|Phuket King's Cup sets sail for 28th time|
The Phuket King's Cup Regatta, Asia's legendary yacht race under Royal Patronage, set sail with a grand fleet of 93 keelboats and catamarans from 16 countries, jousting in close-quarters competition in honor of the birthday of His Majesty the King of Thailand.
The 28th Phuket King's Cup Regatta took place between 29th November – 6th December 2014 at Kata Beach. The regatta strongly emphasized the growth and potential of the sport of sailing in Thailand on the global stage. The race also supports tourism in Phuket and Thailand as a whole, generating around 300 million baht in revenue.
The region's largest regatta includes dinghies (International Dinghy Classes), keelboats and multihulls among its competitive classes, and featured a sail pass to celebrate His Majesty the King's birthday on the morning of 5th December. The Royal Awards Ceremony was held on 6th December. Competing sailors came from USA, Australia, England, Russia, Japan, Singapore, Malaysia, China, and Cyprus, along with renowned Thai sailors of exceptional ability, including Ithinai Yingsiri, Radab Kanjanavanit and MR Biranubongse Bhanubandh.
Kevin Whitcraft, President of the Phuket King's Cup Regatta Organizing Committee, said, "We were proud to organize this world-class sailing event featuring sailors from around the world competing for our King's trophy. This year, the sailors came from over 40 countries, making it one of the most internationally diverse rosters in the competition's history. Thai sailors were victorious last year in many classes, building on a wave of national pride resulting from the country's 2014 Optimist World Championship win in Argentina."
The full complement of classes for the 2014 race year included IRC Zero (international "Grand Prix" boats), the highly competitive IRC 1, IRC 2, IRC 3, along with Sport Boat, Modern Classic, Premier, Open Charter, Bareboat Charter, Classic, Cruising, Firefly 850 Sports, Multihulls Racing, and Multihulls Cruising.
Winning boats from last year registered to defend their title included Pine-Pacific (Thai) from Premier class, Foxy Lady VI (Singapore) from IRC 1, Twin Sharks (England) from Firefly 850 Sports, Minnie (Japan) from Multihulls Cruising, and Remington (Thai) from Modern Classic.
Ithinai Yingsiri, Skipper of Pine-Pacific and overall winner in the 2013 Premier class, said, "We believe we will be successful again this year. Typically, the wind is not strong in Phuket compared to other regattas, but nowadays the technology we have available to us allows us to make the competition more exciting for all. I actually believe this year's race will be even more competitive than last year. The boats that I see as competitors for my class include Zuhrah@151 racing team from Malaysia, Starlight from Singapore, and Zefiro from Cyprus."
International Dinghy Classes raced from December 1st – 5th at Kata Beach. Their inclusion in the King's Cup has played a big 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 race was divided into Optimist class (also sub-divided into Boys and Girls born in 1998 or later) and the Laser class.
CDR Pornprom Sakultem, International Dinghy Classes Event Manager, said, "The race this year received stronger interest with up to 40 dinghies including over 10 sailors from the Thai national team, and also from China. We believe the weather and wind will be fine for the race, similar to the conditions we enjoyed last year."
New Classes, a New Chapter in Close Quarters Competition
"Our entrants are grouped very closely now so that all boats race in the same conditions, so for 2014 there are lots of one-on-ones, as opposed to it being one big time trial," explained Simon James, Race Director for the 2014 Phuket King's Cup. "The weather is very localized in Thailand, so you have tiny microsystems even along a one-mile stretch of course - we now have boats racing in exactly the same conditions. Historically, you would find that certain boats don't come to some regattas because they believe they will not be competitive, but now there is so much more incentive for them to be here."
This was not the biggest fleet in the Phuket King's Cup Regatta's history, but it was probably the most competitive – and the closest in terms of corrected finishing times.
"We can't bear the thought of beautiful grand prix racers sitting in port, so now there is massive impetus for them to be here racing with us," said Simon.
The result is a hundred threads to a very cosmopolitan sailing story – from the hundred-foot-plus'ers of the Premier Class down to the Modern Classic certification designed to amplify the intensity of closequarters action among pre-1985 older Phuket-based boats; everyone is invited to the party. The winds may be light, but it's hot, sunny, fun and extremely competitive, especially among the many new entrants this year.
The attraction of the King's Cup has always remained in part the vastly diverse fleet it is able to draw and embed in the annals of its legacy. This has had a knock-on effect in bringing more Thai sailors, particularly young sailors, to the regatta. One such competitor is Sinsupa "Mink" Wannasuth, young skipper of a 25-foot Platu, who marks her first competitive sailing event in charge of a keelboat."
