Recognized throughout the eastern hemisphere as the premier sailing event of its kind, the Phuket King's Cup Regatta once again put on a spectacular display of the finest sailing talent from around the world, competing in Andaman seas to win the "must-have" racing trophy in all of Asia, from 1 to 8 December, 2012. In addition to the Regatta's gravitas in attracting sailors from 34 countries and some of the fastest racing vessels in the region, it is also an important event for the island in terms of development and commerce.
The fleet of the 2012 Phuket King's Cup Regatta comprised a broad mix of boats crewed by an international assemblage of sailors from 34 countries. In all, the fleet has grown to encompass an extraordinary 168 entries this year. Among them were 78 oceangoing racers and cruisers, 50 dinghies and 40 windsurfs. The jewel in the crown of the Asia yachting circuit, the Phuket King's Cup Regatta's reputation for world class competition draws entrants from every corner of the globe year-on-year, and its growth in diversity of racing classes is adding to its international appeal.
The Regatta enjoys a very high level of participation in its Bareboat Charter class, a class in which the boat is chartered and drive by the charterers. It is up to the skipper to crew the boat and make it race-ready. This year's Regatta attracted 23 boats in this class, with many different boat types and nationalities taking part, including the largest number of Russians taking in the Regatta, ever. In addition to monohull boats, the Regatta also featured catamarans and trimarans – fast and stable, the quickest are generally the one-design, Phuket-built, Firefly 850 Sports catamarans. The 2012 Regatta saw the reintroduction of the Platu One Design class: a 25-foot sailing yacht, popular in Asia and Europe, it is a small easy-to-handle racer with surprising power and speed, and yet not prohibitively expensive to buy. Owners of these yachts compete in several series in South East Asia, and its addition to the Phuket King's Cup as a specific class has broadened the diversity of the Regatta yet further. Other classes included Premier, Modern Classic, Classic and Cruising; perennial favourites among the worldwide sailing community, and classes that broaden the accessibility of Regatta competition to as many people as possible. Kevin Whitcraft, President of the Phuket King's Cup Regatta Organising Committee, said, "It is the belief of the Phuket King's Cup Regatta Organising Committee that the sport of sailing should be supported and developed wherever possible, and the hosting of a diverse class structure allows a great number of international teams of various sizes to take part. It creates a magnificent occasion with very close racing throughout the classes."
From the large keelboats and multihulls, the Regatta includes a number of small dinghies, including in 2012 the Optimist, the Laser and the Topper. The Optimist is a small, single-handed sailing boat usable by children up to the age of 15 – an internationally recognized one-design youth racing class. The Laser is a simple, fast and fun one-man racing boat, an Olympic class, and is sailed in waters all over the world – over 250,000 have been sold since its introduction in 1974. The newly added Topper class is an 11-foot sailing dinghy, and has been a popular training and junior racing vessel for over 30 years.
The dinghy classes have been an important part of sailing in Thailand since the late 1970s, teaching essential seafaring skills to young and grass roots sailors. It continues to play a vital role in evolving Thailand's success as a sports sailing nation, and dinghies have featured in the last four Regattas, helping to empower the progression of youth sailing. Predominantly Thai participants, 2012 welcomed international sailors to the Optimist and Topper fleets – from China and Australia.
For 2012, the Regatta welcomed the return of the Windsurfing class, providing an injection of cool to the event and growing the diversity further. The class attracted windsurfing stars from around the world, including Thailand's own Ek Boonsawad and Siriporn "Dao" Kaewduanggam, and the Ladies 2012 Olympic Gold Medallist Marina Alabau Neira from Spain. Ek recently represented Thailand at the 2012 London Olympics, while Dao won the 2010 Youth Olympics in Singapore. They competed with the best the windsurfing world has to offer, with Hong Kong and Thailand leading the standings and demonstrating their superiority in the sport.
The Phuket King's Cup Regatta 2012 also featured a Dinghy racing as part of its roster of international events. Its inclusion has played a part in the development of youth sailing in Thailand, encouraging more young sailors to take up the sport, and empowering the development of talented and aspiring skippers. The reputation of Thailand as a sailing nation continues to grow strongly with the Phuket Dinghy Series functioning as an essential proving ground for competitors wishing to progress to full-scale cruisers and racing boats. Windsurfers and dinghies competed for four days (2nd - 5th December) while keelboats and multihulls competed over five days (3rd – 8th December, with the 6th December a rest day).
