|Cape Panwa Hotel Phuket Raceweek sparks start of AYGP|
The first event of the 2015/16 Asian Yachting Grand Prix (AYGP), Cape Panwa Hotel Phuket Raceweek took place from the 15th to the 19th of July during Phuket's southwest monsoon – a time when some of the best sailing and racing conditions can be expected – and the regatta welcomed a competitive line-up of IRC racers, cruisers, multihulls and a growing number of charterers to the island.
"We had boats and crew taking part from more than 20 countries this year, many of which have come from overseas especially to compete in Phuket Raceweek. The Panwa Cape was busy with more than 500 sailors and friends accommodating themselves in the area and contributing to the local economy during what is normally a relatively quiet month for Phuket, tourism-wise," said Mr. Byron Jones, Managing Director of organizers Media Business Services Co. Ltd. (MBS).
"Phuket's Green Season coincides with colder weather in Australia and European school holidays, making it an idea time for sailors and families to come to Phuket for a sailing holiday, or join in a regatta such as Phuket Raceweek. Phuket can be spectacular during this time of the year and together with our partners that's a message we are spreading around the world," added Jones
It is this international appeal and the potential of Phuket's marine leisure tourism that has seen the Thai Government recently prioritize the industry for development and promotion, and Phuket – with its established infrastructure and world famous cruising grounds – has been chosen as the launching ground for many upcoming government initiatives.
"It's great to see Thailand's marine leisure tourism on the national agenda. Regattas have been promoting and positioning Thailand as a boat-friendly destination for many years. Following improvements to the tax regime and bureaucracy Phuket has become Asia's sailing hub and the destination of choice for many international boats looking for new and beautiful cruising grounds," commented Jones.
"On the back of the government push, we have launched the #PhuketSailing marketing campaign on social media. Using social media, we aim to increase awareness of Phuket as a world-class sailing destination and encourage all stakeholders and friends of Phuket to join hands and use the hashtag."Setting Sail
Racing over four days, the 36-strong fleet saw two TP52s competing in IRC Racing I, along with one of the largest multihull fleets ever assembled in local waters, along with a 68-foot former Whitbread Racer. Split over seven classes, the fleet was competitive and diverse in equal measure, with crews flying in from as far afield as the UK and Australia to compete in the award-winning regatta.
"We're very pleased with this year's entries, both in quality and quantity. There are some top crews from around the world coming to race this year and the class splits will ensure close competition for all," said Jones. At sixteen entries this year, multihulls made up nearly half the fleet, and were split into three classes: Multihull Racing, Firefly 850 and the Corsair Class. Multihull Racing featured four locallybuilt catamarans up against two trimarans – Mark Horwood's 40-foot Andrenalin and Henry Kaye's Sweet Chariot – while the Firefly 850 and Corsair Class were both one design with five and four entries respectively, including the recentlylaunched four Corsair Pulse 600s making their first appearance at the Regatta.
"The popularity of multihull racing in Phuket has grown significantly in recent years. We have actively encouraged the multihull fleet and this year welcome one of the biggest multihull fleets we've ever had," added Jones. Outnumbering the multihulls by just five boats, the monohull fleet was split into four classes, namely IRC Racing I, IRC Racing II, IRC Cruising and Charter/ Bareboat. Following a lightning strike on their way to Phuket, Blue Note were forced to pull out. However, David Dimmock and his crew moved quickly to charter the Swan 42 Foo 4 (ex Katsu) and competed in IRC Racing II leaving the TP52s to go head-to-head in IRC Racing I. "After discussions with the Race Management team and IRC representative, there will be eight evenly-matched boats competing in IRC Racing II and we expect this to be one of the toughest classes to win. We have separated out the TP52s and they will race together in IRC Racing I. This will allow for more competitive racing and also give the Race Management more flexibility over course choice," added Jones.
On their first competitive outing, Ben Copley's recently acquired TP52 Kodo (ex Team Origin) was up against Ahern/ Bailey/Wilmer's well-campaigned Oi! A strong performer in light-air racing, Oi! will be hard to beat but Phuket-based Copley and crew were hoping that their local knowledge would give them a competitive edge.
