2012 TOG Regatta: Another huge success for founder Bill Gasson


There is no doubt that the eighth Top of the Gulf Regatta, sailed out off the Ocean Marina facilities last week, was the most successful of the series.  Master-minded by yacht-racing entrepreneur William J. Gasson who watched over every detail, the 13-class event, comprised some 300 craft and 1,000 participants who came from 25 countries to compete with local Thai sailors in this maritime extravaganza.

Under excellent race management of Aussie Jerry Rollin, there were three days of hard, fast sailing in the prevailing south-westerlies which brought grief to such perennial champions as fellow-Aussie Scott Duncanson’s Sports Boat, “Aus Quantum”.  Nevertheless, the big fleets were grounded on the last day when a northerly storm front dissipated and left a windless sea.  By then, several of the major dinghy classes had been decided.

“Jing Jing” and “KukuKERchu” battle for position in the IRC 1 Class on Race Day 2.“Jing Jing” and “KukuKERchu” battle for position in the IRC 1 Class on Race Day 2.

And, as the wind-gods had decided, the storm came back, just as Marina Harbour Master Scott Finsten was officiating at the splendid Gala Dinner and Prize-Giving Party on the Marina’s spacious north-side lawns.  What did the sailors do?  Like any good seamen in a storm, they headed for the safest port of call – on this occasion inside the Marina tower, where they continued to quaff vast amounts of liquid refreshments and argue over the merits or otherwise of a great week’s sailing.

As reported in last week’s Pattaya Mail, Thailand’s new Optimist Championship had already been decided, when Sattahip boy, Sarawut Phetsiri won the fiercely-contested Optimist event, held concurrently with the main regatta.

The youthful crew on “Stingray”, skippered by Dylan Whitcraft.The youthful crew on “Stingray”, skippered by Dylan Whitcraft.

The second great event incorporated into the Regatta proper was the 2012 Coronation Cup, originally raced to celebrate the Coronation of His Majesty on 05 May, 1950.  Raced in the Platu, the eight metre, designed by New Zealander Bruce Farr and built by McDell Marine in New Zealand, specifically for the Thai maritime sector, this one-design class produced the closest finish in the Regatta.  At the top, emerging finally from the protest room on the last day, was Australian Chris Way’s “Ferret”, from always-competitive Malaysian Rolf Heemskerk (“Nataya”), second and “Naiad” (Chai Weiguo/Russell Ken, Thai), third.

A team led by Dylan Whitcraft with his “United Nations” crew astounded the media office when the five on “Stingray” announced their total age of less than 90 years.  One old veteran at the media was heard to remark: “Five of them combined are under 90.  I stand ALONE at close to that age.”

Meantime the Singaporean team SMU (Singaporean Management University) were not so happy when one spectator thought that SMU meant Southern Methodist University (USA).

“The Ferret” headed the platu fleet in the Coronation Cup.“The Ferret” headed the platu fleet in the Coronation Cup.

A first for the TOG 2012 was the addition of the Neil Pryde Racing Series which was held inside the Marina waterway, bringing the action right among the spectators lining the marina’s walkways.  The Windsurfing Association of Thailand sponsored Ek Boonsawad and Napalai Tansai for this unusual event and both will be representing the Kingdom at the London Olympics.

And, apropos the Olympics, Thai Laser sailor Keerati Bualong, has just qualified as the first Thai Laser sailor, along with Kamonwan Chanyim who will compete in London in the Laser Radial. Both these young men are graduates from former TOG Regattas.  Royal Varuna Yacht Club member, Gareth Owen, has been instrumental in Keerati’s success, having trained, nurtured and contributed considerable funds to the Thai youngster’s development here and in the cooler climes of the UK, as a conditioning for harder sailing in cold waters.

Meantime, back at the TOG, Hong Kong’s Neil Pryde on “HiFi” won the IRC Class (the Racing elite) by two points from 2011 Phuket King’s Cup winners Japan’s “Karasu”, skippered by Yasuo Nanamori.  Both finished ahead of Aussie David Ross, “KukuKERchu”, third on equal points with UK’s Steve Manning’s “Walawala 2.”

“Crime Scene”, left, and “Magic”, right, were winners in the Sports Boat and IRC 2 categories respectively.“Crime Scene”, left, and “Magic”, right, were winners in the Sports Boat and IRC 2 categories respectively.

