OK Dinghy World Championship come to Pattaya

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The Royal Varuna Yacht Club, at its splendid sea-side facilities on the Gulf of Thailand, along the Pattaya-Jomtien littoral, is about to host its latest world championship yacht-racing extravaganza.  The prestigious Singha OK Dinghy World Championship event will be sailed next week from the March 31 to April 5.

All are invited to the Royal Varuna foreshore, to enjoy the close-up action of the sailing, racing and special events planned for the week’s extravaganza.  Admission is free and there will be food and beverages at reasonable cost.

The racing will commence on Sunday, March 31, with starts, wind-permitting, at 13.00 hrs each day (two races per day), with Tuesday 02 April scheduled as a lay-day.

His Majesty the King completed a momentous crossing of the Gulf of Thailand in his OK dinghy in 1966, and later went on to win a yachting gold medal at the 1967 South East Asian Peninsular Games.His Majesty the King completed a momentous crossing of the Gulf of Thailand in his OK dinghy in 1966, and later went on to win a yachting gold medal at the 1967 South East Asian Peninsular Games.

The Royal Varuna Yacht Club, Thailand’s biggest and most active sailing association, was founded on 01 July, 1957 and has constantly and consistently promoted water sports, sailing and cruising on and along the Eastern Seaboard, as well as many venues around the Kingdom.  It has presented Pattaya-Jomtien as a family resort, to have fun and companionship at the sea-side.  Come up to Varuna during the next week and find out.

Peter Cummins displays the coveted Pattaya Mail PC Classic trophy.  Made of a rare timber sourced in Tasmania and carved by a craftsman there, it is in the shape of the small island itself.Peter Cummins displays the coveted Pattaya Mail PC Classic trophy.  Made of a rare timber sourced in Tasmania and carved by a craftsman there, it is in the shape of the small island itself.

The event will feature some 80 of this international single-handed dinghy, designed in Denmark by Knud Olsen (KO = OK) and sailed by some of the world’s best skippers, coming to our beckoning shores from some nine nations world-wide.  Australia (19), Denmark (6), Germany (16), Great Britain (11), Norway (1), New Zealand (12), Poland (4), Sweden (1) and host nation, Thailand (5).

The King: A Royal Sailor

The International OK Dinghy Association, holding the ‘Worlds’ for the first time in Thailand, has a strong affinity to the Kingdom.  This is because our own beloved King, who has built several dinghies and has been the world’s only reigning monarch to win a yachting gold medal, raced his own-built OK in December 1967, at the then South East Asian Peninsular Games, now the SEA Games.

Of course, there are other times when a father/daughter team has won a yachting gold – that was in the Rome Olympics when Paul Elvstrom and his daughter won the demanding Flying Dutchman Class.  But, in our royal family’s case, it was not just the winning of a sailing gold medal but the occasion was truly a reflection of sporting history which is most unlikely to be repeated.  The King actually came equal first with his eldest daughter, Princess Ubolratana, also sailing an OK.

It is the only time in sporting annals, that a reigning monarch and his daughter have shared a gold.  HM the Queen presented the medals at the SEAP Games awards ceremonies on 16 December, 1967.  Thus, our King and his daughter’s victory was – and always will remain – unique.

And, even before that, to add to the OK Dinghy legend(s) in Thailand, HM the King sailed his OK across the Gulf of Thailand, from Hua Hin on the west coast, to the Royal Thai Navy base in Sattahip – some 16 hours into a head wind, in April, 1966.  This was regarded, at the time, as the longest open-dinghy transit out of sight of land, in the world!  This is the stuff of legend(s)!

Expect some spectacular sailing action as the OK Dinghy World Championship comes to Pattaya’s Varuna Yacht Club from March 31 - April 5. (Photo/okdia.org)Expect some spectacular sailing action as the OK Dinghy World Championship comes to Pattaya’s Varuna Yacht Club from March 31 – April 5. (Photo/okdia.org)

As the competitors at this week’s worlds will be instantly aware, the waters of the Gulf of Thailand, the moderate south-easterlies, the ambient year-round warm climate and the ease of launching and beaching on soft sand, are incomparable.  They are some of the reasons that many sailors have chosen Thailand for their world championships.  The prestigious International Fireball Association, for example, has held three ‘Worlds’ here, with another one “in the works”.

