Did you know that His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand was a skilled sailor? In fact, he once sailed a dinghy single-handed across the dangerous waters of the Gulf of Thailand, and in 1967 he won a gold medal in dinghy sailing for Thailand at the 4th Southeast Asia Peninsula Games.
The King’s interest in sailing extended to making his own boats from scratch in his workshop, and he tested the finished vessels on the lake at Chitralada Palace. In 1964 he began work on his first boat, the enterprise class ‘Rajptain’, and in 1965, during a visit by the British royals to Thailand, he raced against the Duke of Edinburgh—travelling from Pattaya to Koh Larn in his homemade craft.
King Bhumibol built his first international OK-class boat, the ‘Navaruek’, in 1965 but by 1966-67 he had turned his attention to international moth-class boats, designing and constructing nimble dinghies he named ‘Mod’, ‘Super Mod’, and ‘Micro Mod’. He even registered his design for the ‘Mod’ with the patent office in Britain.
The King’s continued interest in the sport increased the popularity of sailing nationwide, and the first Phuket King’s Cup Regatta was organized in 1987. The regatta began with a mixture of keelboats, catamarans, lasers and even windsurfers, but has since grown into a big boat event, attracting keelboats and ocean-going catamaran teams from around the world. This year marks the 30th anniversary of this annual event, and will include a remembrance ceremony in honour of His Majesty.