Thailand crowns Laser champions at annual national sailing competition

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The Thai Laser National Championship 2016, held over the weekend of February 21–22, is being heralded a great success.  The Royal Varuna Yacht Club event in Pattaya saw sailors from across Southeast Asia set sail in a variety of competition classes, with several Thai champions crowned in the exhilarating 45-boat event.

With perfect sailing conditions and winds of 10-15 knots, 2012 Thai Olympian, Keerati Bualong took the Laser Standard prize.  An impressive challenge was put up from Thai resident and Norwegian native, Eivind Melleby who took first place in three out of eight races in the championship.  Bualong is a six-time national champion in the competition, while Melleby was once ranked second in the world in the Laser Standard class, finishing in fourth spot in the Star class at the London Olympics 2012.

Laser Radial champion Apiwat Srignam (left) is presented with the Nancy Chandler trophy by 2015 champion Kamonwan Chanyim (centre) as RVYC Rear Commodore Chris Dando looks on.

Other notable performances were given by Korean sailor Kim Sang Khu, who claimed bronze, as well as the up-and-coming sailing skills of young mariner Chusit Punjamala.

The honor of being the first proud recipient of the Nancy Chandler Laser Radial Nationals Trophy went to the winner of the Laser Radial Class, Apiwat Srignam, whose fast sailing displayed real intuition.  The award was donated in memory of renowned US artist and Thai tourist mapmaker Nancy Chandler, who taught sailing to women and children at the Royal Varuna Yacht Club several decades ago.

A group photo of the championship winners.

The competition spanned many generations too, with Thai Youth Olympian, Nichaporn Panmuean finishing second and the legendary sailing septuagenarian, Malcolm Humphreys out sailing many sailors young enough to be his grandchildren.

Alex Frefel (left) poses with the 4.7 Laser champion’s trophy next to his lovely mom.

With a few sailors bowing out due to exhaustion, former Dart world-champion Gareth Owen contended with two ripped sails, but thankfully only missed out on one race as a result, recovering in record time.  Meanwhile, Thai sailor Kamonwan Chanyim, a four-time national champion was unfortunately forced out of the competition due to food poisoning.

Alex Frefel sails to victory in the youth Laser category.

A back injury took 2015 Laser 4.7 champion, Arthit Romanyk, out of action in the youth division, leaving close competitor Alex Frefel to claim the title after battling it out with Thai National sailor Kamonchamok Klahan, with third place going to Sachakree Detthotsapol.

Royal Varuna Yacht Club is next due to host many leading international school sailors competing in the FOBISIA Sailing Invitational Championships from March 9–13.

* Photos courtesy of Ben Montgomery.