By Peter Cummins
It all started in April, 1967, when a number of Thai nationals and westerners residing in Bangkok, answered a modest notice in the Bangkok Post, soliciting "Boating friends to form a boating club" - aiming to capitalize on the beautiful waterways off Pattaya, a delightful fishing village some 140 km south-east of the Thai boisterous capital, Bangkok.
Actually, it was some years earlier, that a bunch of Danes and Dutch, working to establish railway lines in Thailand, started sailing dinghies at the mouth of the mighty Chao Phraya River, but, these early mariners, were also aware of the magic of Pattaya, noting the name derived from Sanskrit Pa Ta Ya (meaning, roughly, the south-west wind.) But, in spite of their rail-road building, the would-be sailors, found connections to Pattaya were not convenient and, thus, the village was a long way off and difficult to access.
A luncheon which followed the announcement, however sounded like the makings of one of those tedious nationality jokes: two Swiss nationals, some Australians, an Italian or two, and of course, some Thais, amongst others, answered this invitation. What followed was in fact far from a joke; it was the opening gambit in the foundation of the Royal Varuna Yacht Club, destined to become one of Southeast Asia's - and some think, one of the World’s - foremost dinghy clubs.
As the fledgling club developed, then-Thai Monarch, King Bhumibol Adulyadej, himself a champion regional dinghy sailor, bestowed Royal Patronage on the club on April 26, 1965. The name Varuna was close to His Majesty's heart: Varuna was one of the important gods in the Hindu pantheon - "the god who knows the pathway of the wind" - rather an appropriate title for the club, one could surmise, for a Patron dedicated to the limitless expanse of the sea and the joys and freedom of sailing.
It was Dr. Rachot Kanjana-Vanit, an avid club supporter and champion dinghy sailor, himself, who traced out the geographical configuration of North 12° 55’ and East 100° 51’ on the club foreshore, stating "here will be established the Royal Varuna club-house". It has been there these past six decades, forever facing the beautiful western sunsets and thriving in the gentle warmth of the south-westerly Monsoons dancing through the open club-house all year round. The splendid new club-house now opened on the site, takes full advantage of the prevailing winds, as do the countless sailors out on the gulf.
Now, the some 500 club members, coming from the Four winds and the seven seas sail a vast array of mono and multi hulls and Optimist dinghies. Keel-boats are readily-accessible at the neighbouring Ocean Marina, some 15 km to the south. Occupying some 4.000 square meters of prime real estate, fronting the Gulf, the Club is basically a "week-end sojourn”, as the members avidly embrace the splendid location of the club-house. Facing the upper reaches of the Andaman Sea, the warm waters of the Gulf of Thailand, the gentle prevailing south-westerly Monsoons and other obvious life--enjoying benefits.
Royal Varuna thus, by its location, is a "week-end escape", mainly for Bangkok-based sailors, and is readily accessible through excellent roads from all points of the compass. It maintains a year-round racing programme, in a competitive yacht-racing ambience, acknowledged by the RYA, for senior and junior training courses and regattas, as well as a plethora of world, regional and national championships over the years. Training and coaching courses are undertaken with children from Bangkok high schools, in the guise of week-long training and sports seminars, fitting the particular school's curriculum.
Apart from the sailing, racing and training programmes. Varuna is a full-service facility, with splendid seaside accommodation, of course a fully-functions bar, both in the facilities and sea-front, a great international kitchen, obliging staff and a well-organized yacht maintenance facility.
Over the years, publicity and the informal sector have promoted Royal Varuna as a prized location for numerous world yacht-racing events. For example, some of these include Optimist Worlds, Fireball Worlds (three times), Topcat Worlds, International OK Dinghy Worlds and, most recently the Dart Worlds. It is easy to see that most of these championships planned in a European or North American winter, with sometimes temperature hovering at Celsius minus, with Thailand beckoning as a venue, averaging 25 degrees ambient temperature, and the surrounding gulf sea just as warm - YEAR ROUND.
So, at Varuna, we look forward to the coming years. The many huge problems plaguing the world- at- large in this twenty-first century, do not infringe our marine paradise, as we can set sail each day in a pollution-free environment when the limitless cares if the world-at-large, basically pass on by.
COME AND JOIN US.