Kevin Whitcraft, spoke of the role this classic race plays in the development of Thailand as a sailing nation and sailing destination: "We are very proud that the Phuket King's Cup Regatta is able to take a regional role in contributing to the growth of the Thai sailing community and the yachting industry in Thailand, reinforcing its position as one of the world's premier sailing destinations. It serves as an inspiration for new and improving Thai sailors, giving them a superb opportunity to experience international competition. From a wider perspective, it is hugely beneficial for Phuket, a part of Thailand famed for its beautiful surroundings, legendary hospitality and suitability for hosting Asia's ultimate Regatta."
The Phuket King's Cup is also famed for its series of legendary beachside parties, attracting over 1,500 partygoers who enjoy the live music, great atmosphere and food and drink provided by the Regatta's sponsors. In this respect, the Phuket King's Cup Regatta also functions as a high-quality platform for event partners looking to grow their profile nationally and engage directly in an experiential way with the sports sailing community and the general public.
One of the longest running international sporting events in Phuket, the Regatta generates a great deal of revenue for the local economy, bringing with it sports tourists with disposable income and around 40 million baht in tourism receipts, according to a survey by the organizers. It serves to the great benefit of Phuket's hotels and restaurants, which enjoy a surge of custom before, during and after Regatta Week.
Kevin Whitcraft, owner and crew member of Wan Marang and President of the King's Cup Regatta Organising Committee talks about the development of Thailand as a sailing nation, and one truly classic Regatta.
1. Who is the skipper of your boat this year?
Our skipper, Jaray Tipsuk, is a sailor who has won two silver medals in the Sea Games, and a gold in the J24 Sea Games in Singapore in 1996. When he was very young, he had a relative at the Thai Naval base and he used to go watch the kids training in Optimist boats. The then Captain Sunan invited him in and he was the best kid there. He went on to the World Championships immediately. That was around 1979. He began helming at Royal Varuna Yacht Club in the early 80's and joined the national team in 1987 – the first year of the Phuket King's Cup Regatta.
2. Is it easy or difficult to find highly competent crew members in Thailand?
We have an almost wholly Thai boat crew for the 2012 Phuket King's Cup Regatta, including a few Westerners who hold Thai citizenship. It's relatively easy, in fact, to find skilled Thai sailors. We have a lot of history of sailing here in Thailand, with most of our crew competing on and off internationally for over two decades, myself included; consequently, many of the crew have been racing together for a long time. Some of the other team members are, or were, a part of the Thai national team, of which I was a part for six years. The Royal Varuna Yacht Club has been instrumental for developing experienced Thai sailors.
3. How do you gauge the level of improvement in experienced and new Thai sailors?
It's definitely getting broader. I think the Optimist programme has been strong since the late seventies, and of course Thailand has maintained a strong reputation in sailing thanks to His Majesty the King. Many of us have over the years put in time coaching Opti's (Optimist, a small sailing dinghy) – and some of our crew have taught this for over ten years. We've got a culture and history of sailing in Thailand, so there's quite a lot of improvement already there.
4. Does having a Thai speaking crew help in terms of communication and teamwork?
We panic in Thai! Definitely when things get intense the language is occasionally in Thai because it's faster (laughs)! But we speak in English as we have an American bow-man and a couple of Kiwis on the crew, so to give them half a chance, we talk in English.
5. The Phuket Dinghy Series has been effective in the development of young Thai sailors. Do many of them go on to crew large racing boats?
Not a large percentage, actually. The biggest 'problem' in terms of the development of sailing in Thailand is that Asian kids are focused more on studies when in their teens, and so they switch their focus to school following the growth of their experience in Optimist. The Yacht Racing Association of Thailand has tried to get the sport into universities so they now have sailing programs and they recognise qualifications in their student assessment activities. My kids are former Optimist champions, but have continued to compete internationally in the 29er class. People tend to fall away from sailing for a bit due to their studies and later due to their work commitments, but some come back and many of the crew out of Ocean Marina were former Opti sailors.
6. Is sailing a prohibitively expensive sport for most people?
Yes, it can be. You would regularly see 140 Optimists and Lasers competing in domestic events; then it (sailing) becomes more expensive and the field gets a lot smaller not just in Thailand but internationally. It's possible for a group of individuals to split the cost for a small keelboat, so there are ways and means for newcomers to access the sport, at least at entry level. To get to racing class it's pretty expensive, although there are a large number of Thai owners in the Platu class, but it's not that costly as a hobby. It's reasonable, rather than affordable.
