According to Robert Deaves, publicity officer of the ongoing Singha OK Dinghy World Championship, currently being sailed off the Royal Varuna Yacht Club in Pattaya, “There could never be a more perfect venue for a world championship.”
Some 80 OK dinghy sailors, coming from nine countries, entered in the world event, simply can’t believe their good fortune. The fabulous beachside club overlooking the Gulf of Thailand was the setting for last Friday night’s opening ceremony, in the blaze of a spectacular – and, typical – Pattaya sunset over Koh Larn island on the western Gulf.
Superb sailing conditions greeted the international field of sailors at the OK Dinghy World Championship, being held at Royal Varuna Yacht Club from March 31 – April 5. (Photo courtesty OKDIA)
For each day over the last week the sun has shone uninterrupted on the sailors training, acclimatizing and racing, with temperatures in the low 30s and winds rising to 16-18 knots every day. A water temperature in the mid-20s has delighted the many sailors escaping from sub-zero European temperatures. No wonder they are all smiling; rather, grinning broadly and wolfing down great drafts of Singha.
New Zealander Mike Wilde, Vice-President of OK Dinghy International Association, summed it up nicely when he began his welcome speech with, “Are we in for a treat or not?”
“So many of us regretted missing the warm sailing off Goa in 2003 that an opportune crossing of paths with Thailand’s Rut Subniran during his time on the jury at the Wellington worlds, and reflecting on the historical interest and involvement of the King of Thailand and OK Dinghy sailing in Thailand, led us to this point. For this thanks must go to Rut and Andre Blasse, President of the OK Association, for providing the impetus in getting us to what seems to me can only be described as a sailor’s Nirvana.
“You have a fabulous facility here at the Royal Varuna Yacht Club and as a class we are grateful for the opportunity to share it and for the kindness and support you have shown us thus far. No good event is complete without the support of a great sponsor. It would seem to me, and, by now, I say this with some authority, that we have in Singha an outstanding sponsor,” concluded Mike.
The championship was officially opened by Dave Littlejohn, Commodore of the Royal Varuna Yacht Club. He welcomed the fleet saying, “Sailing is a relatively small sport in Thailand but those that participate are passionate about it and this club plays a large part in encouraging sailing. The club dates back to 1957 and later received its royal charter from the HM the King of Thailand, who was a keen OK Dinghy sailor himself. Thank you all for coming and please make the most of this beautiful club.”
To the accompaniment of the melodious Royal Thai Navy Band, the flags of all nine countries competing were hoisted on the club veranda facing the racing area and then with the ringing of the club bell the regatta was declared open and the sailors enjoyed a sumptuous buffet served on the club lawn as darkness fell.
The Pattaya Mail special correspondent Peter Cummins pointed out that, “It is most appropriate that the OK Dinghy worlds comes to Thailand, for the first time, because it is almost a half century since our Thai King won a gold medal, helming his own-built OK Dinghy in the then South East Asian Peninsular Games – now the SEA Games.
“Prior to that, in April 1966, the King established another sailing record, when he helmed his OK ‘The Vega’ across the Gulf – west to east, from the palace in Hua Hin, to the Royal Thai Navy base in Dongtan Bay, Sattahip. It was recorded at the time that the 16-hour voyage was the longest transit in an open dinghy out of sight of land anywhere. The King donated the rudder of the OK as a permanent trophy competed for each year, as part of a Royal Thai Navy-sponsored regatta long-distance race sailed out of Hua Hin every July.”
The Royal Thai Navy has been happy to join with the Royal Varuna Yacht Club, as well as other associations, in promoting yacht racing, sailing and, particularly, the training of junior in optimists, both here and at the Thai Navy base in Jomtien. Several decades ago the Yacht Racing Association of Thailand (YRAT) established the junior sailing squadron, with intensive training programmes, managing and financing successive Thai teams to compete in Optimist world championships at various locations world-wide. Two world champions and several Olympic sailors have been the end-result of this dedication.
The OK Dinghy championships will continue through to Friday, April 5, with Thursday the 4th being dedicated to the 16th sailing of the Pattaya Mail PC Classic, as an integral event in the worlds.