of Thailand, the Royal Thai Navy, the Royal Varuna Yacht Club and Pattaya City.

Leading global brands and local businesses supported the regatta and included host sponsor Ocean Marina Yacht Club and Ocean Property, the Tourism Authority of Thailand, Thai Airways, Boon Rawd-Singha Beer, Siam Winery – Mont Clair and Gulf Charters.

The Singaporean crew on ‘Nahm Prix’ fight to raise the spinnaker.The Singaporean crew on ‘Nahm Prix’ fight to raise the spinnaker.

Suppliers/sponsors included Krungsri Bank, Minor Group, The Pizza Company and Dairy Queen, QBE Insurance, Coca Cola, Bangkok Hospital Pattaya, GFS foods, Neil Pryde, Lucaris Glassware, Sheraton Grand Sukhumvit, Buzzcats and MRI-Media Representation International.

The Top of the Gulf Regatta is the only multi-class sailing event of its kind in Asia, featuring the Coronation Cup for Platu one-design yachts, the Thailand Optimist National Championships, and for the first time, the RS-One Asian Windsurfing Championship.

IRC-3 boats head downwind under full sail.IRC-3 boats head downwind under full sail.

RS:One is an exciting one-design racing class featuring Neil Pryde’s “One sail, One board” concept, with all competitors competing at the same level using the same equipment – a level playing field – to coin a sporting term.  And it was evident at the 2014 RS:One Asian Championships how close the racing is, with the top male and top female windsurfers just metres apart throughout.

‘Magic Dragon’ races to the mark.‘Magic Dragon’ races to the mark.

This new and very challenging aspect of racing, was dominated by Hong Kong and Thailand and was extensively reported in last week’s Pataya Mail.

The ‘big’ boats’

In these classes, tricky winds with massive shifts, storm fronts and, occasionally dead calms over the regatta’s duration challenged all competitors; men, women, boys and girls.

The TOG Regatta grows from strength to strength as it sails full speed into its second decade.The TOG Regatta grows from strength to strength as it sails full speed into its second decade.

Competition was intense in the many keelboat classes.  IRC-1 was won by Aussie Peter Ahern (OI!) with Royal Varuna sailor Kevin Whitcraft (Wan Ma Rang) joining the fray late in the event.

IRC-2 Class also featured close racing with Singapore entry Bill Bremner’s Foxy Lady Vl (last year’s winner), beating Yasuo Nanamouri’s Japanese entry Karasu.

Optimists battle for favourable wind at the start line. (Photo/Captain Marty)Optimists battle for favourable wind at the start line. (Photo/Captain Marty)

Thailand’s Colin Lim (Hi Jinks) won the IRC-3 Class from Jean Rheault (Souay l) and David Bell’s Magic.  All three competitors sailed under Thai flags.

Cruising Class saw the consistent Amanda, helmed by Sweden’s Lennart Fahlgren, winning out ahead of Thai entry Sansiri Windstar, helmed by Patinyakorn Buranrom in second, with Japan’s Tai Two, helmed by Yasunori Osad, third.

Scott Duncanson and his platu crew from ‘Kingdom Property’ celebrate victory in the 2014 Coronation Cup. (Photo/TOG Regatta)Scott Duncanson and his platu crew from ‘Kingdom Property’ celebrate victory in the 2014 Coronation Cup. (Photo/TOG Regatta)

Competing for the Coronation Cup, to celebrate His Majesty’s accession to the Thai Throne on the fifth of May, 1959, Aussie perennial champion Scott Duncanson dominated the one-design Platu keelboat class, helming Kingdom Property to victory.  Fellow Aussie Chris Way was second on Easy Tiger lV, with Dutch entrant Rolf Heemskerk taking third on Team ViewPoint.

Sutida Poonpat (center) holds the trophy after winning the Optimist National Championships. (Photo/TOG Regatta)Sutida Poonpat (center) holds the trophy after winning the Optimist National Championships. (Photo/TOG Regatta)

Yet another Aussie, Peter Wilcox, Mojo, finished in style in the Ocean Multihull class with a win on the final day on corrected time over host Ocean Marina CEO Kirati Assakul’s, Sonic, whose second place in the race was enough to secure the class title by a single point over fellow Thai multihull sailor Radab Kanjanavanit’s Cedar Swan.

On the dinghy courses, the final day’s wind made for a frantic finish with two races completed by most fleets.  Keerati Bualong showed his class throughout, to defend his Single-Handed Monohull Dinghy class title while the top Thai female Laser Radial sailor was Kamolwan Chanyim.

Some of SE Asia’s best windsurfers took part in the RS-One Asian Windsurfing Championships. (Photo/TOG Regatta)Some of SE Asia’s best windsurfers took part in the RS-One Asian Windsurfing Championships. (Photo/TOG Regatta)

Defending champions in the Double-Handed Monohull Dinghy class, Navee Thamsoontorn/Nut Butmarasri, were convincingly beaten this year and, despite two wins on the last day for Sittisart Ponpan/ Peerapol Vesaka, it was not enough to unseat new class winners Totsapon Mahawichean/Sarawut Phetsiri.

In the Hobie Tiger/Nacra F18 class, it was the pairing of Damrongsak Vongtim/Kitsada Vongtim that out-sailed the rest to claim the crown.

‘Naid’ gets ahead of ‘Team ViewPoint’ on Day 1 of the Coronation Cup.‘Naid’ gets ahead of ‘Team ViewPoint’ on Day 1 of the Coronation Cup.

The future of sailing and yacht racing in the Kingdom appears to be secure, judging by the large number of junior sailors at the Top of the Gulf Regatta this year.  Some 132 Optimist dinghies, sailed by under 16-year-old boys and girls, faced the rigours of fickle conditions, with light, shifting winds interspersed with storm fronts growling on the horizon, to compete in the annual Thailand Optimist National Championships.

Many youngsters have used the Optimist as a stepping stone in the past and a superb grounding in the sport before moving on from the tiny trainer to compete in bigger craft and represent Thailand in numerous world class events, including Olympiads.

The Royal Thai Navy leads ‘The Ferret’.The Royal Thai Navy leads ‘The Ferret’.

In this, the 39th sailing of the Optimist National Championships, it was Thai girl Sutida Poonpat who won the title on the final day, ahead of fellow Thai national team sailor Suthon Yampinid in second.

Next year’s Top of the Gulf Regatta will take place from 01 to 05 May, to be managed by the Ocean Marina Yacht Club and Ocean Property.  In the meantime, Ocean Marina Harbour Master Scott Finsten announced that the third – and, biggest so far – Ocean Marina Pattaya Boat Show, will be held in the last week of November, 2014.

Full results of the 2014 Gulf Regatta, are available at www.topofthegulfregatta.com.

IRC-1 winner ‘Oi!’ races upwind.IRC-1 winner ‘Oi!’ races upwind.