History of the Phuket King's Cup Regatta

Top teams come from all over the world

Thailand's King's Cup Regatta takes place every December in Phuket and is Asia's most popular sailing event. More than a mere regatta, this week-long sporting festival celebrats its 25th anniversary in 2011 and boasts superb parties, top class sailing and bags of fun.

The Regatta began life in 1987 in order to mark His Majesty's 60th birthday. The event is organised each year by the Phuket King's Cup Regatta Organising Committee which operates under the Royal Varuna Yacht Club and in association with the Yacht Racing Association of Thailand, Royal Thai Navy and administrative Province of Phuket. 

Without doubt, the Phuket King’s Cup Regatta remains the jewel in the crown of the yachting circuit of Asia. Other notable events include the Singapore Straits Regatta, Raja Muda International Regatta and  China Sea Race. More on history.

In 1986, some of the most prestigious members of the Thai yachting fraternity came together to arrange a fitting tribute to His Majesty the King on the occasion of his 60th birthday. The group eventually decided to organise a Royal Regatta in Phuket, as one had never been held on the delightful waters of the gorgeous Andaman Coast. 

And so the very first Phuket King’s Cup Regatta took place in 1987 with Royal Varuna sailors such as Commodore Chris King, Al Chandler, Dr Rachot Kanjanavanit and Adolph Knees leading the pack. It was Phuket architect and yachting obsessive M.L. Tridosyuth Devakul who allowed the event to take place at the island's Yacht Club Hotel in Nai Harn. 

The competition commenced with catamarans, keelboats, lasers plus even a few windsurfers thrown in. In recent years, the King's Cup Regatta has developed into big boat event that attracts keelboats and ocean-ready catamaran teams from all over the world. In general, the regatta features upwards of 90 boats per year, with 2007 the record year boasting 103 vessels.

Competitors and spectators enjoy fun social events

Around two thousand sailors normally contest the event in a variety of classes. Professional-standard race management has combined with a vibrant social scene including beach parties, gourmet evenings and plenty of yachting talk.

But it is not always a case of biggest equals best at the Phuket King's Cup Regetta. Few will forget the case of Scott McCook, who sailed his small catamaran up from Singapore and then won all five races  before sailing his vessel back home again. 

And His Majesty King Bhumibhol has also had his share of glory on the waves. The talented sportsman made history on December 16, 1967, when the Monarch and his eldest daughter, Princess Ubolratana, received a gold medal from Her Majesty Queen Sirikit during the fourth SEA Games.

The King and Princess Ubolratana finished joint first in the OK Dinghy division at the National Stadium. The Thai Royal Family often went sailing during the 1960s at the Varuna Marine Club in South Pattaya, and were often joined by such esteemed visitors as UK's Prince Philip and a youthful Danish Queen Margrethe II (then a princess). 

Indeed, the International Olympic Committee recognised His Majesty the King's sporting prowes on the occasion of the inaugural Phuket King's Cup Regatta by awarding him the Insignia of the Olympic Order, and he remains the only reigning Monarch ever to receive this honour.

This year's Phuket King's Cup Regatta is the most important since 2006 when the competition celebrated its 20th anniversary as well as His Majesty’s Diamond Jubilee and 80th birthday. A candle-lit ceremony is held every year on December 5 to celebrate on His Majesty’s birthday and this year shall be no different. More on events.

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