International sailors descend on Pattaya for Dart 18 World Championship

Royal Varuna Yacht Club in Pattaya will play host to the championship from Feb. 16-22.
Royal Varuna Yacht Club in Pattaya will play host to the championship from Feb. 16-22.

Preparations have been fervently underway for the prestigious International Dart 18 Catamaran World Championship, to be sailed on the waters off Royal Varuna Yacht Club in south Pattaya from February 16-22. Sailors, including several former world champions have been arriving all week from 14 nations to compete in this two-person flying machine contest.

Deputy Mayor Ronakit Ekasingh chaired a Feb. 6 safety-planning meeting with top police, Marine Department, tourism and security officials to provide full support for the event which kicks off on Saturday, Feb. 16. Races commence the next six days with the awards ceremony on Friday, Feb. 22.

The Dart 18 is a one-design 18-foot (5.5 meter) glass-fiber sailing catamaran designed to be sailed by two people and can achieve speeds of up to 20 knots. The great advantage of these boats is that they can be crewed by teams ranging from 10 to 75 years of age, both male and female. All in a spirit of friendly competition and accompanied by the Dart legendary après-sail parties, for which the class is famous.

This month’s event is the first time the annual championship has been staged in Asia (last year saw the event being held on Lake Como in Italy) and Royal Varuna Yacht Club is proud to play host to yet another major International competition.

The event format will consist of 10 races, with up to 3 races per day of 50 minutes duration. The teams with the best results posted over the length of the competition will be declared the winners. Four former world champions will feature among this year’s favourites, including the husband and wife pairings of Thierry & Christine Wibeaux from Angoulemme in France and Dave & Louise Roberts from Stokes Bay, UK. However double world champion Dan Norman from the Isle of Sheppey the UK remains the one to beat.

What of the local challenge? Two-time Asian Games catamaran gold medallists and all round expert sailor brothers Damronsak and Quesada Vongtim will be carrying Thailand’s hopes, and a podium place is a real possibility. Fiji is expected to be in the mix also, represented by Graeme ‘Fish’ Southwicke, a current world masters Hobie catamaran champion.

Gareth Owen, a locally based expat from the Wirral, UK and a former Dart world champion will team up with his sailing partner and compatriot Hebe Hemmings to form what promises to be Royal Varuna’s best hope of a medal. Although retired from top class competition and claiming to be washed up and past it, Gareth is making a one-off comeback bid for glory.

Spectacular sailing action is a staple of the annual Dart 18 World Championship.
Spectacular sailing action is a staple of the annual Dart 18 World Championship.

Other, strong contenders hail from Australia, Italy and Portugal and there are several young teams who are expected to upset the established pecking order.

With the south-west monsoon wind set fair, combined with the glorious sunny conditions, it promises to a fantastic sailing championship week. The action will be visible from Jomtien beach each day between 12 and 4 pm.

Daily result updates will feature on the Pattaya Mail website and for more information, visit website: