The 2018 Top of the Gulf Regatta Presented by Ocean Marina lived up to its reputation for delivering close and competitive sailing, and this year the weather made the racing even tougher.
Over the four days of the regatta, held from April 28 to May 1, sailors experienced everything from moments of becalm to 25 knot squalls, thunder and lightning, and blue skies indicative of sailing in the tropics. And as the competitors gathered for the Ocean Marina Gala Dinner on the final night, it was smiles all around.
This year some 200 boats in 15 classes took part, with sailors coming from as far away as the UK, USA, Australia and New Zealand. The Kevin Whitcraft/ Tom Whitcraft THA72, helmed by former Optimist World Champion Noppakao Poonpat, finished the regatta with two wins on the last day of competition and five victories overall to take the IRC 1 title ahead of Ark 323, crewed by an all-Chinese team lead by Li Hongquan that provided close racing throughout.
In IRC 2 David Dimmock and crew on the Club Swan 42 Loco (USA) did the early running and despite a third place in Race 4 they won the class with one race to spare, ahead of Gary Baguley’s El Coyote (AUS) in second. A first in the final race for Barry Waugh’s Fujin (AUS) wasn’t enough to outscore Jean Rheault’s Souay1 (CAN) whose results in the second half of the series saw them slide into third place overall.
The Cruising Class boats had a little more action than expected this year, with a number of windward/leeward races replacing their “traditional” long distance series, and the sailors seemed happy with the change. The all-Japanese crew on Team Spray took the win by a single point from Pote Suyasinto’s all-Thai team on Le Vent. Two points further back was Tim McMahon’s Sail Quest Hi Jinks in third.
The one-design Platu class saw some exceptionally close racing and no boat was able to dominate. A few slips along the way in the ever-changing weather conditions saw seven out of the 11-strong fleet on the podium at least once during the regatta, and despite a sixth place in the final race, Rolf Heemskerk’s Team Viewpoint (MAS) were crowned 2018 Coronation Cup winners, defending their title in the process. Ithinai Yingsiri’s Thai team on Pine-Pacific were in the running throughout but a couple of sixth place finishes when they didn’t read the wind-shifts correctly, and a seventh in the final race hurt their scorecard and they had to settle for second overall, ahead of Chris Way’s Easy Tiger III (AUS) in third.
A fast mover in the second half of the regatta was the Royal Thai Navy team lead by Wiwat Poonpat, who surged up the standings to finish fourth Platu overall, one point off the third place finisher and one point ahead of Thai compatriot Totsapon Mahanich on Pim.
Wins in the final two races of the series saw Kirati Assakul and his crew on the Crowther 42, Sonic, defend their Ocean Multihulls title from newcomer Dominique Demachy who sailed his KL 28 Edenko well but could only correct out ahead of Sonic twice over the six race series.
In the dinghy classes, Thailand’s top Laser sailor and two-time Olympian Keerati Bualong produced a masterful showing in the 9a series. Not always leading from start to finish, having to come from behind at times and mastering the mixed bag of conditions, he finished with a clean sheet – six wins from six races.
Second and third was a much closer affair with Chusitt Punjamala putting together a string of second places in the last two days to place second overall, three points ahead of Jarunpong Meeyusamsen in third.
In Class 9b (Laser 4.7s), Saranrong Poonpat and Sophia Gail Montgomery traded places throughout the series but it was Saranrong who performed better on the final day and secured the win by a single point. Paliga Poonpat held onto third from a late charging Chanokchon Wangsuk.
The Double-Handed Monohull Dinghy Class (Class 10) saw a mix of 420s, 470s, 49ers and 49er FXs competing together on handicap. Having led from Race 1, Navee Thamsoontorn/ Nut Butmarasri (470) held on to take the title despite two third places to finish the series. Suthida Poonpat/ Narisa Satta (470) had an excellent final day with a 2,1 scoreline tying them on points with Suthon Yampinid/ Kittipoon Kumjorn (420), however, after count-back the latter paring were awarded second place.
Two races were completed for both Optimist fleets on the final day, bringing each series tally to five. A tough final day for Hong Kong hopeful Duncan Gregor in the Gold Fleet saw him finish fifth overall after holding second earlier in the series, and the top international youngster. Having had a slow start to his series, M.L. Weka Bhanubandh put in some solid performances to work his way up the standings to finish second overall and top sailor Under 12, with Patihan Vorrasart in third. The glory and title, however, went to the most consistent sailor on the course over three days, whose 4,1,1,1 scoreline ensured he defended his title, Panwa Boonak – the 2018 Thailand Optimist National Champion.
Yoth Srimanchanda comfortably won in the Silver Fleet, with Attasuk Boontawee’s two wins on the final day being enough for him to sneak into second ahead of Krithphet Suwannarai in third.
All sailors, young and old, beginner and professional, came together on the evening of May 1 for the Ocean Marina Gala Dinner where prizes were presented by Ittipol Khunpluem, Vice Minister for Tourism and Sports Thailand, and Admiral Thanee Phudpad, Vice President of the Yacht Racing Association of Thailand.