7. Please can you tell us about your boat?
The boat is from Croatia, and has been raced throughout the Med for about 18 months. It arrived the day before the Phuket King's Cup Regatta four years ago. It's very light – 4.5 tonnes and we've worked on it over the years. Downwind we are pretty fast – it's our fourth year on board so we're pretty used to it, with all the new components we installed performing well. We've had a few practice weekends which have helped us achieve strong finishing in 2012's Phuket King's Cup Regatta.
8. Please can you explain how you divide your attention between your roles?
When I'm out there on the water, I don't even think about the Phuket King's Cup Organising Committee responsibilities much; the Committee, the organisation, the structure, sponsorships and so forth. I'm just focused on being on the water and having fun, competing and challenging, pushing as hard as we can and being successful. And the jury, the organisation and structure all help me in my capacity as President of the Phuket King's Cup Regatta Organising Committee. We have an excellent PR team with Vivaldi, and the organisational teams do a great job with the course, and in providing international standard race management. And needless to say the parties are well organised as well.
9. Why do you hold the Regatta at Kata Beach?
Kata Beach Resort & Spa is a strong supporter of the Regatta, and a great host sponsor. You have to consider the number of rooms available, facilities, the award ceremony, etcetera, so Kata Beach Resort & Spa is perfect in many respects. It's located in a beautiful bay and the resort is popular with Regatta competitors.
10. Is Phuket Thailand's leading destination for sports sai l ing?
Not just for sailing, but for runners, divers, surfers, windsurfing; it's an adventure sports playground. It's such a beautiful area in which to be outdoors and living life to the full – a large reason behind why so many people come here, return here, and enjoy being here.
11. What would you say to newcomers who want to take up sailing?
It's about getting started, so follow the advice of Nike and "just do it!" Get licensed, get your basic training down, and most importantly, get time on the water. That's the key. Same as when I coach Optimist sailors; it's about experience and time spent getting out there and sailing.
When travel, excursions and repeat visits during the year are factored in, the economic contribution of the event is likely to be in the region of 300 million baht. The event is strongly supported by local authorities and Phuket Province, who work together with event organizers to make the Regatta an annual success for everyone on the Island. SAIL BY
The whole Phuket King's Cup Regatta fleet took part in an inspiring sail pass outside of Nai Harn Bay before the start of the third day of racing. Royal Thai Navy yachts lead the procession of Regatta boats from around the world, as they sailed past three Royal Thai Navy ships positioned off Nai Harn Bay. Sailors of 34 nationalities and Royal Thai Navy personnel saluted as they passed. This spectacular tribute was held in honour of His Majesty the King of Thailand's 85th birthday.
Thousands of spectators, media and members of the public also gathered on Phromthep Cape view point to watch the sail pass and gun salute, followed by a procession of the Royal Thai Navy ships, paying their respect and showing their love and support of Thailand's Monarch, himself a gold medal-winning sailor.
Following the sail pass and subsequent racing, sailors enjoyed a lavish poolside party and prize-giving ceremony at Phuket Orchid Resort & Spa hosted by Kata Group. The popular resort also held a beautiful candlelit ceremony in honour of the Regatta's Royal Patronage. FOLDING SAIL
Beautiful sunshine, blue skies and consistent winds marked the final day of the 2012 Phuket King's Cup Regatta in fitting style as teams and their boats assembled at the start line in a final bid to resolve their class contests. Some results had effectively completed yesterday, but a majority of classes were anticipated to host some thrilling final day action.
Frank Pong and his Jelik team powered home in first place in IRC Zero class, ahead of Thai team Won Ma Rang. Less than three minutes separated them at the close with the Hong Kong team eventually coming out on top after a week-long battle. His Jelik boat had raced at and won the Phuket King's Cup Regatta before, in 2007. He said, "We decided last night just to have a good clean race and keep out of trouble. Won Ma Rang crossed ahead of us, but we picked up more wind on the opposite side. It was a close race but we had a point score advantage going into the final round. I have to say, Won Ma Rang has really come forward compared to two years ago. They practice hard and have great people. We're both here every year, and I've been here four or five times with this boat. It's been four years since our last win! We've been blessed with six perfect days – even the reserve day had good wind! Deservedly, the Phuket King's Cup is itself the King of Regattas in Asia." Jaray Tipsuk, skipper of Won Ma Rang, said, "The conditions were great for racing, and it was a very enjoyable challenge. This is my 25th Regatta! So I know the race well and always expect a strong challenge. The crew will be the same next year when we return to race in next year's Phuket King's Cup Regatta. Our next race is in the Singapore Straits so we will prepare for that now."
Steve Manning's Walawala 2 team performed very strongly in the final IRC1 clash, finishing first by three minutes. However, the victory wasn't enough as David Fuller's Ichi Ban team took the overall honours by four points with Foxy Lady 6 taking the runner-up spot. In IRC2, the second Ichi Ban team lead by Matt Allen was also victorious. They finished ahead of CPO.1 Wiwat Poonpat's Royal Thai Navy 1 boat by six points. By way of consolation, Wiwat's crew won the final race today in round ten. Royal Thai Navy 2 skippered by Commander Peera Sagurtam finished the week in fourth place. In Platu One Design class, there's been an enjoyable week-long contest between Thailand's Tuay Lek and three Japanese boats. Junichi Ishikawa won today in the final race, skippering The Beaver to take the win, with Tuay Lek coming home in second. The class finished with Tuay Lek on top by just a two-point margin. This class has hosted a magnificent title fight this year, and Thailand's "home team" have come out on top.
The Premier class has also seen a great contest unveil itself over the course of the week. Pine-Pacific won the final two races, but it was Richard Dobb's Titania of Cowes that won the class, making it back-to-back Phuket King's Cup Regatta wins for the British team.
In the final Modern Classic class race, Peter Wood's Windstar team performed well for the victory, ahead of Tim Costello's Patrice III. However, Patrice III won the class by a single point. Mojo, skippered by Peter Wilcox, came first in the final Multihull class, beating nearest rival, Fantasia skippered by Andrew Stransky. The boats have been neckand- neck all week, and at the end of the final race, just a single point separated the two teams in the class with Mojo taking the overall title.
Han's Rahmann's Voodoo team have been on hot form all week, and recorded another strong victory in the final race of the Firefly 850 Sports class. There was a tenpoint gap between them and runners-up, Dyer Straits, at the end of the week.
In the Cruising class, William Lo's No Name won by a clear margin. The boat was the largest in the class and powered to victory in the last five races, making for an undisputed class win. Bareboat Charter
class saw the Agility International (Venture) team lead by Graeme Sheldon win again, but it was not quite enough to take the title from Sail Plane skippered by Kirill Sakhartsev. The Russian team have delivered a sterling performance all week, and took the class win by two points.
Jelik won the splendid permanent trophy, designed by Mom Luang Tri Devakul and graciously bestowed by HM the King, features nine silver sails rising up from a silver sea, super-imposed by the symbol of H.M the King, called the Tra Sanyalak, along with the King's initials, and the Thai nine. The Royal Crown over-arcs the total trophy, indicating the King's Royal Patronage.
The 26th Phuket King's Cup Regatta will be remembered for a week of great sailing conditions, close racing and a magnificent fleet comprising of 168 entries. Across most of the classes, point scores came down to the wire with many classes seeing three-way battles going into the final day.
Kevin Whitcraft, President of the Phuket King's Cup Regatta Organizing Committee, said, "This Phuket King's Cup has been excellent and genuinely inspiring; a lot of fun for everyone involved, partly because the weather has been so excellent for most of the week. We've seen some spectacularly close racing, in some cases down to just a few seconds after times have been adjusted for handicaps. This is part of the reason why the Phuket King's Cup Regatta is so regionally renowned. The party series has been great too, and I would like to thank all of our sponsors, partners and party hosts for their support in pulling off this superb Regatta."
Excellent tropical sailing conditions, close racing and highly enjoyable beachside parties, reinforced the Phuket King's Cup Regatta's reputation as Asia's premier sailing event. With close racing across many of the classes this year and the reintroduction of a windsurfing class, the level of quality just gets better and better with each Regatta. The 2012 Regatta has been a resounding success, and competitors will soon be thinking about preparation for next year's sure-to-belegendary Phuket King's Cup Regatta 2013: 30th November to 7th December 2013.
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