Mink explained the inescapable pull of this colourful and fun event, "Having sailed since the age of eight in Optimists off the coast of Sattahip with many of the competitors here, it is a warm environment that encourages others to join and discover the enjoyment of sports sailing. The great many classes mean that there are often crews looking for sailors, so it is a welcoming world in which to develop as a sports sailor. The diversity is amazing; the race management is so excellent, it gets better every year."
Few other international regattas offer the heritage, especially close contests, camaraderie and colourful diversity that the Phuket King's Cup does: it's a fitting testament to Thailand as a quality sailing destination and to the considerable effort that goes in year-after-year in making this the region's most closely fought top-tier regatta.
Final day's racing draws superb performances from challengers
Of the two exceptional competitors in IRC0 this year, it was Team Beau Geste who had the strength and consistency to carry their excellent performances throughout the regatta. A win in one of the final two races was enough to put them five points clear, earning the Karl Kwok's team overall Phuket King's Cup Regatta glory.
Karl Kwok, Skipper of Team Beau Geste, spoke of his delight, saying, "It was a big two days, lots of races and a big fleet too. After the first race this morning, we knew we had won – up until that point there were many things that could have happened. Boats after boats are optimized for the Southeast Asian circuit, so it's been very close until a day ago. My last King's Cup was in 2000, so 14 years ago…We've actually just sold the boat – so the new owner is under a lot of pressure to continue the track record! Our 13-person crew would love to be back at the Phuket King's Cup Regatta in the near future. I believe the King's Cup is the biggest regatta in this part of the world. China is opening up, but this is still the best."
Island Fling and EFG Mandrake shared the points total in the final IRC1 runs, with Paul Winkelmann's Island Fling team claiming overall victory. Both Hong Kong competitors had been locked in battle all week, with EFG Mandrake performing well in several races but picking up a few fourth place finishes to their eventual detriment.
Bill Bremner's Foxy Lady VI took the last two wins in IRC2, but it was too little too late for the Singaporean team; TBG Team Premier had already put the class to rest by yesterday, claiming a welldeserved PKCR victory which broke Bill Bremner's nine-straight-win run in the Phuket King's Cup.
Foreign Affair has been in a class of their own all week in IRC3, beating both Thai Navy boats (2nd and 3rd) in the last races. They had their regatta sewn up from mid-week with an unbroken string of firstplace finishes.
Pine Pacific defeated their handicap once again to beat a trailing fleet in the Premier class, resplendent with some of the Regatta's most beautiful yachts. The Thai-registered boat skippered by Ithinai Yingsiri made the 2014 campaign look completely painless.
In Bareboat Charter A, Andrey Duvanov and team Uhuru took first and third in the last two races, putting them two points clear at the top. Steady performances in an ever-evolving class gave them enough of a final advantage to win the A group. In Bareboat B, Team Sarawadee took the final wins, adding to their week-long faultless regatta.
Open Charter saw Kata Rocks 3 victorious once again over all rivals, giving them another regatta victory after a week of exceptional results. Tony Pfeiffer's crew was untouchable since the first race.
Twin Sharks and Voodoo took a win from each of the final Firefly 850 Sports races, and the two boats finished just a point apart at the end. This has been a thrilling cat-and-mouse game all week, playing out in fittingly exciting finale and typical King's Cup style with Hans Rahmann's Voodoo emerging as the overall victors.
Cruising Class ran two races on the final day, won by HTRIP (Lionet) of Hong Kong and Bahtsmart (Thidawaree). The overall winner of the class was Lady Bubbly, which performed well all week to claim King's Cup honors.
No surprises in Multihull Racing - Alan Carwadine's Asia Catamarans Hurricane again for the win, and an easy series victory. S.Y. Ravensong was the only boat to finish in Classic class; Minnie won the Multihull Cruising class.
Thai team Sansiri (Windstar) was brilliant in the 2014 Phuket King's Cup, netting just enough points in the last two races today to win the Modern Classic class. Skipper Patinyakorn Buranrom inspired his young Thai crew to beat every rival in the class, and they thoroughly deserved their victory; a testament to the rapidly developing skills and commitment to the sport by Thai sailors.
International Dinghy Classes finished on the second last day of the event. Saranwong Poonpat performed exceptionally well throughout the regatta to win the Optimist boys title, while Intira Parnpibul was second overall and the fastest of the girls. In the Laser class, Nattawut Paenyaem was the winner, and Apiwat Sringam won the Topper class.
About the Phuket King's Cup Regatta – Asia's legendary yacht race under Royal Patronage
Inaugurated in 1987 to celebrate the 60th 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.
For more information, please visit www.kingscup.com.