Samui Wining & Dining
THE SAIL OF THE YEAR
A week of competitive fun with the 12th annual Samui Regatta.


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Those of you who are here between the 25th of May and the 1st of June are in for a treat. You’ll notice a change in the air. Almost overnight the feeling around the island, the atmosphere, will have ramped up a couple of notches. There’ll be a lot more merriment. The restaurants will seem more jovial. Mind you, there won’t be anything glaringly obvious to see – nothing at all like a fly-over by the RAF’s acrobatic fighter jet team, for instance. But then what’s happening this week is rooted in a less-showy pastime. We’re on a lazy tropical island. And there just couldn’t be a better setting for the final event of the 12 stages of the Asian Yachting Grand Prix – more commonly known as the ‘Samui Regatta’.

      Hong Kong is a millionaire’s playground. Singapore doesn’t come a bad second. Even Thailand’s Phuket can boast three fully-equipped marinas. But, for lots of irritatingly different reasons, we haven’t even got one – Samui is thoroughly marina-less. And yet, every year, around about 100 sailing boats of all sizes, from ocean-going catamarans to 2-man dinghies, will quietly appear in Chaweng Bay. Over a two-or three-day period, upwards of 500 people will move into our resorts for a week. Vast amounts of food and drink will be consumed (or should that be ‘drink and food’!). Yes, in spite of the fact that all the boats will have to anchor out in the bays, the Samui Regatta attracts a full contingent every year. And there are two reasons for this.

       The first is the Asian Yachting Grand Prix (AYGP) itself. This is almost an ongoing series of competitions that take place during the greater part of the year in the seas between Hong Kong and Singapore. There’s a short break for the typhoon season before it kicks off each year in July with Phuket Race Week. And then, over the next nine months, the events move from place to place, taking in amongst others (and not in this order), Penang and Langkawi (Malaysia), The Philippines, Vietnam, Phuket again for The King’s Cup, Singapore, and Samui. Competitors are ranked on their six best performances overall. Quite often the logistics of running a racing yacht plus crew dictate that it’s financially prudent not to compete in all 12 events. But, whichever way you look at it, and whichever races have been run, the overall winner often doesn’t emerge until the final event. And this means that everyone wants to come to Samui to see how everything ends up.

          One of the interesting aspects of all of this is that many of the competitors don’t actually sail here on their boats. As mentioned, the costs of this can be enormous, and so it’s quite common for the owners, competitors and crew to fly ahead whilst their boat comes on one of the freight transporters which are specially designed for this purpose. In fact with this event now having become a fixed part of the Samui calendar, there are now companies here where competitors can charter a suitably-professional vessel. And when you add to all of this the huge influx of revenue which 500-plus people create with their accommodations and F&B spending for a week (Simon calculates in excess of 15 million baht for this alone), then the benefit to our island is a very positive one.

          Most of the competitive activity actually takes place a fair way offshore, and unless you know where to be it’s not so easy to see. The only way to really get the flavour is to book a place on one of the spectator boats, and these are readily available. Other than that, the competitors are close to land at the start and finish points, off the coast of Chaweng and Lamai. And so the high viewpoints on the rocky road between Chaweng and Lamai are a good bet. Look out for the action between 10:00 am and 4:00 pm each day.

          Keep an eye out in the southern part of Chaweng Beach in the days leading up to the weekend of 25th May, in the region of Centara Grand Beach Resort. Boats will be mooring-up several days before the required registration, with the first day of racing being the following Monday (27th). A special point of note for this year: paddleboards are making their first official appearance and Thursday is a ‘reserve’ day with the junior’s races, as well as an open paddleboard competition for those who are interested. The full program for the week can be found on the website link below, which also involves the serious business of making merry at Zico’s Brazilian Grill & Bar, Beach Republic and Tradewinds Resort, among others.

          The final event is the Gala Dinner and presentation of prizes at Centara Grand Beach resort on Saturday 1st June, where the best part of 800 people will be gathered on the great lawn. And that, as they say, brings it all to a close once again – the event which can only be called ‘the sail of the year’!

 

 Rob De Wet

 

 


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