Local stalwart “Magic”, skippered by David Bell, led from start to finish, dropping a second place (his worst score) to take the IRC 2 Class title from “El Coyote”, skippered by Gary Baguley in second and Brad Kirk’s Dynamite in third.

Wiwat Poonpat and his ever-consistent crew on Royal Thai Navy 1 scored three wins and two second places to take the IRC 3 Class crown.  The Singapore SMU crew on “Hi Jinks” improved as the Regatta went on and finished in second place overall ahead of Royal Thai Navy 2, skippered by Nattapol Srihirun in third.

IRC 4 Class completed only four races meaning all results counted.  Having won four from four, this was no problem for Peter Herning and his crew on “Kirifiki”, who walked away with the class title.  In second place was “San Sanook”, skippered by Andrew Watt, with Eric Habers on “Reef Knot” in third.

The trio of Shaw 650’s in the Sports Boat Class showed their pedigree taking three of the top four places in the Series.  The all yellow “Crime Scene”, skippered by Noel Leigh-Smith, scored a clean sweep winning six from six and claiming the title.  Kipsan Beck, skippering the original Shaw 650 “Porn Star”, put in a consistent performance to secure second overall.  The all-pink sister-ship “Hello Kitty”, skippered by Miki Munchusa, was just half a point in fourth, behind Hong Kong entry “Brace Brace Brace”, skippered by Paul Murphy.

In the Ocean Multihull Class, the 26-foot “Sweet Chariot”, skippered by John Higham took the class win from Andrew Stransky on his 50-foot self-designed Fantasia.  “Free Wheeler”, skippered by David Race, finished third.

The team of Damrongsak Vongtim and Michapa Weiwai scored six wins out of nine in the Open Multihull series to take an easy victory over Teerapong Watibunrueng and Narissara Usawat in second, who beat Gareth Owen and Bobby Freifel by one point into third place overall.  Hot on the heels of his TOG Regatta win, and following the selection of the Nacra17 as the Mixed Multihull class for the 2016 Olympics, Damrongsak announced his intention to compete in the Rio Olympics.

Twenty-nine sailors took part in the Single-handed monohull dinghy class, a combination of Laser Radial, Laser Standard and Laser 4.7.  After nine races, Supakorn Pongvichien proved too good for the international fleet, finishing six points ahead of Nut Butmarasri in second and Azri Bin Suhaimi in third.

The duo of Navee Thumsontorn\ Tanapong Kamolwat reigned supreme in the Double-handed monohull dinghy class, while second place overall was won on count back by Tenku Muhammad Othman\ Mohd Sollehuddin Bin Ismail, beating Tatsapon Mahawichean\ Chaichanawut Deenak into third.

Navee Thumsontorn, after winning the Top of the Gulf Regatta for the fourth time said, “I have gained extensive experience and developed my sailing skills competing in the Top of the Gulf Regatta, and I am planning to train in 470 to compete in the upcoming SEA Games.”

For some, the end may have been an anti-climax but as sailors gathered on the Ocean Marina lawn for the closing gala dinner and awards ceremonies the disappointment of the final day’s wind conditions was forgotten and there was no doubt that the happiest man of the night was Regatta founder Bill Gasson, as he urged one and all to come back in 2013 for the ninth TOG.

The 2012 Top of the Gulf Regatta was supported by the Principal Sponsor Ocean Marina Yacht Club as host venue.  Co-Sponsors included Tourism Authority of Thailand, Land Rover and Range Rover, Singha Corporation Group, and Mont Clair Wines.

Other sponsors were Thai Airways, Gulf Charters, Mont Gay Rum, Bank of Ayudhya Plc., Neil Pryde, Minor Group (The Pizza Company and Dairy Queen), Corsair Marine Thailand Co. Ltd., QBE Insurance (Thailand) Co. Ltd., SKPF, Thai Numthip Co. Ltd. (Coca Cola), CAT Telecom PCL, Bangkok Pattaya Hospital, Golden Foods Siam Ltd., Lucaris, Suniture, Sunbrella, Sheraton Grande Sukhumvit, Buzzcats and Simpson Marine.

Media partners included Helm Superyacht magazine, SEA Yachting magazine, Go Yachting, Mix 88.5FM, Pattaya Mail, Guy Nowell Photography, and Asianyachting. com.

The event is supported by the Yacht Racing Association of Thailand (YRAT), Royal Varuna Yacht Club and Pattaya City.

Note:  The writer appreciates the great help and input for this round-up from Infinity Communications and their team.  For more information on this year’s event, got to www. topofthegulfregatta.com.