Turkish delight for young Thai sailor

SAILING: Thai sailor Weka Bhanubandh delivered a blistering final day of fleet racing to win the individual youth category at the 2022 Arkas Optimist World Championship in Turkey on July 7.

Weka (centre) on his way to victory on the final day of sailing in Bodrum, Turkey, on July 7. Photo: Sports Association of Thailand

The sailing tournament for solo dinghies took place from June 27 to July 7 and saw 276 sailors from 61 countries compete.

Bodrum’s famous white houses provided the iconic backdrop as high winds created perfect sailing conditions that gave participants an unforgettable experience throughout the week-long competition.

Weka, 15, started the final day in sixth place behind race leaders Danyil Mykhailichenko of Ukraine in first, Sweden’s Henric Wigforss in second and James Pine of the United States in third.

However, the indifferent form of most top sailors saw the young Thai adopt the style and jump five places to finish in first place and win the gold medal with a total of 96 points from his 12 races over the course of the week-long competition.

Weka edged Pine by one point to claim the top prize, with the American taking the silver medal. Italy’s Francesco Carrieri finished third to win the bronze medal.

Also representing Thailand at the event, Chanathip Thongklam, who finished 28eNawatorn Suphaumphonwit, who finished 60ePitipoom Charoenphon, who finished 78e and Phacharapun Ongkaloy, who finished 79e.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha praised the entire team for their performance in Turkey, saying he was proud to have helped boost Thailand’s reputation on the world stage. He then thanked the coaches and associated agencies for their support and underlined that the government is always ready to help the development of young people in sport to give them the chance to achieve their goals and become the champions of tomorrow.

Turkey’s Medine Havva Tatlıcan won the women’s race, followed by Chrysoula Kanellou Kokkinaki from Greece and Joana Freitas from Brazil.

The final day’s awards ceremony took place at historic Bodrum Castle, one of Bodrum’s best-known historical landmarks.

Weka’s victory follows the excellent form he and his compatriots showed in the warm-up match at the Marco Rizzotti Trofeo in Italy from May 19-22, in which all five competing Thai sailors finished in the top five first places, for which they received the Fair Play Award of the tournament.

Weka had previously won the Thai National Optimist Championship and European Optimist Championship in 2020. Last year he won the 2021 Optimist Asian & Oceanian Championship before securing first place in the 2021 Admiral’s Youth Cup at Royal Varuna Pattaya Yacht Club.

After the victory in Pattaya, he told the Bangkok Post, “I’m really happy with my performance this year. I trained many hours and put a lot of effort into my training to get here.

“I believe that if you put enough time and effort into achieving a goal, you can achieve that goal or at least feel satisfied with your results. Now my goal is to qualify for the World Championships and eventually to reach the world podium. I’m working hard to make it all happen.

Weka’s hard work and determination certainly paid off as he achieved that goal and took his place as the winner on the podium in Bodrum on July 7th.