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The Bay Regatta : The party that sails around

January 31, 2012

That’s how long-time Phuket sailor Barry Kennaugh describes the The Bay Regatta and it’s an appropriate moniker. This year’s event, held from February 1-5, will see dozens of colourful spinnakers sail through some of the world’s most famous cruising grounds, enjoying spectacular scenery and partying well into the night at some of the region’s most beautiful resorts.

A channel race, this regatta takes place over four days. The regatta kicks off with a party at The Village Coconut Island, Koh Mahprao, on the evening of February 1st. It then sails north through Phang Nga Bay, stopping off at Paradise Koh Yao Boutique Resort & Spa on Koh Yao Noi for a party on the first night of racing. On the second day, sailors head to Krabi where they have a free night with no regatta party scheduled. The third day of racing sees the fleet following a course, which sees it mooring off of the Sheraton Krabi Beach Resort, site of the regatta’s third party. The final day of racing sees competitors head to Ao Chalong, where upon finishing the regatta participants will celebrate at the Ao Chalong Yacht Club (ACYC).

Forty plus yachts in five different classes (Racing, Cruising A, Cruising B, Bareboat Charter, and Multihull) will compete in this year’s event with sailors coming from as far as Canada, Australia, Russia, Germany and Switzerland not to mention those who are from the region – Singapore, Malaysia and of course Thailand.

The Regatta started life as “The Phang Nga Bay Regatta” but since it spans three provinces – Phang Nga, Krabi and Phuket – organizers felt it best to change the name to simply “The Bay Regatta” last year. Early on, the regatta was strictly held during the Chinese New Year, but again wanting more flexibility organizers made that switch last year to in and around that holiday.

This is surely the only regatta in the region founded by a photographer and friends (John Everingham, Chris Schaefer and Andy Stephens). Everingham, a long-time Phuket King’s Cup Regatta committee member, was motivated in part by frustration at the annual struggle over setting that regatta’s courses. On the one hand, he wanted to shoot the fleet of sails contrasted against the dramatic scenery. The hard-core sailors, on the other hand, wanted their boats as far away from land as possible to avoid fickle winds. Dramatic photos would attract more sponsors, argued the photographer; but the sailors always won. So the stymied lensman rounded up some like-minded friends and established a regatta designed to sail among the dramatic limestone island towers and mainland forests of the waters off Phuket’s east coast.

Nowadays, the regatta is organized by the Ao Chalong Yacht Club, whose Commodore Grenville Fordham founded the spectacularly successful Six Senses Phuket Raceweek. Grenville and crew are assisted by Andy Dowden, who co-founded PIMEX, the annual Phuket Boat Show with Grenville and the racing will be overseen by PRO Simon James, one of the best race officials in the region.

Part of this regatta’s special flavour comes from the need to sleep on one’s yacht, since the fleet moves to a different anchorage each day. But most serious racing yachts, to save on weight, have neither accommodation nor most other luxuries on board. Some dedicated racers nevertheless want to join a lifestyle regatta such as this one, and their crews often have to rough it with blankets on deck and forage for breakfast and lunch from cardboard boxes and ice coolers. The experience leaves memories of more than just spectacular scenery. The heavier, slower boats might get thoroughly trounced by the speedsters during the day. Come evening, however, when the comforts of home can be drawn up from the bellies of the heavyweights, the laughter of the cruising and classic boat crews rolls across the anchorage like a kind of revenge.

Since its inception in 1998, this regatta has been billed as the “fun” regatta. Nothing’s changed; it just keeps getting better.
And this is in great part due to sponsors supporting the event. The people behind DaVinci Restaurant & V Lounge, the Italian restaurant, who have supported yachting for several years now, have now entered the yachting business. DaVinci Yacht Charters comes on board as Co-Sponsor this year. One of Asia’s top racing sailors, Neil Pryde, comes in as a supplier with his company of the same name. The Regatta also welcomes Thai Sri Insurance, a well-known company that is now making its entrance into the marine market.

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