There are lots of international regattas around the world, and here in Asia there are many that make the claim. There's no official way to decide what is international and no official formula to decide how international a regatta is. Here we take a look at the Phuket King's Cup Regatta – arguably Asia's largest international regatta – and the ever-changing participation demographics.
The all-Thai Team Sansiri sailing Ok-La. Phuket King’s Cup 2012.
Looking at the registered participants at this years Phuket King's Cup Regatta (2012) there are 34 nationalities represented across the fleet of boats – keelboats, multihulls, dinghies and windsurfs.
Long-term supporters include Australia, UK, New Zealand and counties from the Asian region. Some of the more unexpected 'sailing countries' represented at this years Phuket King's Cup include Israel, Myanmar and Kenya.
In the keelboat and multihull classes, Russian participation has been on the rise in recent years, to the point where today they are the single biggest nationality represented at the regatta with 151 registered participants.
There are 18 all-Russian crews on-the-water this year; crews who have flown in from afar and chartered a local boat to specifically compete in the Phuket King's Cup.
While the racing is the most competitive in the region, and the Bareboat class – in which many of the Russian teams are competing – the largest class in the Regatta, the parties are an essential part of the overall regatta package.
The Phuket King's Cup is famed for its parties. They are a big part of the Regatta experience. Five days of hard racing are complemented by six nights of some of the best regatta parties you will find anywhere in the world, and while it's not just the Russians who like to party – indeed the majority of the fleet prepare themselves for a marathon week of partying – it's the Russians who are leading the way in stamina; usually the last crews standing each night.
The word is clearly out in Russia about the Phuket King's Cup.
The largest nationality for many years, Australia, is now bumped down to second place in the nationality table with 133 participants. They are followed by the event's home and host, Thailand, with 129 Thais taking part across the fleet.
Thai sailors have been competing in the Phuket King's Cup ever year since the beginning 26 years ago. They are not new to the event or sailing, however, as the Regatta develops and the dinghy classes grow – and this year with the re-introduction of windsurfing – the numbers of Thai participants is on an exponential rise. This year there are 66 Thais racing in the keelboat and multihull classes, 42 in the dinghy classes and 21 windsurfing.
The above numbers refer only to participants. Consider friends and family that come with the sailors from around the world. They stay onshore and enjoy what Phuket has to offer. Add to them the workers, the volunteers, race management and Jury, and the media, who together make up a cosmopolitan bunch that underscore the internationalization of the Phuket King's Cup Regatta.
Previous estimates suggest these non-participants equal the number of participants, making the event not only the oldest international sporting event on Phuket, but also one of the largest, most diverse international events on the Island, and a key contributor to the Island's sports tourism.