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Top of the Gulf Regatta 2019 – day 5

by Guy Nowell, Sail-World Asia 6 May 13:15 NZST
Top of the Gulf Regatta 2019. 420. © Guy Nowell / Top of the Gulf Regatta

After the meteorological trials and tribulations of yesterday, everyone needed a break; both the competitors and the race management - and they got it. “God’s day,” said PRO Jerry Rollin. “Nothing went wrong, the wind was steady and plenty, and really all we had to do was blow horns and put up the flags.”

You know the old adage – if the last day of a regatta is good, all the rest gets forgotten. There was a slightly delayed start this morning with an AP on shore, just a half hour. The sequence started with the Multihulls at 11.30h, and the AP meant that there was no hot and sticky hanging about at the beginning of the day. Bob Garner’s crew on Bladerunner XI must have had another cup of coffee, and were well late for the start, but it really didn’t matter as they nipped round a coastal course in 2h 19m to take another win off Kirati Assakul’s Sonic by five minutes on corrected time and win the division with five wins from six races. “It’s taken us 11 years and four boats to beat Khun Nim,” said Garner at prizegiving time, “and we’ve enjoyed evry minute of it.”

IRC 1 raced just once, with Ray Roberts’ Team Hollywood scoring another bullet to keep a clean record against the only other boat in the division, Kevin Whitcraft’s THA72. Eight wins from eight starts is hard to beat. “We love racing in Thailand. The weather is great, the race management is first class, and you get off the plane to be greeted by 60 million smiles. Of course we’ll be back.” Having been pushed firmly into second place at both the Phuket King’s Cup last year and now at Top of the Gulf, Whitcraft will be wondering how to get past Roberts’ men in red.

Peter Hewson’s Fujin cruised to two more wins today to wrap up IRC 2, making it look easy. The Japanese crew on Team Spray, skippered by Hiroshi Kurokawa and with the Deputy Editor of Kazi magazine on board (is there any better way to advertise your regatta than have a magazine editor compete, and win?), ran in a first and a second to relegate Moon2hadow to second place by just two points.

The Platu class wrapped up with three windward/leeward races today, and Easy Tiger (Chris Way) was far enough ahead after two to RET the last one and go home, still leaving them 8 points clear of Rolf Heemsker’s Team Viewpoint. Over the last few years Tigers vs Viewers has become something of a local fixture, with Heemskerk taking the title last year in the last few meters of the last run to the finish of the very last race of the series. When ‘The Palace’ in Bangkok recovers from the rigours of a coronation, we rather hope that the Platu division at Top of the Gulf will once again become the Coronation Cup, but in the meantime we’ll have to let Royal Protocol run its course. “Winner of the Platu Division” somehow just doesn’t have the same ring to it.

Another change of name concerns the Thailand Optimist National Championships – which is now the Thailand Optimist Open Championship. Today the dimunutive Panwa Boonak won this for the third year running, and was overheard saying “I want to get the trophy again.” Sadly, the battered and substantially EPNS-less cup is still in the cupboard while some or other sports administrator decides the fate of Thailand’s biggest Optimist event. Bring back the Cup!

This TOG has marked the inaugural Thailand S\V14 ParaSailing Championships. The S\V14 was born out of an initiative proposed by local marine surveyor, Peter Jacops, and taken up by the celebrated design house Simonis Voogd. The first boats were built in ply, in Pattaya, and then Far East Boats (Shanghai) stepped up to the plate with an offer to build in GRP and sell at cost in order to stimulate the growth of parasailing at an affordable entry level not just in Asia but all over the world. This week’s racing series was the result, involving para sailors from Thailand, Estonia, South Africa, the Philippines, USA, and France. After 11 races over four days the seven-boat fleet was dominated by local Thai sailors Paisol Pateh and Mahseedi Hadumor. Existing para boats (Hansa, mR2.4, Skud and more) are either expensive or look very much like a kiddie paddle boat that you might hire on a lake in an amusement park. The S\V14 is designed to be a performance boat with looks. From what we have seen of it, it works. Disabled Sailing Associations and Sailability centres take note: you can put one of these on the water for just USD3,500, whereas a brand new 2.4mR can cost as much as USD20,000.

While the big boats were going at it hammer and tongs in the 10kts of breeze (and building) on offer, the various Lasers, 420s, 470s and even a brave and solitary Finn were finishing off their series’ on the adjacent race area. Top of the Gulf likes to call itself “an inclusive regatta” and certainly the combination of one and two-person dinghies, Optimists, and S\V14s helps to live up to the claim.

But wouldn’t it be nice if there were a few more big boats? This is a regatta run out of a five star marina with heaps of accommodation nearby – all grades. Ocean Marina Yacht Club is in Pattaya, an hour from Bangkok International Airport by road. The weather usually cooperates rather better than it has this week (but heck, weather is one thing that nobody can control. Not even the gods that walk on the earth: sailors). It has been noted before – this event deserves more support than it gets. Top of the Gulf started out as a big boat regatta, and the dinghies came along later. Now the small boats outnumber their bigger relations 6 to 1, and number of participating sailors is pretty similar – which presumably proves that you can count more entries when your customers are dinghy sailors even thouigh the number of participants are the same in the big boat fleet. Hmmm… bigger boats dilute entry numbers.

Congratulations to Ocean Marina Yacht Club on a concerted effort to reduce plastic usage and plastic waste. There were no straws anywhere in sight, and (oh joy!) no plastic cups. It probably helps that the Ocean Group (as in Ocean Marina) includes Ocean Glass, said to be the biggest glass producer in Thailand. Scott Finsten, OMYC Harbourmaster, said, “If Ocean glass is sufficiantly robust for sailors’ parties, it must be good enough for almost anything!” In addition, all ‘lunchboxes’ on the Media boat came in a light canvas shopping bag rather than a polystyrene box or plastic bag. That’s a five-star initiative, and greatly to be commended.

How good was the last day? PRO Jerry Rollin reported that there was a horn that ran out of gas, and that was it. SO if TOG 2020 carries on where TOG 2019 left off, a good result is guaranteed. Please mark the first week of May in your diaries.

Full Results for TOG 2019 at www.topofthegulfregatta.com

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