You may well miss this. Although it would be a shame if you did. If you’re a resident then you’ll probably know. But if you’re here for just a week, then it all might sail right past – it’s not exactly a street parade that will sweep you up! On the other hand there’s a great deal going on, but you’ll need to do a bit of planning first. You’ll need to read this story for the background, then get yourself a cheap pair of binoculars! And clear your social calendar between 22nd and 27th May. The Samui Regatta is a little longer than this, but this is when the races are being held.
Despite the fact that our island doesn’t yet have a marina, the Samui Regatta is actually hugely popular, and for several reasons. Firstly it’s actually the very last event in an extensive series of races that have been going on since last July as part of the Asian Yachting Grand Prix (AYGP). The whole schedule is quite hard to unravel, unless you’re in the know, but that shouldn’t concern you. However, all over the Asia-Pacific region, between Hong Kong and Singapore, and taking in Penang and Langkawi (Malaysia), The Philippines, Vietnam, Phuket for The King’s Cup, Singapore, and finally Samui, competitors have been pitting themselves against the elements and each other for the final outcome.
And just a quick note here: there are a total of 12 possible stages in the AYGP. But not everyone takes part in all of them. In fact, the best six races are taken to qualify for an overall time. The final results and positions are worked out step-by-step. But, with Samui being the last event and also such a popular venue, almost every year it’s often all down to the last series of races on Samui before the actual winner finally emerges.
And the other reason that Samui is so popular? Well it’s simply just so laid back and easy! It’s a great place for people to get together for the last event of the season, and everyone’s more or less guaranteed to meet up with competitors and friends that they might not have seen for a while. Plus there’s the fact that the on-shore hospitality seems to keep getting better and better from one year to the next. It’s hardly surprising that everyone wants to come to Samui to see how everything works out at the end of the season.
And it’s not just the competitors, either. Each year increasingly more friends and supporters have taken time-out for a short break or a vacation to correspond with Samui’s regatta. It’s been estimated that around 20 people have already bought houses or land here, due to the event, and over 600 visitors are expected to be booking into accommodation, too. But, quite apart from the fact that Samui is so lovely, it’s just about right in the centre of the entire race arena. Bangkok Airways has direct flights from Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong and Phuket, so it only takes a couple of hours to get here from just about anywhere in the region. It’s ideal for the last and deciding event of the year – not to mention the parties that go with it!
Another interesting fact is that many of the competitors don’t actually sail here on their boats. Few owners actually take the helm themselves for this, they hire a crew. And the costs of this can be enormous, unless it’s for very short distances. Thus it’s quite common for the owners, competitors and/or crew to fly ahead, whilst their boat itself comes on one of the freight transporters which are specially designed for this purpose. In fact with this event having become a fixed part of the Samui calendar, there are now companies here where competitors can charter a suitable transporter ship. It’s all big business and overall quite a boost for Samui’s economy. One way and another an informed estimate is that 20 million baht (almost $600,000 US) is created in the week of the Samui event.
Although the Samui Regatta continues to attract increasingly more sponsors as it gets bigger year by year, thanks must to go to the stalwart of Centara Grand Beach Resort & Spa, which has faithfully lent its support to the event ever since it began back in 2002. This is where the pre-race registration takes place, together with the immigration and customs formalities. And it’s also where the final gala party is held, but on top of this there’s also the mid-week fun across the road at Zico’s Brazilian Grill & Bar, also sponsored by Centara. Thanks also have to go to the co-sponsors of the Tourist Authority of Thailand, the national ThaiBev corporation, plus several other local resorts and restaurants.
And so, there you are, kitted out with a nice new pair of binoculars and all raring to go. What next? Well, the first thing to say is that if you’re keen enough to do this, then why not go the whole hog and get right out on the water in alongside the competitors? The way to do this is to book a place on one of the spectator boats, and these are readily available. Other than that, the competitors are close to the land at the start and finish points, off the coast of Chaweng and Lamai. And so the high viewpoints on the rocky road between Chaweng and Lamai are all a good bet. Look out for the action between 10:00 am and 4:00 pm each day.
Keep an eye out in the southern part of Chaweng between the 19th and the 28th of May, Boats will be mooring-up several days before the required registration. One highlight of the opening weekend is the Children’s Regatta, in which kids from Samui, Koh Phangan, Phuket, Hua Hin and Songkla will be attending. On the 21st May the opening party is at Zicos, and there are daily prize awards, sponsored by local companies, after each day’s events, on the beach in-front of Centara. The full program for the week can be found on the website link below, together with dates and venues for the mid-week parties. Watch out for the sails ahead!
Rob De Wet