The Bay Regatta - Thailand 2011
Entering four yachts in a regatta on the other side of the world, in an expedition organised by club volunteers, is pretty ambitious stuff. In
the depths of yet another gloomy winter, 26 LCSC members struggled to find a reason not to sign up.
Picking up the charter boats in Phuket was a bit like a Top Gear challenge - the boats were of varying age and design, and all four had issues of one
sort or another. In our case, it was the sails: a tiny self-tacking jib - not great for the light winds experienced through most of the regatta. The
charterer had also provided us with the wrong spinnaker which, we realised on the first hoist to the top of the mast, was for a far smaller boat. Like
a girl's skirt with an indecently short hemline, you couldn't help thinking that it really should come down a bit further.
Still, these minor drawbacks did little to diminish the sheer pleasure of sailing in T-shirt and shorts conditions, throughout. The playground
for our week of sailing was the stunning Phang Nga Bay between the island of Phuket and the Thai peninsular, which featured in the Bond film, The
Man with the Golden Gun.
Far away from any marinas, each night we anchored in bays with names like 'Paradise' on the island of Ko Yao Noi, and 'Coconut Village' on Ko
Maphrao, where the sponsors laid on lavish parties with endless food, booze, and bands. For breakfast we had fresh tropical fruit on board whilst
watching ospreys swoop for fish around us.
Getting ashore was generally by local 'longtails', which were laid on by the regatta organisers. These are heavy wooden local fishing boats with
a high prow. As a crazy alternative to a traditional outboard engine set up, a long prop shaft runs out horizontally behind the boat (hence the name)
and is counterbalanced by a big and noisy uncovered engine. This means the driver has to shift the entire engine to steer the boat -
ridiculous. Looking back, probably the greatest challenge of the entire trip was communication with the longtail owners, and embarkation and
debarkation from these things.
One night we returned from the party to find that another boat - its crew from the Thai Navy nowhere to be seen - had dragged its anchor and was
fouling ours, causing us both to drift. But somehow these things aren't such a big deal to sort out when the temperature is still in the high 20s even
in the small hours.
The racing itself was an amazing show case for tourism in the area. Rather than using boring old buoys as race marks, the courses took us round the
most breathtaking rock formations and islands.
As every sailor knows, in light winds it's vital that the crew remain very still. Also, as a means to minimise windage, it's a good idea to adopt
a horizontal stance on the deck - these are tactics that were followed religiously by my crew. Only a cynic would suggest this had more to do with
optimising sun tans than optimising boat speed.
So how did we do? Well three of the four club boats managed a podium finish on at least one day, and were awarded some very original trophies to
show for it! The greatest praise, however, must go to Steve G-E and his crew, whose constant focus outclassed the rest of us and was rewarded by second
place in class overall. Somewhat tactlessly, our boat beat Steve on the final day's race, gaining third overall and pushing the boat sailed by the
organisers out of the overall winnings altogether.
Together with a few days' hard-earned relaxation at Patong Beach after the regatta, this was a truly great holiday. An enormous thanks to Val Robbins
who had the foresight and perseverance to arrange such an ambitious trip.
Words : James Alsop
Photos : Val Robbins
Copyright © London Corinthian Sailing Club, 2011