|Cape Panwa Hotel Phuket Raceweek|
Phuket hosted the award-winning Cape Panwa Hotel Phuket Raceweek from 16th – 20th of July off the Island's southeast coast. The season-opening event of the prestigious 2014/15 Asian Yachting Grand Prix – a series of 12 of the best regattas in Asia – Raceweek welcomed one of the most competitive fleets in the Regatta's history.
"The quality of the fleet is arguably the best ever and what is particularly encouraging this year is the number of new boats from around Asia taking part. Crew are coming from Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines regionally – as well as a strong showing from Thailand – and also from as far afield as the UK, USA, Australia and New Zealand," said Mr. Byron Jones, Managing Director of organizer Media Business Services (MBS).
With its private pier and beachfront location, together with the 5-star facilities and service, Cape Panwa Hotel delivers a regatta experience second-to-none, something which is echoed by the sailors. "The Cape Panwa Hotel is a fabulous location. Its white sandy beach and expansive grass area scattered with palm trees makes an excellent setting to enjoy a few beers and catch up with all the yachties that I have become great friends with over many years," commented Peter Ahern, owner/skipper, Oi!.
The increase in the number of international boats and crew, together with an increase in charterers who fly in and charter a local boat to race, is encouraging for the future of the event, and also for Phuket and the Panwa area.
Phuket Raceweek attracts approximately 500 sailors and family members each year, and while the Regatta is fourdays long, participants and their families often come for longer, choosing to either arrive early or stay on after the Regatta. The revenue from travel, accommodation, dining and entertainment is considerable during Phuket's summer season, and goes direct into the local economy. "The multi-day nature of regattas means they generate significant revenues for the local economy in which they are held. Looking at the participants this year, and taking into account residents competing and those coming from overseas, we estimate Raceweek will generate 1,800 room nights for Phuket. Add to that travel, food, drink and entertainment, and the tourism dollars are considerable," commented Jones.
Marine tourism and sports tourism are two segments of the tourism industry that are showing strong growth, and are identified by the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) as having great potential, attracting visitors with high spending power.
Phuket's world-class marine infrastructure is a major pull in attracting high-end visitors and together with the stunning cruising grounds and internationallyfamous marine events has helped make Phuket a playground for the wealthy.
"Phuket Raceweek is at the core of promoting Thailand's marine tourism and continues to help build Phuket's global reputation as a yachting hub, as well as delivering an economic return to the Island," added Jones.
The 36 boats were split over seven classes, and include many familiar faces together with a growing number of international boats and charterers this year.
Having set the start-line between Lone and Aeo islands, the racing started on time and first off was IRC Racing I on a windward/leeward course.
The in-form Foxy Lady VI was up against Peter Ahern's Australian entry Oi!, the wellcampaigned Fujin, Blue Note and the 42-footer Island Fling from Hong Kong. A mixed bunch, and it was Foxy Lady VI who were first to put a win on the board. An error early on by Oi! hit home as they finished first but on corrected time had to settle for fourth. Island Fling enjoyed the good breeze and all powered up secured second place, two minutes ahead of Fujin.
In the second race, the class were sent towards the Chalong coastline, downwind to the Safe Water Mark off Panwa Cape, back towards Chalong, around Aeo Island, and back upwind before one last downwind leg to the finish. With the wind building, Fujin went one better this time to finish second in Race 2, knocking Island Fling into third. But again, it was the slick crew work on Foxy Lady VI that saw them take the win by four minutes on corrected time: two out of two.
Last year's winner, Phoenix, got off to a slow start in IRC Racing II with a sixth-placefinish in Race 1. They improved in the Race 2 to sit fourth overall at the end of the day, but the day's glory goes to Australian boat Jessandra II, who competing at Raceweek for the first time scored two comfortable wins to lead the scoreboard.
Ruby Tuesday's 3rd & 2nd place finishes and the Mumm 30 Foreign Affair's 2nd & 5th place finishes put them in second and third overall respectively.
Starting together, the Cruising and Charter/Bareboat classes enjoyed some close racing on the course and on handicap, and Sail in Asia's Pinocchio were the early winners with two first places today in Cruising, while a 1st & 2nd for Little Eva in Bareboat/Charter Class saw them lead that class.
A single race for the Classic class saw the fleet stretch their legs on an island course, enjoying the stunning cruising grounds in this southeast corner of Phuket. Crossing the line first, after almost two hours of sailing, was Michael Zircon's Aventure that took the win by just ten minutes on corrected time from the everyoung Seraph.
The multihulls were back in force this year with 12 boats split into two classes: Firefly 850 and Multihull Racing.
Good winds and relatively flat seas proved ideal racing conditions for the super-fast one-design Fireflys. All podium-placers in the past, there was plenty of pedigree in the fleet, and defending champion Twin Sharks, despite capsizing a week before while preparing for the Multihull Solutions Regatta in Phuket, showed no signs of concern scoring two bullets on the day. Having nailed both starts, Advanced Racing Mamba came in a close second in both races.
In Multihull Racing, the smaller boats of Sweet Chariot and Bullet struggled in the breeze today while the Stealth cats from the Asia Catamaran's yard, Java and Asia Catamarans Hurricane, lead the way. And it was two firsts for Asia Catamarans Hurricane and two seconds for Java at the end of the day with Grenville Fordham's Nina sitting in third overall.
Sirius joined that action today bringing the fleet up to 36 boats and the Classic class to a commendable three. Cruising and Charter/Bareboat classes were sent off around the southern islands of Phuket while the Classics were sent around Lone Island. All other classes completed a windward/leeward before enjoying the stunning cruising grounds off Phuket's southeast coast taking in Bon, Hei and Aeo islands. Like an unstoppable train, Bill Bremner and his crew on Foxy Lady VI took everything in their stride. A bullet in the windward/leeward gave them confidence and a comfortable lead allowing them to take a few risks in Race 2, sailing in close to the islands. Bill Bremner said, "We took some chances rounding the first island and cut the corner inside the submerged 'phantom' rock and it gave us some decent gains at the halfway point." They went on to make further gains and win the second race of the day by one minute on corrected time and remain unbeaten in the series. Elsewhere in the class Oi! and Island Fling traded second and third places while two fourth places today sees Blue Note close the gap a little on Fujin.
Australians were ruling IRC Racing II. Roland Dane and his Aussie crew on Jessandra II includes local sailing talent Scott Duncanson and Mia Gillow, and with two more wins proved that their international and local crew mix is proving to be a winning formula. While their winning margins on corrected time are getting larger, keeping them honest is the Australian crew on the Mumm 30 Foreign Affair who, with two second places today, now sit second overall.
Hedonist, helmed by Richard Barnhurst, was quickest over the course again in the Cruising class but couldn't convert that into a handicap win and for the third time was bridesmaid to Mike Downard's Farr 1104 Sail in Asia Pinocchio.
Following a slow start to the Regatta with a fourth place in the first race on Day 1, Ian Lodewycx's Venture has scored one win and added another to their tally today. More than 40 minutes was the winning margin on corrected time and Venture now sits atop, tied on points with Little Eva who slipped down to third after day two's distance race.
Two fifth places for Grenville Fordham's Nina in Multihull Racing opened the door for the Corsair 24 Bullet, the smallest in the fleet, and the 40-foot Adrenalin, to make up ground. All three finished tied for third place overall. Leading the series is Alan Carwardine's Asia Catamarans Hurricane who lost their first race on day two, but their 2nd, and 1st place finishes kept them two points ahead of Race 1 winner, John Coffin's Java. The one-design Firefly 850 class is turning into a two-horse race and while the standings.
Last year's Classic class champion Sirius, skippered by Simon Morris, was on the race course for the first time and wasted no time making up for having missed yesterday's racing. A win over Seraph saw them trailing Seraph and Aventure by a single point, with both tied for first place.
Wind Guru was predicting anything from zero to four knots and Windfinder were predicting in the eight knot range, while the Thai Meteorological Department had issued an advisory about Tropical Storm "Ramusan" warning of strong wind and waves 2-4 metres in the Andaman Sea.
Simon James, the Principal Race Officer, and his onwater team tried in vain, searching here and there for some wind while the fleet followed, giving everyone a personal tour of the southern Phuket cruising grounds in the process. Some boats enjoyed lunch while anchored off the myriad beaches in the area as the race team continued their search but after three-and-a-half hours, with the breeze threatening again to make a showing only to go back into hiding, the inevitable happened when Simon called it a day and sent the fleet back to shore.
A tough day of waiting for everyone but full marks went out to Simon and his team for perseverance. While they were hunting wind, the weather gods did come out to put on a show with a stunning solar halo. The series results remain unchanged with almost all the podium spots were still in play.
The forecast wasn't looking great and after approximately an hour-and-a-half searching for some breeze, Principal Race Officer Simon James set a start-line between Lone and Hei islands and got the fleet underway. An islands course around Hei and Aeo for the Multihull Racing, Cruising, Charter/Bareboat and Classic classes was the order of the day, with a short windward/leeward for the rest.
Coming into the start on port tack, Foxy Lady VI headed off towards Aeo Island while the rest of the fleet took the other side of the course. Early up the leg, Blue Note and Fujin tacked to follow Foxy Lady VI while Oi! and Island Fling stuck to their guns. As they rounded the top mark, Oi! and Island Fling got the better of the first upwind leg while Foxy Lady VI slipped back and looked to have chosen the wrong side of the course.
Two laps of the windward/leeward and Oi! took their fifth line honours of the series, but couldn't convert it to a handicap win, having to settle for third in the race and third overall, while Island Fling sailed exceptionally well to win by two minutes on corrected time from a rapidly improving Blue Note.
Having won all four races going into the final day, despite placing fourth in the final race, Foxy Lady VI won IRC Racing I comfortably, their first time at the regatta. Lead by Bill Bremner, they're the boat in Asia to beat right now with eight consecutive wins on the Asian circuit.
A start-line incident added some spice to the proceedings in IRC Racing II today. With lots of nonracing boats on the water and hanging around the start-boat, Jessandra II, helmed by Scott Duncanson, had to round one and came into the start at a tight angle and with no rights or options left had to squeeze in between Surf Patrol and the start boat. A three-way collision followed, and with no serious damage, both Surf Patrol and Jessandra II took a penalty turn and continued their racing. No protest was lodged and everything was left on the water.
As it turned out, Ray Waldron's Surf Patrol had their best race of the series and took line honours, converting to second place on corrected time less than one minute behind Jessandra II, of all boats, who's final day win made it five from five and a class win at their first time of trying.
Throughout the week there has been talk of possible protests in the Cruising class though nothing materialized, and to add further mystery to the murmurings a RAF was recorded for Sail in Asia Pinocchio post-happening, and an IRC rating error was corrected. End result? Sail in Asia Pinocchio came into the final day in second place, not first, and needed a win in the final race and for nearest rival Hedonist to place down the class.
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Finishing seven minutes ahead was not enough for Hedonist to win the race and they had to settle for second place by less than two minutes on corrected time, behind race-winner Sail in Asia Pinocchio. However, a second place was enough for Hedonist to secure the class win.
It was a long day on the course for the Charter/Bareboat entries today and after a slow start to the series by Venture, they put in a string of wins to lead the class going into the final day. There was still plenty to play for, however, and the tricky conditions saw Anchalai (Ratana) come into its own and score their first bullet of the series, and with it throw the class wide open. A third place for Little Eva kept it in the running but when the handicaps were calculated, Venture placed fourth on the final day and with that, Little Eva won the class title by a single point.
In Multihull Racing, the title came down to two near identical Stealth cats from the local yard of Alan Carwardine, Asia Catamarans' Hurricane and Java. Hitting the line perfectly on the final race was the 24-foot Corsair Bullet and they thrived in the light airs stretching out an early lead. The smallest in the fleet was soon overtaken by others, including the largest and oldest Adrenalin who at 30-years-old is almost a classic on the local multihull sailing scene.
Skippered by Mark Horwood, Adrenalin sailed the conditions well and scored their first line honours of the series, but on corrected time had to settle for sixth in the race. Despite being fifth across the line, Bullet had saved their best performance to last, winning the final race of the series with Java in second and Asia Catamarans Hurricane in third. A third was enough for Alan Carwardine and his crew on Hurricane to win the series by two points and claim their first Raceweek win.
Only three boats made it to the start-line for the final day of racing in the Firefly class as Moto Inzi's skipper Roger Kingdon suffered a stroke after the first day of racing and the boat had to withdraw from racing. Twin Sharks had a good lead coming into the day but Advanced Racing Mamba were close on their heels and looking to put in a good finish. However, after having a poor series by Voodoo's own high standards, they came good in the final race to win convincingly by nearly four minutes. Twin Sharks finished second and with it defended their title and are only the second Firefly to "two-peat" at Phuket Raceweek.
Three Classics made it a day to remember, and a sight to behold, on the final day as they lined up in-sync for the start. After over three hours, the final classic yacht crossed the line and the handicaps were calculated, and it was the gracefully aging schooner Seraph, skippered by Captain Bao, that won the race and with that, the class title.