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Phanganist met with Michael Keeler to talk about his Youth Sailing project in Chaloklum which has been running for around 3 years now and the first Regatta to be held on Koh Phangan on September 23rd.
Michael, originally from the UK has been here for 5 years now after being in Brazil for 2 years. “Brazil was dangerous and I had worked here for over 4 years buying carpets from Bangkok so after Brazil it seemed a good option as it is safe.
Michael was introduced to sailing at around 6 years old by his Father. He sailed at club level, nationally and internationally in many classes of racing dinghies.
“My son was a good sailor, but a better windsurfer. So I became involved in windsurfing and became chairman of the UKBSA one of the World's leading and largest Associations. I packed it all up for 16 years turning my attentions to animal rescue in the Lake District in the UK. I returned to sailing around 5 years ago. I had always wanted to bring sailing to underprivileged kids.
Having been at the highest levels of the sport I believed it was essential to bring sailing to the poorer kids. This is what we are doing here. It is totally Free. We feel we are bringing something good and beneficial to the island”.
Michael also sat on the Royal Yachting Association and world sailing committees and was the principal race officer at over 15 World and European Championships.
What is it about Sailing that attracts you?
First it’s environmentally friendly, it’s a great way of building kid’s confidence and you find out a lot about yourself when you are sailing on your own in big waves in all conditions. It’s also a very healthy past time.
How did the Sailing on Koh Phangan begin?
When I came here it took me a while to sort out the boats, I was here 9 months before they arrived and then I was able to open it up to the children.
My partner is a headmistress from Northern Thailand and goes to all the schools with a presentation and sees the kids and parents and whoever else is interested.
It is mostly children but if people can sail they can join. We focus on the children to give them a greater outlook, there are really a lot here who don’t have the opportunity of going anywhere so it’s to try to help them. It seems here that they’re allowed to run lose and nothing else.
What other skills does Sailing give children?
It’s what you take away personally but it’s a good way of developing a lot of senses of yourself, to find a lot of who you are.
It’s a very big confidence builder, you’re sailing a long way out and if there are 2 metre waves and in you’re in a little boat it’s quite daunting. It’s character building.
The Regatta on September 23rd and 24th is the first regatta ever on Koh Phangan. There will be 6 races all together, 3 on Saturday and 3 on Sunday. They will be racing in Chaloklum bay and you can expect 25 to 30 boats out there sailing. There will also be people coming from other areas of the country such as Bangkok, Samui and further.
The event is a competition, three classes of boats where there is a 1st, 2nd and 3rd prize plus everybody who sails will get a medal and a certificate.
Are you hoping this will become a yearly thing?
Yes but at a different time of year, we want to build it into a Koh Phangan Youth Week but we have to still deal with the officials for this.
If you would like to get involved and spectate this wonderful event then there are lots of vantage points to watch from in the area. Saturday 23rd will begin at 12 Noon and Sunday at 10am.
If you know some children who would like to try Sailing then you can speak with Michael, everything is free although they accept and love donations,
“We take the kids to big regattas around the country and they don't pay a penny, we pay it all”.
Michael would like people to come down and hopes to see more Thai children come and have a go at Sailing so go and see what it’s all about on Saturday 23rd and Sunday 24th September.