PHUKET: Under cloudy skies, the 30th Phuket King’s Cup regatta got underway on Sunday (Dec 4).
This premium event in Asia is Thailand’s oldest sailing regatta. The event is held annually around Dec 5, the birthday of late King Bhumibol Adulyadej, and is organised with the help of the Thai government and navy.
The regatta was created three decades ago to honour the late king, who himself was a keen sailor. About 200 sailing boats of all types, big and small, are taking part in the 20-race regatta.
Sailing boats of all types take part in the yearly regatta. (Photo: Panu Wongcha-um)
King Bhumibol loved building sailboats and sailing. He won a gold medal for sailing at the 1967 Southeast Asian Peninsular Games. His sailing mentor, Prince Bhisadej Rajani, said King Bhumibol was a natural at the sport when he picked it up in 1963, and would sail outside of his Palace of Klai Kangwon in Hua Hin on the Gulf of Thailand.
“His Majesty was very talented and was able to perfectly control the rudder,” said the prince. “This is a gift because if one doesn’t have the experience, you will end up slowing down the boat. But His Majesty was a natural.”
This year, there are about 1,000 sailors from 20 countries taking part in the regatta.
King Bhumibol sailing with his oldest daughter Princess Ubolratana Rajakanya. (Photo: Thai Royal Household Bureau)
THE LAST KING’S CUP
Kevin Whitcraft, the president of Phuket King’s Cup, said the regatta must go on as commemorations to the late king.
“It is a sad occasion, but it is also an occasion to memorialise His Majesty and his love of sailing and his sailing skill,” said Whitcraft. “What we did see, as the organiser, is the highest number of early entries in the regatta. Clearly, sailors around the world felt that that it was important to come to this event.”
About 1,000 sailors from 20 countries are taking part this year. (Photo: Panu Wongcha-um)
For the island of Phuket, the regatta is extra special as it will be the last King’s Cup under the patronage of King Bhumibol.
“If the late Majesty can see us now, I think he will want to see that we carry on his wishes,” said Dr Chockchai Dejamornthan, the provincial governor of Phuket. “And I just want to say that the people of Phuket loved the late king so this particular King’s Cup is really important to us.”
This year's regatta will be completed on Dec 10. While the race will be held again next year, the King’s Cup is expected to be renamed as there is now a new monarch.
This year's winner will also be the last to take home the trophy designed by the late monarch.
The trophy has nine sails in honour of King Bhumibol, who was Rama IX.
The trophy awarded at the King's Cup has nine sails because the late king was known as Rama IX. (Photo: Panu Wongcha-um)
Mark Hamill Stewart, the commodore of Royal Varuna Yacht Club, which helps organise the race, said this could be the last King’s Cup held.
“What I hope and expect is that we will continue to have big sailing event here with hopefully some kind of royal approval, but we have to wait and see about that,” said Stewart.