First Pattaya International Multihull Festival a huge success

AUS289 Top Viper and winner of the White Fleet - Pattaya International Multihull Festival 2012
Judy Gardham
The First Pattaya International Multihull Festival was raced in South Pattaya last week and it was an outstanding success. 60 craft from 16 countries, as far apart as Aruba to Australia, Netherlands to New Zealand came to join a large Thai contingent, for a week of fierce, competitive racing, good camaraderie and fun-filled shore activities at the Royal Varuna Yacht Club in South Pattaya.

A high-light of the Festival was the Pattaya Mail-sponsored race day which consisted of two events: a regular windward-leeward course, set out in the bay, off the Royal Varuna Yacht Club and the 'Island Record Race' which will be an identical course each year, allowing an annual challenge to the inaugural record set this year, by the fastest beach-launched catamarans in existence.

The Pattaya Mail, voted the best English language newspaper in the region for the past 12 years, had agreed to sponsor the Pattaya Mail PC Classic Challenge, Race Day on Sunday, 5 February, as a major feature of the Multihull Festival, extending from 3 – 10 February.

This represented a welcome return by the Mail and its associated media, the Pattaya Blatt, the Chiengmai Mail and PMTV, to sponsoring the burgeoning marine-related activities along Pattaya’s Eastern Seaboard. Since 1995, the Mail has strongly supported yacht-racing, held off the Royal Varuna Yacht Club, through the then -annual Pattaya Mail PC Classic, proceeds from which were disbursed to the needy – children, elderly and disadvantaged citizens of the Eastern Seaboard.

For this special event, the Mail resurrected the original 'Map of Tasmania' trophy, to become known as the 15th Pattaya Mail PC Classic Challenge Perpetual Trophy. The inaugural trophy, for the fastest time around the long-distance race, was won by Xander and Marc Pois, sailing a super-fast Nacra F-20. 'We’ll be back next year, to sail in these superb waters – and defend our title', enthused Xander.

The group was so diverse, with such a variety of multihuls, ranging from the sophisticated Thai-built 'Viper F-16s', to the more conventional Hobie Cats, that the race management committee divided the fleets into White and Yellow Divisions, comprising 36 and 24 craft, respectively, allowing handicaps to be applied to level the playing field, somewhat.

The large Dutch team dominated the Whites, with Caroljn Brouwer, crewed by Aussie Brett Goodall (Viper F-16), taking the top honours, while perennial Hobie Cat champions Thailand brothers Damrongsak/Kitsada Vongtim from Sattahip, cleaned out the Yellow Division.

Everyone wins in this scenario: the media coverage generated by the Mail group, reached a world-wide market, with Pattaya as the focal point. Now, after a short hiatus, the Mail media group is back presenting the Pattaya-Jomtien marine environs, as a tourist, family-oriented venue.

A selection of the winners has been documented below, but there is one outright winner of the Multihull festival and that Is Pattaya’s image, with the Royal Varuna Yacht Club, playing a key role.

The wind god, Varuna, in the Hindu Parthenon of pre-Vedic times, was the supreme 'lord of the cosmos, ruler of the oceans and the winds'. For some weeks prior to International Multihuill Festival, there was virtually no wind, rain storms and dull skies. Then, as some 60 multihulls descended upon the Royal Varuna Yacht Club in South Pataya, from various parts of the world, It appeared that the god Varuna also arrived. The skies cleared, the South-westerly Monsoon blew in - and stayed for the duration of the regatta, creating perfect conditions.

Some of the more- sophisticated craft would have benefitted from stronger winds, but an overall daily average of some 15 – 20 knots, with superb race management and fair, competitive courses satisfied all.

It is little wonder that the visitors, particularly those from Northern climes, were exuberant, as the temperatures in their home countries hovered around minus 16 - 20 C.