Eight boats competed in IRC Racing II making it the largest class in the Regatta. Stuart Williamson on his renamed Beneteau 34.7, Old Mutual International Endeavour of Whitby, has been competing in the Regatta for many years and is always in the mix come the final day, but he'll have to be on top form as crews on BeauX Esprits, Fujin, Ruby Tuesday, Foo 4, and the two Farr 30s Foreign Affair and Judy, will provide plenty of competition. All kept a close eye on the in-form boat, Jessandra II, who skippered by Red Bull Racing Australia Principal Roland Dane, were on a hot streak following their Samui Regatta win in late May.
Looking to improve on their third place last year is the Thai team on Sansiri Windstar, but they'll have to overcome Astraeus, Mas Allegre, the all-female team on Sailescapes Farrgo Ladies, Kantus' Bride (skippered by Tirapongse Pangsrivongse, owner and CEO of the Cape Panwa Hotel's owning group, Cape & Kantary Hotels) and the stripped out Farr 1104s Sail in Asia Piccolo in the IRC Cruising class.
The unknown in this class is new entry La Flute Enchantee, which is likely to turn a few heads and cameras. Designed and built for the 1973 round-the-world Whitbread Race in which she finished third under the name Kriter, she is owned by Brian Hume, recently underwent a refit in Myanmar and is now based in Phuket. Rounding out the fleet is the Charter/Bareboat class. Dominated by Australian skippers and crew, Venture, Uhuru, Phailin and Fei Yu are all local charter boats being raced by international crews and ranging from 32 to 46- feet, this class was a hard one to pick.Day Two & Three
Day two saw no wind with boats and crews sitting around on the water baking and praying for some gusts. The start of day three looked no brighter, so AP over A was the first order of the day, and a popular decision by Race Officer Simon James it proved to be as all the sailors gathered at the Cape Panwa Hotel's beachfront and enjoyed a swim and a mocktail, or three, at the all-new Bamboo Bar. A little after midday, the flag was lowered and everyone headed out to the start area to the sight of a steady 5-6 knot breeze. The day proved to be interesting on many fronts but will likely be remembered for the "tide challenge" at the leeward mark, as boat-after-boat misjudged the strength (and direction) of the tide and tried to sidewaysshuffle their way around the mark.
It was a day to forget for Blue Noze who were pushed inside the bottom mark by a charging Advanced Racing Mamba, only to then T-bone Kantus' Bride (Cruising class) on their second attempt to round. No damage to either boat, but perhaps some damage to their ego as Blue Noze finished last in that race. In Race 2, however, they righted some wrongs with a second place finish, just 15 seconds behind the winner, Twin Sharks.
Following an OCS in Race 2 and an incident with the top mark, Ian Coulsen on Voodoo calmly announced their retirement with a phrase that will likely be recorded in the Phuket Raceweek annals, saying "Sorry about your mark, but it's still floating." After a tricky first two days, the wind returned and the Race Management team deserved a lot of credit for getting in two races for all.Folding Sail
A pleasant eight knots welcomed sailors on the final day of the 2015 Cape Panwa Hotel Phuket Raceweek and PRO Simon James wasted no time in getting the fleet into sequence. Island courses for all: around the windward mark and back around Lone Island to the finish for all classes except IRC Racing I, who headed off on a longer course taking in Aeo, Hei and Bon Islands. And as the wind held in, the PRO opted to send all but the Cruising and Charter/Bareboat classes on a second race, around Maithon Island finishing near the safe water mark off Cape Panwa.
Oi! got the better of Kodo in the first IRC Racing I start and lead up to the first mark. Kodo closed the gap on the downwind leg and the two TP52s match-raced around the course with little between them. It was a close duel and Oi! crossed the line just 10 seconds ahead, claiming line honours and the win on corrected time. In Race 2, Kodo took an early lead and managed to keep daylight between themselves and Oi!, sailing a good race and further stretching out their lead around Maithon Island. They crossed the line just 56 seconds ahead of Oi! after more than two hours of racing and with handicaps accounted for they recorded their second win of the series. It wasn't enough to knock Oi! off the top step of the podium, who claim a deserved win, but in their first competitive outing Kodo should be rightly proud of their performance and improvement over the course of the Regatta against a well-campaigned multiple-regatta winning boat and crew.
