|Phuket King’s Cup celebrates 25 years|
The 25th Phuket King's Cup Regatta attracted a record fleet of vessels, including 90 keelboats and multihulls, 38 dinghies, and 19 kiteboards. This was the largest combined fleet to set sail since the prestigious event began as over 1,000 participants from 35 nations took part. The regatta started with an awe-inspiring sail pass past to honour of His Majesty the King of Thailand on his 84th birthday. Lead by Royal Thai Navy yachts, participating ships sailed past HTMS Chonburi and two further Navy vessels south of Pu Island, saluting, or standing up, to an image of His Majesty before making their way to the start line. The sail past has become a tradition in honour of the Regatta's Royal Patron, an award-wining sailor who won the gold medal at the 4th South East Asia Pennisular Games (now known as the SEA Games.)
The crews raced over five days across nine classes; IRC 0, IRC1, IRC2, Premier, Bareboat Charter, Cruising Class, Modern Classic, Firefly 850 Sports, Multihull, all challenging for their respective classification honours off of Kata Beach.
With strong representation from ASEAN and a growing number of sailors from China taking part, the diverse fleet of craft ranged from Olympic classes to kiteboards to the super-high tech "grand prix" racing boats
This year, the King's Cup welcomed the magnificent Swan 82, Chao Ren Plus One, skippered by Wang Bin, who competed with two more Swans in the Premier Class – Silandra V, captained by Riccardo Denoni, and Titania of Cowes crewed by a team from the Royal Thames Yacht Club. Frank Pong's Custom Jelik II racer, also from China, competed with regatta regulars Team Premier, FreeFire and HI FI in the IRC Zero Class. Thailand's proud sailing history was represented with a strong showing of Thai sailors and crew.
King's Cup competitors enjoy champagne sailing conditions, the beautiful Andaman Sea backdrop, a series of exciting race locations and the famous beachfront parties.These days, Class IRC Zero is as much about a technology race as it about boat speed. Crews optimize keels, rudders, sail shapes and masts between regattas, then going out and see if the changes have produced the desired results at the next regatta.
The dinghies raced over three days, from 3rd to 5th December, and the keelboats, multihulls and kiteboards raced over five days – 5th, 6th, 7th, 9th and 10th, with Thursday 8th being a reserve day.
In 2009, dinghies were re-introduced to the regatta line-up after a hiatus. This led the Organising Committee to create the Phuket Dinghy Series in 2010 – a three-event series preceding the Phuket King's Cup Regatta which has grown and there's now a dinghy class within the Phuket King's Cup Regatta fleet itself.
For the first time in the Cup's history, the organizers, together with the Kiteboard Tour Asia, introduced a Kiteboard Class. This invitation-only class for 20 kiteboarders included pros from the world tour as well as a number of regional champions, including two-time Asian Champion from Thailand, Narapichit "Yo" Pudla.
Protest and counter appeal hearings a over rounding the windward mark, went long into the night after the fourth day of racing, causing tempers to flair between Neil Pryde's Hi Fi and Hannes Waimer's Team Premier. The international jury reversed their initial decision to award Hi Fi and Freefire time and in doing so results reverted to the original posting where Team Premier held a four-point advantage going into the final day. The race committee announced early on the final morning that the racing classes would have a short windward/leeward race followed by a passage race around the islands to the SE of Phuket. A slim chance existed for Hi Fi to overtake Team Premier and win the title. Fireworks were expected at the start line and the media boats crowded in to watch the action.
The first Phuket King's Cup took place in 1987 to mark the 60th birthday of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyedej,The Northeast tradewinds returned with a vengeance and brought a great finish to the regatta with gusts in the 25-knot range. A little too much for some as Joep Kleine Staarman's X-342 Minx reported dismasting and taking on water, while Jon Wardill's Cassidy 55 Australian Maid suffered a broken boom, Sam Chan's TP52 Freefire mainsail damage, and China's Shihai Lagoon 500 Snail collided with the gate boat and several other yachts retired from the days racing.
and the regatta has been held in the first week of December ever since.
As expected the action in the IRC Zero class started from the preparatory flag. A hard luff by Neil Pryde's Hi Fi sent them head to wind at the boat end and pinned Hannes Waimer's Team Premier between them and the start boat, with no where to go. A protest was hailed and red flag unfurled. No collision but some tense moments before the horn sounded. Its not often tactician Gordon McQuire gets caught offside and a quick 360 degree turn to exonerate got Team Premier off the hook. Hi Fi went on to win the race but with Team Premier in second place, Pryde's hope of a revival was slowly slipping away. Similar starting boat action was shaping up for the second race but this time Team Premier got the upper hand and sailed away despite the calls from Hi Fi to stay up. As Team Premier held a good lead at the top mark, Hi Fi notified the race committee that they were retiring from the race which sealed the deal and Team Premier became the 2011 champion.
