His Majesty Changed Thais’ outlook on Sailing
On April 29, 1966, His Majesty sailed his single-handed OK Dinghy named Weka, which had a length of 13 feet, from Klai Kangwon Summer Palace in Hua Hin, Prachuap Khiri Khan, travelling 60 nautical miles before arriving on the Toey Ngam Beach in Sattahip, Chon Buri. The journey across the Gulf of Thailand took an amazing 17 hours.
Then, in 1967, His Majesty the King and his eldest daughter Princess Ubolratana Rajakanya, aged 16 then, shared the gold medal in the OK Dinghy class of the sailing competition in the fourth South East Asian Peninsular Games (presently the SEA Games), hosted by Thailand.
In fact, in recognition of HM the King’s enormous contribution to the development of sports, generally, and his prowess as an Enterprise and OK sailor, specifically, the International Olympic Committee presented the prestigious “Insignia of the Olympic Order” to His Majesty in 1987.
Although other monarchs – the King of Malaysia and King Olav of Norway – have been awarded the Olympic “Medal of Honour”, His Majesty is the only reigning monarch to receive such an award.
Among his countless other talents, His Majesty is a skilled carpenter, having learned carpentry as a schoolboy in Switzerland. He has built a number of dinghies, converting a small backroom at Royal Chitrlada Palace into his “boatyard”. He even used the pond in the middle of the Palace grounds for launching and for “shake-down” cruises.
At that time, people who had access to sailing were mostly officers in the Royal Thai Navy because of the steep costs. The playgrounds for sailing, therefore, were around the naval base at Sattahip Bay, Chon Buri.
Not long after that, in order to turn sailing into a more exciting activity, local regattas were organised in the country. They gradually became international, with an increasing number of participants from several countries each year.
It was good news, indeed, for the yachting fraternity when, in 1987, His Majesty was once again at the helm of his OK Dinghy, leading his own Royal Chitrlada Yacht Squadron in a regatta against the Royal Thai Navy, beating them soundly.
This regatta bodes well for the future of yacht racing in Thailand and the Phuket King’s Cup Regatta in particular.
The Phuket King’s Cup Regatta was first held in 1987 in Phuket. In 1986, a group of Thailand’s yachting fraternity gathered to discuss what they could do as a special tribute to His Majesty on the occasion of his Diamond Jubilee birthday the following year on December 5.
After considerable discussion, it was decided unanimously to organise a royal sailing competition in Phuket, the first ever held in the sparkling waters of the Andaman Sea.
The inaugural Phuket King’s Cup Regatta was held in 1987 by Royal Varuna sailors including Commodore Chris King, Dr Rachot Kanjanavanit, Al Chandler, Adolph Knees and others.
It was yachting and Phuket aficionado ML Tridosyuth Devakul, better known as renowned architect and developer Mom Tri, who placed the resources of his then recently opened Phuket Yacht Club Hotel at Nai Harn Bay in Phuket at the regatta organisers’ disposal.
The regatta began with a mixture of keelboats, catamarans, lasers and even windsurfers. More recently the regatta has become a big boat event, attracting keelboats and ocean-going catamaran teams from around the world.
His Majesty has graciously donated the King’s Cup Trophy and is the Royal Patron of the Phuket King’s Cup Regatta.
The Yacht Racing Association of Thailand, which was established in 1964, was on March 31, 1987, taken under His Majesty’s Royal Patronage.