As I scan the weather forecasts in the northern hemisphere, noting snow, storms and minus temperatures and surmise that if I had to live in one of these inhospitable climes, I, too , would load my dinghy into a container, shed my “winter woolies and wellies” and fly out to the Kingdom, basking in the sun.

Over the years, with tremendous support from the Pattaya Mail throughout the pages of successive years of this publication, and the Bangkok Post, as well as such in-flight magazines as Sawasdee, Sea Yachting and numerous other media outlets, Pattaya yachting scribe and perennial correspondent, Peter Cummins, has chronicled the incomparable contributions His Majesty the King has made to the Thai sportsmen and women and a huge spectrum of Thai, national and international sports – especially our own yacht racing.

This forthcoming Pattaya event, along with many other regattas and marine activities up and down the Kingdom amply complement the region’s greatest sailing festival, the annual Phuket King’s Cup Regatta, inaugurated, on 05 December, 1987, to celebrate the King’s sixtieth birthday.  Now, 27 years later, from what started as a modest tribute to the monarch, it has now become the region’s – if not the world’s – most sought-after yachting extravaganza.

OK dinghy’s compete in the 2011 World Championship. (Photo/okdia.org)OK dinghy’s compete in the 2011 World Championship. (Photo/okdia.org)

This nautical record established by His Majesty in 1967, is matched by a land-based one, the King being the only person to have lit the torch opening the quadrennial Asian Games on four occasions, last time being in Bangkok in 1998.

From another viewpoint, His Majesty’s care for the environment and the natural state of the ecology as a life-support system for his subjects, is also well known.

Thailand’s sportsmen and women – particularly the burgeoning army of sailors at sites up and down the Thai coast and, now at the Royal Varuna Yacht Club, are, indeed, fortunate to have our own King as an ardent supporter, a leading example and, not the least, the Royal Imprimatur of Thai sports.

All who have come to our shores for this world championship and the legions who regularly sail at the King’s own Club, the Royal Varuna Yacht Club in South Pattaya will, no doubt, heartily agree and salute Varuna Yacht Club’s Royal Patron on this auspicious occasion.

The Pattaya Mail PC Classic

The Pattaya Mail, as a celebration of its 20th year of operations this July, having recently been awarded the prestigious “Most Outstanding Newspaper in all of East Thailand” for the 15th successive year, has decided to re-invigorate the “Pattaya Mail PC Classic”

It all happened so long ago, that the 10th Royal Varuna Yacht Club Commodore (1979-1980), Peter Cummins, can barely remember when he left his native Tasmania.

First stop – and almost the last – was Pattaya, the Royal Varuna Yacht Club and a water-borne replacement for his (t)rusty Vespa, an ancient Enterprise dinghy, followed later by an up-market OK Dinghy, imported from Denmark.  This dinghy will be sailed during the worlds by one of the competitors.

Little did this now, older, though not necessarily, wiser lad – and an unsuspecting membership – know that he would become the Commodore.

It was during this tenure, simultaneously as Royal Varuna publicity officer, reporting for the “Bangkok Post”, regional and in-flight magazines and elsewhere, that Peter had the good fortune to be sent by the “Post”, to Klai Kangwol Palace in Hua Hin, to sail in a regatta with HM the King.

Several books and articles emanated from this, as well as a history of the Royal Varuna Yacht Club.

Enter the Pattaya Mail and Peter Malhotra, who observed the other Peter’s only surviving souvenir from his native Tasmania, a beautiful hand-carved map of the island and, for someone who is always thinking how to promote sailing in the Kingdom, I found the opportunity to promote the ideas through Peter Malhotra’s Pattaya Mail for, I believe, that he has been one of the greatest supporters of Pattaya City.

From that point on, it became the permanent PC Classic Trophy which will be part of the ongoing worlds.  The Pattaya Mail PC Classic will be held on the penultimate race day, 04 April, 2013.  Other generous sponsors of this one-off event are BBX Thailand, Ib Ottesen’s Jomtien Boathouse, the Bakri Cono Shipyard at the Ocean Marina, Jomtien, Norwegian Properties Group, ASAP Marine Trading, Pattaya Self Storage, and the newly-established Pattaya and East Thailand SKAL International.

With the approval of the World’s Organizing Committee and the International OK Dinghy Association, the 10 first placings on that day, will receive replicas of the trophy.  In addition, all will receive souvenir polo shirts, free happy hour drinks at Varuna’s seaside bar and a free buffet dinner – compliments of the Pattaya Mail.

Hope to see you there!