LATE in 1986, a gathering of some of Thailand's yachting glitterati were discussing just what you could give as a birthday present to someone who has just about everything. It was not an easy discussion. After all, finding something 'special' to honour one of the world's most revered monarchs is not a task for small minds. 'The 60th birthday of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej was coming up in 1987 and we wanted to do something special in his honour,' explained Adolf Knees, then commodore of the Royal Varuna Yacht Club in Pattaya, and one of that gathering of past and future leaders in the Thai yachting scene. 'It took a full year of planning to get the first event under way and since then it has been an ever-growing exercise.' Among those present at that initial brain-storming session were Chris King, then vice-commodore and future commodore of the Royal Varuna Yacht Club, and Senator M. L. Tridhosyuth Devakul, a past commodore of the club and chairman of the Phuket Yacht Club Hotel and Beach Resort, which remains a major supporting sponsor of the event. As the idea for the Royal Regatta took shape and grew in substance, His Majesty, himself a keen sailor, offered his patronage to the event and the Phuket King's Cup Regatta was born. 'For the first year there were 18 entries from keelboats with fleets of dinghies and lasers,' Knees recalled. 'As the regatta grew over the years the format changed to where there are now divisions for racing and cruising yachts, multi-hull yachts and beach-launch catamarans.' For the 1995 regatta, which starts on Sunday off Nai Harn Bay, there will be a fleet of 100 boats in the five keelboat and ocean multi-hull classes with entries from as far afield as New Zealand and Europe in sizes ranging from 25-80 footers. Hong Kong has always been well represented and this year will be no exception with eight territory-based yachts in the fleet and several more on charter to Hong Kong crews. For the first time this year the race management has been handed to professional interest with John McLennon from New Zealand taking the reins for the business end of the activities. 'Over the past nine years we [members the original organising group] have shared the role of president of the regatta organising committee, but for next year the event will be organised on a fully professional basis.' Next year's regatta will be particularly auspicious as it coincides with the 50th anniversary of His Majesty's ascension to the throne, and as Knees explained, the role of organising on a voluntary basis has simply become too time consuming. For this year the regatta will consist of five races, the crowning jewel being the Tag Heuer-sponsored Andaman Sea Race from Phi Phi Island to Nai Harn Bay. Since the inception of the regatta the organisers have been blessed with exceptional sponsorship support from both government and private concerns.