‘Spirited’ competition at the Koh Samui Regatta
The boats may have kept an even keel during the just completed Koh Samui Regatta, but not many of the sailors – nor I -- can say the same.
The annual international sailing regatta, sponsored this year by Sawadee.com and held on the popular resort island in the Gulf of Thailand, is not the most high profile competition on the sailing circuit, but it certainly appears to be a favorite among yachtsmen and women around Southeast Asia and beyond.
On the weekend before the regatta, boats from all over the Asia Pacific region began to arrive, occupying the bay off Chaweng Beach, which hosted crews for a week of racing from May 31 to June 5. The practice race on Sunday began leisurely enough, a welcome pace for anybody suffering the aftereffects of the May 29 Koh Pha Ngan full moon party.
Boarding my ride for the first time I watched crew members on a neighboring vessel sip cold beer in the shade as Muddy Water’s “Hoochie coochie man” rang out from the cockpit. A sign of things to come? Well, not exactly.
Despite the island’s gentle tranquillity and the occasion’s laid-back vibe, the regatta is attended by professional and amateur sailors from as far away as Australia and New Zealand, and they are all deadly serious when it comes to racing. For five tough days, 25 boats and over 200 crewman battled it out for honors across five racing divisions.
Collisions, concussions and hangovers
There was no plain sailing in Samui as competitive yachting turned out to be hard work, made harder by late nights, early mornings, inevitable hangovers and 30 degree Celsius plus heat. Men overboard, sails under boats, collisions, mild concussions, blisters, sunburn and personality clashes all add to the spice of this ‘work hard, play hard’ sport, but all is quickly forgotten on dry land.
Every evening crews doused the day’s tribulations at an open bar on the beach. Organizers and sponsors spared no expense keeping everybody merry through the course of the week with at least three big parties: by day three it was already difficult to keep track.
I have vague recollections of a launch party at Zico’s Brazilian restaurant with transgendered calypso dancers, an official party at the exclusive and decadent Beach Republic club and a Gala Dinner at Centara Grand Beach Resort. Unofficially there were private soirees in ocean view villas and onboard cocktail parties. Some people even found time for the Regatta Golf Tournament on their day off. Others opted for 18 holes of mini golf and jugs of margarita.
Then of course there’s Samui itself, with its stunning scenery, spas and relentless nightlife. Somewhere, somehow, we found time for sailing.
Sailing is definitely a lifestyle sport, but you don’t need millions in the bank to enjoy it. Entry fees for crew members are utterly negligible given all the entitlements and privileges you receive in return.
You will have to pay in sweat and maybe a little claret too, but if you’re prepared to graft on deck and below, there’s a door that leads to a friendly welcome on the other side. If that doesn’t appeal to you, spectator boats follow the fleet daily and some of the parties are open to the public.
Check in regularly with Samuiregatta.com for details on next year's event, as well as highlight pics from this year's regatta.