Scoring podium places in nine out of ten races, Japan's Yasuo Nanamori's Summit King 40 Karasu were crowned the IRC 1 champions. Coming on the back of their Japan Cup victory, the crew has been sufficiently rewarded for its efforts. Steve Manning's Sydney GTS 43 Walawala 2 and David Ross' Ker 40 KukuKERchu set a cracking pace at the front of the very competitive fleet to finish in second and third respectively. The IRC 1 Class was arguably the most competitive of all with 13 boats and sailors of 17 different nationalities and Karasu became the first-ever all-Japanese team to win their class at the Phuket King's Cup Regatta.
Thailand scored a magnificent victory in IRC 2 Class, as Chief Petty Officer First Class Wiwat Poonpat's team on "Royal Thai Navy 1" honoured His Majesty the King of Thailand with a clear class win. By winning the only race on the last day, Royal Thai Navy 1 won the IRC 2 class and with five regatta wins under their belt, they entered the record books with the most King's Cup victories. Despite a determined effort Bill Bremner's Ker 32 Foxy Lady 5 could not rattle the Navy crew and settled for second place. Enjoying the strong
This regatta is often considered the Jewel in the Crown of Asian regattas as it is the biggest and by far the best known on the International sailing scene.breeze, Arbuzov Andrey's Russian team on Ruby Tuesday surfed into third spot and relegated Peter Dyer's defending champion Team Kata Rock down to fourth overall.
From the very beginning, Richard Dobbs Swan 68 Titania of Cowes dominated the Premier Cruising Class and by winning on the final day cemented their name firmly on the trophy. Never far behind, defending champion Peter Sorenson's Beneteau F53 Baby Tonga - Team Strongbow conceded defeat and ended up in second. The biggest boat in the fleet Wang Bin's Swan 82 Chao Ren Plus One kicked up their heels in the strong breeze to claim second place on the final day, which elevated them to third overall.
Aquacraft Asia's Hanse 545 Odin, skippered by Rob Williams, rebounded with a win on the final day and took home the Cruising Class trophy on their first attempt. William Sax's Fraser 41 Astraeus and Jack Cristensen's Bavaria 49 Linda ended up tied on points, which was broken in favour of Astraeus as they won the previous day's race.
Five out of seven wins for Aussie Mike Crisp's Hanse 400e Venture gave it the Bareboat Charter Class title by a country mile. Although Oliver Heer's Beneteau 47.7 Sail Plane started with a flourish they eventually succumbed to experience and finished in second place. The battle between four Russian boats was settled when Mikhail Beloborodov's Bavaria 45 Tonicola 2 won the only race on the final day and jumped up into third overall.
Taking first on the last race saw Bo Sondergaard's S&S 47 Patrice III retain their composure to triumph in the Modern Classic Class. Peter Wood's Commanche 42 Windstar took second and despite crashing out in Race 3, Nicholas Smith's Ericson 38 Freewind climbed back into third place and relegated Kevin Gillow's S&S 30 Poco down to fourth.
Covered in a cloud of spray Roger Kingdon's Moto Inzi and Hans Rahmann's Voodoo staged the most exciting races in the one-design Firefly 850 Sports class. Coming into the final day, Moto Inzi held a one-point lead over Voodoo. Moto Inzi triumphed in the short windward/ leeward race with Voodoo close behind. This rivalry carried on into the passage race and was only settled in the last couple of miles to the finish. One surged ahead, then the other until finally Voodoo taking the inshore line got the gust first and ripped across the line. As they shared the first and second places the points' difference remained the same and Moto Inzi was victorious on this occasion. As the battle was taking shape in front of them Neil Ayre's The Frog applied the pressure from behind and secured third overall.
Stringing together seven wins out of nine races, Alan Carwardine's Stealth 12.6 Sidewinder has been unstoppable this season and won the Multihull Class title on their second attempt. Never out of the top three places David Roberts Andaman Cabriolet Davinci skippered by Mick Coleman played bridesmaid again with second place. David Liddell's defending champion Miss Saigon may have slipped of the mantle but were best of the rest with third overall.
In the Kiteboard Class, an exciting exhibition event at this year's Phuket King's Cup Regatta, France's Olivier Dansin won four out of five races in the Series to be the runaway winner. Thai star Narapichit Pudla, finished second overall with Turkehy's Salih Alexander in third.
Summing up, participants not only come for the racing but to enjoy Phuket, the wonderful Thai hospitality and the nightly prize giving parties that are second to none. Hats off the King's Cup Organizing Committee for putting on such a great show.