Friday September 13th was the main boat racing day on the beach front at Cha-Am variety of shapes, sizes and horse power water craft were racing with teams and competitors from Hua Hin, Pattaya, Baen Saeng and other seaside destinations battling locals for the honours. This was one of the highlights of the annual Festival and great fun.
Banana boat racing was the most popular of the events. The thirty horse power motor boats were required to have four passengers aboard the banana boat rather than the three passengers towed by a lower powered craft. Ten laps starting with a frantic scramble from the beach, out to sea, then around a rectangular course was the ask. If a passenger couldn’t hang on and fell from the banana boat (frequent!) this was a major disaster with loss of time being almost impossible to make up on the field.
After qualifying rounds the final field of seven competitors took to the water. Encouragement was offered by the assembled beach front crowds and support crews. Watchful marshals on jet skis supervised safety and counted the laps completed, although there was some controversy and uncertainty in some cases. There was also good natured approval when a rival crew came to grief and although bragging rights, trophies and prize money was on offer, having fun and ‘letting your hair down’ was really the main focus of the day.
Most beach goers to Cha-Am or Hua Hin have probably taken the banana boat ride at some stage and it’s almost mandatory for visiting Thai tourists on their weekend away from Bangkok. Believe it or not, there are regulations in place and safety considerations although the pace is unlikely to be the same frenetic speeds evident during the racing day. This is an event now in its 15th year and growing as a sport every year.