Jessandra II came into the final day with a 1,2,1, score line and needed to sail clean and keep themselves out of trouble in order to protect their lead and secure the title. However, sailing easy is not in this crew's nature and they were here to compete. Lining up like dinghies on a start line, Fujin and Jessandra II got away clean. Foo 4 found their rhythm and soon took a clear lead on-the-water going on to claim line honours. Jessandra II and Fujin raced each other close. Almost side-by-side as they rounded the outer port channel marker in Ao Chalong the two were inseparable with Fujin managing to get a small lead over Jessandra II on the final leg, finishing ahead by just five seconds. However, it wasn't enough as Jessandra II converted third on-the-water into a handicap win.
It was again just five seconds on Race 2, but this time it was the difference between Old Mutual International Endeavour of Whitby and Fujin for second and third. The winner was, again, Jessandra II whose three minute winning margin secured them the IRC Racing II title.
While a third overall was probably not the result Fujin was hoping for at the beginning of the week, they should be commended for their start line performance winning almost all and showing many how to hit the line at speed. Multihull Racing were back in full strength on the final day with the six-boat lineup looking to end the Regatta in style. Two more wins for Asia Catamarans Hurricane saw them unbeaten over the week and the clear class winner. However, second and third places were hard earned with just seconds in it. Less than 30 seconds separated WOW and Java in Race 1 and while WOW scored another second in Race 2 it wasn't enough and they had to settle for third overall one point behind Java.
It was like a game of cat and mouse as the Firefly 850s chased each other around the start area and along the line in Race 1, with Twin Sharks, Advanced Racing Mamba and Voodoo neck-and-neck, and Dyer Straits and Blue Noze on the second row. Mamba Advanced Racing rounded first and headed back down the course while series leaders Twin Sharks were off-the-pace.
Mamba Advanced Racing lead Voodoo and Blue Noze around Lone Island with Twin Sharks further back and as they re-emerged from Ao Chalong it was Voodoo who had snatched the lead, which they held through to the finish.
Twin Sharks bounced back in Race 2 with an outstanding win by nearly two minutes and secured their dominance winning the class by six points. Advanced Racing Mamba finished second overall and Voodoo was third.
With just one regatta under their belts, the four Corsair Pulse 600 crews were still learning their rides as they lined-up on the first day and over four days of some of the trickiest racing conditions ever at Phuket Raceweek, all four boats learnt a lot and improved.
SuDu 3 put in a late charge on the final day, wining the start they held off Series leaders SuDu 1 to add a second win to their tally and heap on the pressure. The series was to be decided on the final race, and after one hour of racing the final race (and the title) was decided by just three seconds. It was SuDu 1 who edged out SuDu 3 in the final race and took the overall Corsair class title by a single point. SuDu 3 had to settle for second with SuDu 4 third overall.
Following two wins on the third day, Sansiri Windstar jumped to the top of the Cruising class standings and brought a one-point lead into the final day. Everything was to play for and the pressure was on. Sailescapes Fargo Ladies got the best start, alone at the committee boat end of the line, while Krabi Boat Lagoon Piccolo lad Sansiri Windstar at the pin end. Sansiri Windstar rolled Krabi Boat Lagoon Piccolo soon after and enjoyed the space to stretch their legs up the course, tracked closely by Krabi Boat Lagoon Piccolo. However, the crew on Sansiri Windstar sailed flawlessly to lead around the course and claim line honours and the win on corrected time, and with that they were crowned Cruising class champions.
Despite fumbling the spinnaker hoist and wrapping it around their keel early in the race, Sailescapes Fargo Ladies recovered well to finish third on the day and an admirable third overall. Uhuru revelled in the stronger breeze making the top mark first in the Charter/ Bareboat class and despite being overhauled later by Venture managed to keep in touch and earn a well-deserved win on corrected time – their first win of the Series. However, it was too little too late as Venture's second place in the race was enough for them to hold on to the win overall with Uhuru in second and Fei Yu in third. The 13th Cape Panwa Hotel Phuket Raceweek will take place from July 20-24, 2016.About Cape Panwa Hotel Phuket Raceweek
The regatta is run over six or seven classes including Racing, Multihull, Cruising and Bareboat Charter, has gained a reputation for its competitive racing for the serious boat crews and moderate courses around several islands for the less experienced racers. It is also the first event of the prestigious 2015/2016 AsianYachting Grand Prix. Cape Panwa Hotel Phuket Raceweek enjoys the support of the Tourism Authority of Thailand, Ao Chalong Yacht Club and the Yacht Racing Association of Thailand.For more information: