|Max Ranchi’s imagery lights up the King’s Cup|
Recognized throughout the eastern hemisphere as the premier sailing event of its kind, the Phuket King's Cup Regatta hosted a week of incredibly close racing in the beautiful Andaman Sea off the cost of southern Thailand from 1 – 6 December. The 27th annual regatta saw a new Bareboat Charter division established to eliminate disparities between professional and amateur teams in the class, making for a very open racing division. The event attracted over 100 vessels comprising full-scale racers, International Grand Prix racing boats, racing catamarans and a vast fleet of diverse sailing, cruising and racing craft, all competing for Asia's most coveted prize in competitive sailing.
The opening ceremony took place at the Kata Beach Resort & Spa; racing between keelboats and multihulls was hosted over five days (2 – 6 December – there was no lay day this year) while racing in the Dinghy class was held from 1 to 4 December. Windsurfs were held for the second year between 5-6 December, while the sail pass to celebrate His Majesty the King's birthday was held on 5 December and the Royal Awards Ceremony took place on 6 December 2013. The five days of highly-charged racing was complemented by six fantastic beachside parties hosted by some of Phuket's most recognizable names in hospitality including the host venue Kata Beach Resort & Spa, with close to 2,000 guests attending nightly.
In the Grand Prix IRC Zero class, a 6-way contest between representative vessels from Hong Kong, Australia and Thailand did battle during the course of the week. Ten super-fast craft competed in the IRC1 class, headed by familiar leaders Foxy Lady 6. Rivals included EFG Bank Mandrake, while Royal Malaysian Navy entry, Utarid, provided plenty of competition.
IRC2, a class which featured several Russian entries, all racing popular larger variants of the Beneteau First saw close racing between the aforementioned Eastern European entries versus two Australian and one Japanese boat.
Ross Chisholm, Race Officer of the Phuket King's Cup Regatta, spoke of the increasing number of classes this year, and the new class structure: "We've made the decision to replace existing regulations this year in areas such as crew weight, so that they are more aligned with IRC regulations. This results in certain boats moving up or down classes; it's interesting as some boats want to race in lower classes to stand a better chance of winning, while others seek to compete at higher levels."
The Sunsail Charter division was a class introduced by boat charterer Sunsail, with Thai-crewed Pine Pacific back to defend its title in the Premier Class. Sports Boats, a divisional contest between designs which share an identical robust and fast "Platu" hull saw close racing between several Japanese competitors. The Bareboat Charter class had 19 entries and was the largest class competing. The Firefly 850 Sports class, a division which hosts a single-type sports catamaran, featured two particularly fast teams among its six entries; Roger Kingdon's Motor Inzi team, and Hans Rahmann's Voodoo team.
The new class structures resulted in some spectacularly close racing, with vessels of all sizes jousting with each other in newly reclassified groupings. The Phuket King's Cup Regatta Organizing Committee is constantly seeking ways to maximize the thrills of close-quarters racing and tight-points finishes come the final day of racing, and this year saw some of the closest finishes yet.THE FINISH LINE
The final day of racing in this year's Phuket King's Cup Regatta posed the challenge of very light conditions, making every skipper's decision and change of tack a crucial at the close of this legendary race.
Ray Roberts and OneSails Racing turned in strong and consistent performances throughout the Regatta, but it was rival IRC0 class Australian boat "Oi!" and her crew, which saved their best runs until the last; Ahern Bailey Wilmer's team took two first places on the final day – an incredible finale and so typical of the King's Cup. The result at the finish was Ray Robert's crew winning competition. the class by a single point; their second and third place finishes on the final day were enough to see them emerge as overall winners following good tactical decisions.
Ray Roberts, OneSails Racing' skipper, spoke of his delight: "It's great to be back here and winning our fourth King's Cup. It was very light wind today with one squall, and so we focused on calm decisions and consistency; the weather contributed to a good, fair race, one in which you could not relax, and I would like to express my thanks to the Race Committee who did a terrific job managing it in changing conditions all week. Some of the winning gaps have come down to just four seconds or so – very challenging. Technology is changing in sailing all the time and we came up with a cutting-edge sail design at OneSails, and that was our key to success."
IRC1 class saw Bill Bremner's Foxy Lady VI team finally defeated for the win in race ten, where a boat from Singapore, Windsikher, came in first place; but not until the class leaders had recorded another win in race nine. Foxy Lady made the class look like a cakewalk, but in reality their victory was a result of strong team discipline and great decision-making throughout the King's Cup.
Bill Bremner, Foxy Lady VI's skipper, talked about their King's Cup win: "Today was a real challenge because we had 100- degree wind shifts which were difficult to read; a great course though, with knocks and lifts to ride all the way up the course, and then squalls on the way back with gusts of 20 knots before dropping again – it was like a vacuum – classic Phuket! A dream come true, and a long time coming."
Steve McConaghy, Foxy Lady VI's tactician, added, "We've sailed together a few times in the last five years, and won our first Samui (Regatta) together. I signed on with Bill this year and we've been undefeated since. The King's Cup is the hardest regatta in Asia; we feel fantastic."
In IRC2, Yasuo Nanamori and the Japanese team Karasu powered through to two more wins on the final day, obliterating all competitors in their class. Their performances were extraordinarily consistent all week, and it is consistency that wins regattas.
The IRC3 class played host to a dogfight between Anthony Root's Red Kite II racer from Hong Kong and Matt Allen's Ichi Ban. Allen skippered his crew to win the first of today's two races, but Red Kite came back in the second race to beat their rivals into second. This toothand- nail class battling is something for which the King's Cup is renowned. Red Kite II emerged as victors in the class, with Ichi Ban in second, leaving their title challenge just a little too late this year.
In the Premier class, Pine-Pacific dominated their class all week, and took two more victories on the final day. The team was in a "class of its own" all week, and finished well ahead of its nearest rival Silandra V.
The class-leading IPPAI team in Sports Boats could only manage two second-place finishes on the last day, creating a nervy ending for this small class of racers. However, their points score throughout the week gave them a clear lead at the finish, and the final day's two runner-up spots were more than enough to power them home.
In the Sunsail Charter class, Rambutan skippered by Petr Kochnev and Sail Experts was overall class champion ahead of Team Nord. Despite a slow finish in the final race, they were consistently the quickest team over the week.
Venture, skippered by David Boekemann, took the Bareboat Charter class fairly easily with a successful finish again on the final day and a wide margin between themselves and any competitor.
In the Open Charter class, Nikiforov Eugeny's Sarawadee crew had an excellent day, recording two wins on day five. It was enough for them to seal the class standings and put them top above rivals Little Eva.
In the Firefly 850 Sports class, a very exciting series, John Newnham's Twin Sharks Team claimed another victory in race nine, while the final race went to BlueNoze, another British team. Twin Sharks' main rivals, Voodoo, were runners up in the final standings.
In Multihull Racing class, Asia Catamarans Hurricane overpowered allcomers to dominate the class, winning eight out of 10 races, and ending with an exceptional points score. Their nearest rivals, Da Vinci, performed well all week but lacked the pace of the Hurricane.
Of the Multihull Cruisers, it was Japanese entrant Minnie that outscored Russian rival Ariana. Norikazu Arai's crew won four of five ahead of their rivals, striving to deliver consistency in each race, and ultimately being rewarded with the class trophy.
For the Modern Classics, Jim "Yee Haw" Ellis and his Remington team were uncatchable, and have been since the start of the Regatta. They finished top with literally an ocean between their boat and their rivals.
Amongst the Cruisers, a very tight division, Lady Bubbly skippered by Chris Mitchell won the class with a single point gap between them and Rumrunner11, which also raced superbly.
In the Classic class, Peter Wood skippering the schooner Sunshine outperformed its only rival, SY Argo, in every race.
The Phuket King's Cup Regatta Windsurfing Championship concluded with Navin Singsart named as overall winner after a total of seven races. Thai rival Ek Boonsawad was second in the final standings, with Siriporn Kaewduangngam winner of the women's class. Thai competitors performed exceptionally well throughout, emphasising the nation's supreme reputation in Championship windsurfing.
Dinghy racing saw Nuttapol Srihirun named the Laser class winner; Supparak Niamraksa the Optimist Boys winner and Praewa Kangkla the Optimist Girls winner. The dinghy class, a regular feature of the Phuket King's Cup Regatta, remains one of Thailand's most important series for the enhancement of sailing skills among youth sailors in the country.
The winds may have relented a little on the final day's racing, but blue seas and skies made for a beautiful finish to a week of intense action. The 2013 Regatta delivered an exceptional fleet and high levels of professionalism and sportsmanship throughout and lived up to its reputation as the premier sailing event in all of Asia.
About the Phuket King's Cup Regatta – Asia's legendary yacht race under Royal Patronage Inaugurated in 1987 to celebrate the 60 th birthday of His Majesty the King of Thailand, the event has been held every year since, during the first week of December.
Under Royal Patronage, the Phuket King's Cup Regatta is organized by the Phuket King's Cup Regatta Organizing Committee under the auspices of the Royal Varuna Yacht Club, in conjunction with the Yacht Racing Association of Thailand, the Royal Thai Navy and the province of Phuket.