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International OK Dinghy Revival in Thailand - Sportsday Regatta

by Morten Jakobsen 17 Dec 2021 13:51 GMT 14-16 December 2021
International OK Dinghy Revival in Thailand - Sportsday Regatta start © K. Jakapong Kanwasate

For the Sportsday Regatta - in honor of HM K. Bumipol - a total of 25 OK dinghies took part, supplemented with ILCA 4.7 and Optimist dinghies.

While the OK class has in the past been extensively sailed by retirees in Thailand, and the numbers steadily declining, this time the field was much younger in average and included a three Thai Olympians: K. Veerasit/Lim (Sydney), K. Keerati/Top (London and Rio) and Ms K. Kamolwan/Bam (Rio and Tokyo). Apart from these the entries include upcoming ILCA7 talent like K. Chusit/Pop, who scored a podium finish in the Europa cup Sept 21. Apart from K. Lim, all were new to the class

Following the upturn worldwide for the International OK Dinghy (every year 2016-20 saw more new builds than any year since 1980), the revival has reached Thailand. A build program is in progress to build 10 new dinghies, and private sailors plan to build at least two more. The decision to re-start building boats in Thailand was easy given the historical significance in the country with the Thai King Bumipol (RIP) sailed OK dinghies extensively, and built several with his own hands.

Photos documenting his sailing / boat building skills were on display next to the mould for new builds, which perhaps represent the future of the class in Thailand.

The first dinghy from the new moulds participated, and gathered a lot of attention. There was also a lot of interest in numerous new sails supplied by the Danish OK sailors "Fjordens Helte" (the Thai sailors have asked the author to pass on their thanks).

Sailing took place in Sattahip Bay in typical conditions from 5-18 knots on sheltered waters and with plenty of wind shifts.

From the start, K. Lim and class stalwart Morten showed their rustiness and needed to make penalty turns after having fouled the same starboard boat. Morten did not let this setback hold him back long, and somehow converted a third at the first mark to a race win in front of K. Top and 26 year old Navy sailor K. Supakon in the new built boat.

In second race, K. Top took the win front of K. Lim after a flawless start. More remarkable was the performance of K. Pop, who managed a third somehow in medium wind with a jury rigged traveller tied off at the centreline.

In race 3, Morten finally got a decent start and converted it into a race win in front of K. Top. Remarkable was the sailing skills shown by K. Thanakan who scored a third with a classic (all wood) rig. Pundits suspects he is a ringer in the classic category, considering he has had podium finished in several Thai Nationals with a modern rig.

After sailing that day, there was a draw for an almost new Hoj Jensen sail, where K. Pop was the lucky winner.

Race 4 gave K. Pop a chance to take his (repaired and newly canvassed) dinghy to the front of the fleet, in front of K. Top while Morten had a shocker of a seventh after another poor start.

Race 5 resulted in an unremarkable win for Morten in front of K. Top, who made a good recovery by moving from fourth to second on the last run.

Race 6 is one that K. Top will want to forget; starting to windward of pincher Morten was never going to work out, and this gave a sixth and a first to the two sailors, with K. Chulapong getting into the top 3 for the first time after two fourth in the previous races.

At the end of the second day, K.Top and Morten were joint first with the latter having more first places. K. Top, K. Lim and K. Supakorn close together but a whole 9-11 points behind the leaders.

Race 7 Saw huge moves in the fleet; K.Pop was the only consistent sailor in the fleet, and did not surrender his first place around the course. K. Top showed great downwind and recovered to a second on the first run but then forgot to cover K. Lim and Morten who went against the favoured side of the course and agreed they were hugely lucky to get a 30 degree left hand shift which put them in second and third at the finish with K. Top in eighth.

Race 8. K. Pop showed his consistency with a second, and K. Top showed great downwind speed by sailing away from Morten in sixth and into first on the very last run.

Race 9 was the extremely exciting decider, with K. Top leading so he could finish after Morten and still win, as long as K. Pop was not too far ahead. However, in the extremely hard to read wind conditions, K. Pop showed his form with a secure win with both of his main competitors well back in the fleet.

Winners overall:

    1. K. Chusit (Pop)
    2. K. Keerati (Top)
    3. Morten (who has THA sailing Nationality)

50-59 years age group:

    1. Morten
    2. K. Verasit (Lim)

Over 60 age group:

    1. V. Adm Banpoat
    2. Chris Bishop (which is impressive as he is 70+...)

Classic rig

    1. K. Thanakan
    2. V. Adm Banpoat

Special mentioning: Olympian K. Bam (first female and 10th overall), and the sailors from Songkhla who travelled over 1200 km to join. It was good that another donated sail went with them on the journey south. The class also showed true spirit in helping each other to get all boats on the water even though few avoided breakages one time or other.

The future of the class in Thailand is promising, with the country having rejoined the international class association, and plan to have Thai events count for world ranking points in 2022, and to have participation in the 2022 worlds. It will also be interesting to see how the 10 MNA built boats will be utilized; they could potentially make a huge difference to the class, for example, if they were used to entice young racing sailors from around Thailand into the class.

Finally, at least two of the current/former ILCA7 top sailors were heard considering to join the class permanently after end of their Olympic careers, and the class would certainly welcome them with open arms.

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