05 July 2012
Set Sail For Koh Samui
What is it about this Thai island that attracts yachting enthusiasts from around the world?
The tropical island of Koh Samui has long been known for laidback beaches, sensuous spas and some of Thailand's finest hotels. But, increasingly it's also become a great place for simply messing about in boats.
Credit for spotlighting Koh Samui's on-the-water attractions goes to the Samui International Yacht Regatta, five days of racing and seven days of partying that has become a magnet for yachties from across Asia and beyond. From humble beginnings, the 10th annual edition, to be held May 30-June 4 2011, is expected to draw some 50 yachts and hundreds of sailors.
What else is putting Samui on the international sailing and boating map?
John ``Captain Squall'' Stall, a pioneer of yachting in Thailand and an island resident for nearly 30 years, says it's about spectacular land and seascapes, including 48 uninhabited islands in the nearby Ang Thong National Marine Park (pictured top and below) and the lush mountain range of Samui itself. An around-the-island race, run during regattas when conditions permit, is gaining legendary status. General sailing conditions are fine the year around with the best from January to May.
And on-shore, there is more than enough to keep sailors happy. The island's compact 280 square kilometers (108 square miles) abound with thick jungle for elephant-back treks, cliff-clinging resorts, beachside restaurants and bars favoured by the briny set. Yes, there's nothing quite like spending hours on deck with just you and the lapping waves. But how much better it is to then weigh anchor and enjoy a first class massage followed by gourmet dining at a table by the water's edge.
For those preferring a casual rather than competitive experience, small craft can easily be booked for a day's outing and cruising holidays are offered by Sailing Koh Samui, Samui Ocean Sports and Yacht Charter and Saard's Watersport Center. An all-comers regatta is staged the last weekend of every month and sailing classes for juniors every weekend.
Samui still lags behind Thailand's no. 1 sailing destination, Phuket, but Australian expat Stall says the gap will narrow with the advent of the Samui Marina, a 111-berth facility the government plans to start building next year. ``Yachting and sailing will really get a big boost when the marina comes on stream,'' says Stall. So, if you think Samui's yachting is looking hot now, just watch this space.
By David Brandt, a writer who covers south east Asia from his Bangkok base.
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