Lots of sailing regattas take place all over the world. All of them are different and hold their special fascination. But each one has action, excitement, desire to win and this amazing feeling of team spirit, sailing boat, wind and sea. Despite the fact that participation in a race can be really exhausting for your body, having experienced these emotions once you will seek them over and over again.
Regattas are always striking moments in yachtsman’s life and though most of them are held regularly, but still from time to time. And what should sailing addicts do between major regattas? For those lucky people who live by the sea the answer is obvious – to team up and compete with each other. That’s what the yachtsmen from Phuket did. In 1992 the expatriates from different countries established their yacht club Ao Chalong Yacht Club (ACYC) and the club Sunday regatta. Having started with 5 yachts of the first participants, today the club numbers 30 boats and 150 members. Such club races have their own charm. The participants know each other as well as their boats capabilities, local winds and weather conditions. That provides an excellent opportunity to hone skills and at the same time to have a good time racing and socializing.
There comes a Sunday morning. The skippers briefing begins at 10, but lots of club members have been sitting in the club restaurant for some time already. Breakfast by the sea and a pleasant conversation is the best start of the racing day. At one of the tables a gray-haired gentleman with glasses is drinking his coffee. This is one of the club old-timers – Bill. He is a Canadian living in Thailand for many years. His boat Austraues is heavy and not very fast, but onboard just that boat he made two round the world voyages. The yacht Wind Star is another pair of shoes. In spite of her age – she turned 45 – this is still a very fast racing boat. Her skipper, an Irishman Pete, and practically his entire crew are here too. They are talking lively and are obviously aimed to win today’s race. At a cozy table right up by the sea an enchanting young couple from France Mick and Ann are having breakfast. Their small yacht Aqua is an indispensable participant of Sunday races and our constant competitor. Our sailing school Gokova Sailing Phuket onboard Beneteau 38,5 is the only representative of Russia in the race today. We have 7 boats in the cruise flotilla, 6 yachts more in the racing flotilla and 4 catamarans in the multihull flotilla. The gong is heard – the skippers briefing begins. It is being conducted by the permanent member of the club committee responsible for races planning – an Australian Alan Carwardine. He is a designer of high-speed catamarans famous in Asia and an experienced yachtsman, the skipper and the owner of 39 ft. catamaran Hurricane that has won many prizes in numerous regattas including the prestigious Kings Cup Regatta. So, the course is clear. The participants are going along the floating pontoon to the referee’s boat or to their small inflatable dinghies that take them to the lying out yachts. The first call rings. Perhaps the most beautiful, intense and important moment of the race is when all yachts with their sails set are spinning by the start line. Four spellbinding minutes and finally — the start signal. The start time is really significant, but we haven’t been very successful today, we aren’t first.
Two boats are sailing ahead, the lead between us is increasing, but we still don’t lose hope. Very soon we will pass the island and if the wind makes it possible to use our advantage, a very large in size spinnaker, we have a fair chance of success. It looks like our day today. Away from the island we are sailing free. We are flying like a bird and watching happily the leaders’ yachts approaching. We catch up with the first one, then another boat, waive our hands greeting them and sail ahead. Everybody is happy as a child.
But it was far from the end of the race. We had to veer several times and managed to keep our advantage just partially – we came second. A little romantic white swallow Aqua was the first to cross the finish line. That’s the end of the race. All the participants gathered in the yacht club restaurant again. The crews that took the first and the second places in their flotillas are traditionally awarded with a bottle of wine. Our skipper Kirill pours it into glasses, Mick and Ann come up to us: “Cheers!”
That was a great day! And there are lots of such days ahead. Two series of races are held every year with breaks for major regattas. According to the results of the first series this year we have taken the third place – quite a good result! Nevertheless it’s not the result that brings you happiness, but the process itself. And everybody who is attracted by sailing can achieve this kind of happiness. Anyone even with no experience at all can come to the club on a race day and the organizers will try to find for him or her a place in a crew. Welcome to the world of sailing!