Throughout the pages of successive years of the Pattaya Mail and the Bangkok Post, as well as such in-flight magazines as Sawasdee, the King’s Cup Regatta perennial correspondent, Peter Cummins, has chronicled the incomparable contributions His Majesty the King of Thailand has made to the Thai sports men and women and a huge spectrum of Thai, national and international sports – especially in yacht racing.
We are, indeed, fortunate, to have His Majesty as the Regatta Royal Patron since the event was inaugurated, on 05 December, 1987, to celebrate the King’s sixtieth birthday. Now, 26 years later, for his 86th birthday, on 05 December, 2013, what started as a modest tribute to the Monarch, has now become the region’s – if not the world’s – most sought-after yachting extravaganza.
This nautical record is matched by a land-based one, the King being the only person to have lit the torch opening the quadrennial Asian Games on four occasions, last time being in Bangkok in 1998.
When His Majesty trained a magnifying glass on the torch to ignite the flame opening that Thirteenth Asiad, it was symbolic. The Monarch, an ardent supporter of all sports in the Kingdom and elsewhere was, through that simple ritual, figuratively conducting sunlight, and the blessing it brings, onto the Games.
From another viewpoint, His Majesty’s care for the environment and the natural state of the ecology as a life-support system for his subjects, is also well known. What better way to light the torch than using Nature’s own power?
And what better sport for preserving Nature’s gifts, than sailing? Nearly a half century ago, this month, in fact, the King himself stood on the winner’s podium as a Gold Medallist sailor in the Fourth South East Asian Peninsular Games (Changed in 1975 to the South East Asian Games, when Indonesia and the Philippines were admitted). On that occasion, the King came equal-first with his eldest daughter HRH Ubolratana in the OK Dinghy Section of those Games. It is a sporting record never likely to be equalled. And the King has been an inspiration to Thai athletes and the burgeoning number of sailors in the Kingdom, for almost five decades since then.
In 1987 the Regatta was a first of its kind for Phuket – a multi-disciplinary sailing event with international and Thailand-based sailors gathering for some fierce on-water competition and friendly onshore celebrations, reveling in the wonderful ambience of Thailand’s southern island province
Today, the foundations remain solid and the principles the same. The difference? Twenty-six years on, the Regatta has grown into the largest sailing event of its kind in Asia, attracting 1,000 plus participants each year , with a further 1,000 people headed by the Royal Thai Navy and the Phuket Governor, who manage, under-write and support the Regatta, to honour the King.
The Regatta, too, is special to His Majesty who, each year, through his Personal Representative (Usually Admiral Usni Pramoj), presents the magnificent permanent King’s Cup Trophy, lovingly designed by one of the event’s founders and constant supporters, M.L. Tri Devakul.
The King’s Cup competitors are all aware the King has always maintained that “all sports must be played according to the rules.” As His Majesty pointed out to those assembled at Chitralada Palace in 1988, prior to participating in an Asian Games spectacular: “Show spirit and aim for victory and friendship. If everybody does their best to win in both sports and friendship, the country will benefit,” the King added.
He urges sportsmanship above all else. “Other competitors should not be regarded as enemies, but rather as fellow competitors,” the King concluded. This is a paramount tenet of the King’s Cup – even after some long sessions in the jury room!
One of several Olympic honours was bestowed upon His Majesty in 2001, when the International Olympic Committee presented him with the IOC’s “Lalounis Cup”- the only time it was awarded to a reigning monarch.
Thailand’s sportsmen and women – particularly the burgeoning army of sailors at sites up and down the Thai coast - are, indeed, fortunate to have our own King as an ardent supporter, a leading example and, not the least, the Royal Imprimatur of Thai sports. All who regularly sail at the King’s own Club, the Royal Varuna Yacht Club in South Pattaya heartily agree and salute the Royal Patron on this auspicious occasion of His 86th birthday.
This year’s Phuket Kings Cup Regatta, will be held from 29 November to 6 December.