Gulf Regatta: No Guessin’ – Bill Gasson

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As the annual Top of the Gulf Regatta, is about to be sailed for the eighth successive year out off the Ocean Marina, Jomtien, there is no guess-work about the ultimate success: New Zealander William J. Gasson, as the perennial president of the Regatta Organizing Committee, has everything under control.

As full details of this spectacular event are produced on the facing page in this issue of the Pattaya Mail -including the record-breaking number of entries, categories of competitors and the huge list of sponsors – there is no need to reproduce them here; rather, this is a brief look at the man-about-the-Gulf, Bill Gasson who has made it all possible.

Bill Gasson – founder, President and stalwart supporter of the Top of the Gulf Regatta. Bill Gasson – founder, President and stalwart supporter of the Top of the Gulf Regatta.

Bill has been the driving force behind yacht racing, cruising and the marine sector generally, all the way along Thailand’s coast-line, from Phuket through Koh Samui and now at the Northern Gulf, in Jomtien.

Starting as a co-founder of the Phuket King’s Cup Regatta in 1987, officiating as the first principal race officer and, eventually winning the Racing Class of that event four times, Bill then looked northwards, recognizing the potential of Koh Samui, with its pristine coast-line, magnificent beaches and generally good winds.

Another important factor was that Samui was much more accessible for fleets coming from the China Coast and the Northern Gulf, by eliminating the long route around southern Thailand and the Malay Peninsula to Phuket.  Bill thus embarked on a new venture, with a group of locally-based yachtsmen, to launch the “Tropical Island Regatta,” based at Samui.

Like the King’s Cup, Samui has been an outstanding success and continues annually, promoted through the great attraction to the beauties of Samui and the enhancement of sailing in Thailand, generally.

Then, the ‘master mariner’ shifted his attention to his own locale, as he was domiciled at the Ocean Marina, building boats and overseeing the development of the marine sector in the greater Jomtien-Pattaya area.

His knowledge of the wind and weather patterns influenced him to establish the Top of the Gulf Regatta (TOG) in 2005, knowing that sailing conditions, wind and accessibility, dictated an event for Jomtien.

Now, there is no stopping this great sailing extravaganza which includes the Coronation Cup, celebrating this year, the 62nd anniversary of HM the King’s accession to the Thai throne, on May 5, 1950.  This trophy is competed for by the Platu Class keelboat, housed at the Ocean Marina and is one of the most-fiercely contested among the 13 classes represented in the Regatta.

Also incorporated in the TOG Regatta, is another big competition among the junior sailors, with some 140 entries from all around the Kingdom and elsewhere, who will fight for the prestigious Optimist National Championship of Thailand.  A former winner of this event, Noppakao Poonpat, became the first Thai junior – and, female – to win a world championship, the Opimist Worlds, in 2009 and 2010.

Another “TOG Graduate”, Kerati Bualong, is heading for the London Olympics, after qualifying as the Asia Pacific Laser champion.

Much interest this year will also focus on the “Neil Pryde Racing Series”, bringing to the TOG, for the first time, a component of a one-design windsurfing class world tour, sponsored by Hong Kong-based New Zealander Neil Pryde, himself a legend in Asian regattas and development of yacht racing around Thai and Asian waters.

Bill Gasson has thus placed himself and the TOG in the vanguard of a huge surge in yacht racing and sailing world-wide, which recently has witnessed French sailor Loick Peyron setting a new record for an around-the-world time trial of just a few hours over 45 days, lopping a monstrous three days off the previous record.

Teenagers, too, are making incredible inroads into the advancement of sailing.  For example, Dutch teen Laura Dekker recently finished a solo one-year long circumnavigation, following Aussie girl Jessica Watson’s solo voyage.  It was noted that Jessica had the advantage of age – “experience”? – over Laura, as Jessica was over 16, a few months older than Laura, with the latter looking to enter the “Guinness Book of Records”, as the youngest to ever achieve this incredible feat.  Another teenager was not so fortunate, when her attempt ended in the middle of the Indian Ocean.

So, as we started out to show, there is no guess-work, when Bill Gasson organizes such events as the TOG.

The Regatta runs from 4 – 8 May and all the action is readily visible from the Ocean Marina, Jomtien.  More information is available in the Regatta preview on the opposite page.