Sponsors have also been most enthusiastic about the event which promotes Pattaya, according to some of the international contingent of experienced sailors, 'as one of the finest sailing venues in the world.' The Royal Netherlands Embassy, naturally, with so many Dutch competitors, supported their own champions, the Pattaya Mail Media Group is always, as noted above, in the vanguard of promoting our city-by-the-sea, the Sattahip-based Chilli Works building the high-tech A Class Catamarans, right here on the Eastern Seaboard , Heineken Beer, the MRI Network and Zweterleven, all supporting the regatta. Gareth Owen brought in a team of Dart 18 sailors from the Dee Sailing Club, Mersyside UK, to swell the ranks of the participants.

There was much focus on the F16 class due to the expectation by many that an F 16 will be chosen as the new Olympic class in 2016 and already top sailors with an eye on Olympic glory are pushing the limits in their quest for success.

In fact the F16 was the most competitive of all the classes racing and was the first open F16 class (sailed mainly with a mixed team (man/ woman) ever to race in Asia. F16 competitors such as Coen de Koning from Holland, a double World champion in the Formula 18 class, Carolijn Brouwer also from Holland who is a three times olympic competitor and tornado world champion, Gunnar Larsen from Holland, Jason Waterhouse, Bret Goodall from Australia and Chris Sproat from the UK also feature as top 10 finishers from previous F18 Worlds.

The 23 entries for the F18 class, mostly from Holland and Thai sailors make it the largest class in the ongoing competition, with 11 Pattaya entries and sailors of the caliber of Greg Goodall from Australia.

Very high level entries in the Dart 18 Class include Gareth Owen, a Pattaya based sailor who is a former world Dart 18 champion and lan/ Fiona Kernick, reigning world Champions from South Africa.

First-class race management was assured by a British team, led by principal race officer Neil Dunkley, with able assistance from another Neil (Whitehead) and Malcolm Humphreys out there on the race course, while yet another Neil (Semple) headed up the international jury, with much land-based activity from official scorer Chris Dando and management assistance from Norma Humphreys and, of course, the staff of Royal Varuna.

According to the principal organizer, Pattaya-based catamaran builder, John Higham, this inaugural event is to be held annually and , says John, 'will become Asia’s largest multihull regatta by next year'. The aim, apart from promoting this visually-exciting form of yacht racing, will also create a high profile of Pattaya, as a prime venue for water-based activities and marine sports for the City-by-the-sea.

Selected Results, by Class (Hobie 16, Dart 18, Nacra 16 Sq.)

Yellow Division (partial results only)
Hobie: 1. Damrongsak Kitsada Vongtim; 2. Po.1 Teerapong/Whatcharpong; 3. Alan/Fiona Kernick; 4. Gary Baguley/Araya Peampibul; 5. Chulapong /Kamolwan Chanyim; 6. Nicolette Van Gorp/Ruud Van Gisbergen.

Dart: (first three only): 1. Gareth Owen/Bobby Friefel; 2. Dick Ganseman/Diane Rokx; 3. Robbie Vogelenzang/Astrid Abendroth.

Nacra 16 Sq.: 1. Jan Holdorrf; 2. Alberto Cassio

Results by Class (Viper F-16, Nacra F-20, Nacrainfusio, Hobie Tiger, only)
Viper F-16: 1. Caroljn Brouwer/Brett Goodall; 2. Jason Waterhouse/Lisa Darmanin; 3. Adrian Fawcett/Jesse Dobie; 4. Chris Sproat/Georgina Bourke.
Nacra F-20: 1. Xander/Marc Pois; 2. Guillaume Laberenne /Jean-Richard Minardi; 3. Alex Skaria/Peter Herning.
Nacrainfusio: (first two only) 1. John Moret/Frank de Woord; 2. Remco/Marielle Remeijer .

The event was held the HM the King’s own Royal Varuna Yacht Club, situated on a beautiful property south of
Pattaya and, as the kingdom’s oldest club, has years of experience in managing big international events.

It was a green regatta, with no flotsam and jetson left in the wakes and even a daily copious free flow of Heineken Beer, had a 'green theme', being dispensed by the beautiful Heineken girls in green.

To a man, woman and child, all wanted to return again to our beloved sea-shore, especially when winter temperatures in northern climes plunge to around minus 10 c.