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Future Cup at the Royal Varuna Yacht Club

by Wesley Hsu 16 Mar 04:33 PDT

The Future Cup is my favorite event at the Royal Varuna Yacht Club, because as its name implies, it celebrates what is still to come. This is important to me, because unlike the skilled, technical-gear-wearing adults that I see at the Club, I do not know the first thing about sailing.

The most complicated watercraft I can operate is a stand-up paddleboard, on which I must kneel. Our family joined Varuna in January 2020 because our older son Darwin had excelled at Optimist sailing at his former school, and his new school lacked a sailing program.

I'd been quite intimidated at the idea of joining a Yacht Club, imagining it as a place where extremely wealthy people wore white polo shirts and drank dry Prosecco. As it turned out, the Royal Varuna Yacht Club does not contain any actual yachts, and is in fact a warm and supportive community of families who celebrate the best in life through the shared experience of sailing.

Membership entitles us to spend weekends in a resort-like atmosphere just two hours from Bangkok, where our kids can not just be out of the city, but out on the open ocean learning to convert the wind into human speed.

Is there a single greater thing you can teach an 8, 9, or 10-year old than to sail? Name me another activity that teaches geometry, mechanics, and physics while showing a small child that the mind always matters more than brute strength, and that size and gender are irrelevant to success. A sport where the playing field of wind and water mutates with every race to remind them that nature is ever-dynamic - yet enforces rules of right-of-way, sportsmanship, and marine safety. Lessons that train them to assemble complex sails and rigging, wash their own clothes, and not panic when capsizing. A lifestyle that begins with a love for the ocean, and ends with a wizard-like ability to read its secret language of waves, clouds, and currents. Add to that the Buddhist-like element of focused attention and the environmental lesson of renewable energy, and it's much more than a sport: Sailing is a way of seeing the world --without a digital screen.

The Future Cup, to me, is the best embodiment of everything I appreciate about sailing, and about Varuna. It directs our attention to the lifetime of benefits that come with membership.

Optimist sailors will grow to become Laser sailors, who will mature into the Hobie, Vision, and Dart sailors who make dazzling weekend loops around Ko Lan island. The Future, in the abstract, is where my wife Ann and I will both learn to sail as well, and finally be able to give our sons actual sailing advice instead of just making them wear more sunblock. I love the Future Cup's old-school wooden trophy with its past winners listed on the back, names of yesterday's novices who have since made it to the Thai national team, achieved global rankings, and in at least one case won the European Championship.

Former children who are now Laser-sized teenagers with Olympic ambitions. I love that the Future Cup generously occurs four times a year, and is open to all Optimist sailors except the past winners. The message is: Once you win, it's no longer about the future. It's about now. Your time is now -- go and conquer.

This past weekend Darwin won the Future Cup, with his mom watching from the Committee boat. We are delighted and grateful; it could not have happened without the dedicated coaching and community support of the Royal Varuna Yacht Club.

For one month Darwin gets to keep that unique wooden trophy in his room, and browse the engraved names of past winners who have already paved the path to his next goal: a spot on the Thai national team for the 2021 Asian and Oceanic Championships. Once it's returned to the club, the Future Cup trophy will have Darwin's name added, and winning it will become the goal of his younger brother Skye -- who placed 6th this time. It won't be easy, against the great talent and skills of Skye's competition at Varuna.

Darwin's competition for the Asian Championships slots will be even greater. But whether or not they achieve these goals is less important to us than simply knowing they will both spend the weekends of 2021 and beyond sailing in the sunlight, confident in the knots they have tied, learning to read with ever-greater fluency the invisible language of the sea.

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