Kiwi windsurfer caught Thai Youth Worlds crisis

Justina Sellers competing on the RS:X in the 2007 Auckland Secondary Schools Regatta

A New Zealand windsurfer, Justina Sellers, has been caught in the Thai airport standoff with the RS:X Youth Worlds in Pattaya, Thailand, likely to be abandoned.

Sail-World has been told that most of the competitors have not arrived at the event due to start on 6 December, and organizers have asked for a week delay.but the event has been now been postponed with no alternative venue of dates being named.

A New Zealand competitor, Justina Sellers, a former NZ representative at the ISAF Youth Worlds is in Payatta waiting for the regatta to start. She has no baggage, which has been sent back to Auckland because of the airline chaos in Thailand. Two other New Zealanders due to travel to the inaugural event were not able to reach the destination and are in Auckland.

Sellers is daughter of Olympic Gold and Silver medalist, Rex Sellers, and is on the comeback after a serious shoulder injury sustained in the 2007 ISAF Youth Worlds in Weymouth, England.

She was booked to fly out of Phuket, on a Qantas flight on 15 December to compete in the Sail Melbourne regatta, however she now has few options being marooned in a venue with few competitors, a canceled regatta and no baggage.

Current estimates are that there are in excess of 150,000 tourists stuck in Thailand, with authorities reluctant to make any positive moves to alleviate the problem.

The RS:X class website reports'

'Yes, we tried everything we could think of to make this thing happen. Too many people have trained too hard for this championship for the class to give up on the event without a fight.

'The trouble is the more we worked the more we found that things were getting more and more complicated. A vicious circle, if you like. One that we could not in all conscience find a reasonable way out of. So that’s it, the 2008 RS:X Youth Worlds are postponed.

'We’ll come back to you with news about where and when this event will take place as soon as we all have got some sleep and reflected on the best thing to do.'

The closure of Bangkok Airport is well documented in the world media. The problem would seem to have shifted to Phuket, a significant sailing and regatta venue.

The www.phuketgazette.com!Phuket_Daily_News reports that there are 20,000 now stranded in Phuket, which has a normal capacity of just 1,000 passengers per day. The report reads:

'Phuket International Airport Director Wicha Nernlop is begging the anti-government People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) to end its siege of Bangkok’s two commercial airports, saying the revenue lost already dwarfs the amount lost through corruption during the Thaksin years.

'Speaking to the Gazette this afternoon, Mr Wicha said that the number of travelers stranded in Phuket has now reached 20,000.

'With no end to the closures of the two airports in Bangkok in sight, many airlines – including Thai International Airways – are trying to re-route direct, international flights to and from Phuket.

'Three airlines – KLM, Quantas and Air France – are ready to launch direct services from Phuket, he confirmed.

'However, Phuket Airport is only capable of handling about 1,000 passengers per day. Apart from having insufficient fuel supplies, a host of other operational problems limit the number of flights the single-runway airport can service, he said.

'Mr Wicha begged the PAD to reopen Suvarnabhumi Airport as soon as possible, saying the closure was tantamount to economic suicide.

'Of the 20,000 tourists now stranded in Phuket, many are staying in hotels, with their bills being paid for with financial assistance from airlines and the Ministry of Tourism and Sports in Thailand, he said.'
http://www.sail-world.com/51386