Pongsapat Pumyam wins Thailand Optimist National Championships

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The 2013 Thailand Optimist National Championships presented by Sansiri, part of this year’s Top of The Gulf Regatta, came to a close Monday with a fitting last race grandstand finale.  Held over three days at Ocean Marina Yacht Club in Pattaya, 128 Thai and international youngsters lined up this year in what was a record fleet, with sailors from Singapore, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia and Thailand taking part.

Thirty-eight years ago, the Yacht Racing Association of Thailand (YRAT) started Junior Sailing, a programme to encourage and train young Thai sailors and send them to compete in international sailing events in 1976 and followed that in the same year with what was then called the Optimist Thailand Championship Cup.

Pongsapat Pumyam – the 2013 Thailand Optimist National Champion.Pongsapat Pumyam – the 2013 Thailand Optimist National Champion.

Known today as the Thailand Optimist National Championships, they are as competitive and as desired as ever, with many leading Thai juniors, international teams and world champions competing for the title.

The Championships are the second oldest annual sailing event in Thailand and continue to develop youth talent and introduce more Thai youngsters to the sport of sailing.  The proof of this was seen on the water over the last three days with some close racing in challenging conditions and an exceptionally high level of sailing.

Kamonchanok Klahan finished second overall and was the best placed girl in the competition.Kamonchanok Klahan finished second overall and was the best placed girl in the competition.

Going into the last race of the last day, the title was within Thai youngster Suthon Yampinid’s grasp.  Having placed in the top five throughout, it was his to lose, and lose it he did with a ninth in the penultimate race and a tenth in the final race, dropping him to third overall and missing out on second place by a single one point.

Having only sailed one race on Day 2 due to a storm followed by fickle winds, there were three races on the last day, making the series a total of seven, which proved critical to the overall positioning.

Class winners Sittisart Ponpun and Peerapol Wisaka (right) lead the double-handed monohull dinghy fleet downwind.Class winners Sittisart Ponpun and Peerapol Wisaka (right) lead the double-handed monohull dinghy fleet downwind.

Despite Pongsapat Pumyam placing 27th in the penultimate race, which he could drop from his scoresheet, the 14-year old Thai junior had been finishing high in the standings throughout.  He went on to finish the series in style with a first place in the last race to take the overall title and be crowned 2013 Thailand Optimist National Champion.

Second place went to Thai girl Kamonchanok Klahan, who was also top placed girl.  Third overall went to Suthon Yampinid.

Second for the girls was Sutida Poonpat, relative of 2010 World Optimist Champion Noppakao Poonpat, who is another future Thai sailing talent.  Third girls overall went to Praewa Kangkla.

Keerati Bualong gave a sailing masterclass in the single-handed monohull dinghy event.Keerati Bualong gave a sailing masterclass in the single-handed monohull dinghy event.

The dinghy and beach catamaran fleets, a spectacular sight and large part of what makes the TOG Regatta so special, finished their three-day series on Monday also, and after a storm and fickle winds Sunday which caused havoc amongst the fleet, things were back to normal with three races across all classes.

The strong winds on Day 2 left damage in its wake with a depleted fleet making the start line on the final day in the Formula 18 and Open Beach Multihull classes.  In Formula 18, Pom Green/ Apple, sailing the new Olympic Nacra 17, dropped their final race score (a second place) to finish with an undefeated scoresheet.  Michael Scantlebury/ David Harris placed second overall with Morten Jakobsen/ Florten Herson in third.

There were no surprises on the final day of racing in the Open Beach Multihull class – three more bullets meant Damrongsak/ Sakda Vongtim were undefeated over the eight race series, followed by Grahame Southwick/ Khaipho second overall, and Teerapong Watiboonruang/ Passuree Sompalasin third.

An uncharacteristic ninth place finish for Keerati Bualong in the last single-handed monohull dinghy class race Sunday was a mere blip on his scoresheet.  Three first place finishes on Monday saw him easily win the class with Natthawut Paenyaem in second eight points behind, and Supakon Pongwichean third.

Threatening to make the podium in the double-handed monohull dinghy class was 2010 World Optimist Champion, Noppakao Poonpat, and sailing partner Panida Suksomporn.  However a 7,3,7 list of finishes on Monday put paid to that.  The class honours went to Sittisart Ponpun/ Peerapol Wisaka with three wins on the final day.  Totsapon Mahawichean/ Chaichanamwut Deenak finished second and Malaysian team Mohd Faizal Norizan/ Ahmad Shukri Abd. Azi were third.

Note:  A comprehensive round-up of the 2013 Top of The Gulf Regatta, including results of all the other classes not mentioned here, will feature in next week’s Pattaya Mail.

(Source: Infinity Communications/ Photos by Martin Bilsborrow)