|15th Samui Regatta sails thru rough water|
This is possibly the best top-end racing fleet we've ever had at Samui Regatta, if not at any regatta in Asia," said Simon James, Race Director of organizer Regattas Asia. "There have been a few boats drop out at the last minute due to engine failure and similar in transit, however, this sometimes happens when more than 80% of the fleet are international. That said, the quality is there and we look set for an exciting week of sailing."
The largest in this year's fleet was Frank Pong's RP75 Custom, Jelik (HKG). A regular at Samui Regatta and a past winner, Pong is up against six 52-footers in IRC 0, including five of Asia's top TP52s: Team Ulumulu (MAS), Freefire (HKG), Oi! (AUS), Millenium Racing (AUS) and the newest on the Asian TP52 scene, THA 72 (THA). Last but most definitely not least is the Welbourne 52 Windiskher II (SIN) of Sarab Singh who is back to defend his title.
A strong line-up in IRC 1 included boats from Thailand, Australia, Singapore, Malaysia and Hong Kong, with crew from all four corners of the globe. Last year's class winner Jessandra II, skippered by Roland Dane, was looking to make it two in row but are up against some stiff competition from Ambush (HKG), EFG Mandrake (HKG), Loco (SIN), Fujin (AUS) and Black Baza (HKG), who was recently crowned winner of the 2015/16 AsianYachting Grand Prix.
Rounding out the fleet is the Cruising Class with a predominantly Thailand-based fleet competing for the honours, including El Coyote (THA), Moon Shadow (THA), SailQuest Hi Jinks (THA) and the 74-foot Le Conchon Noir V, skippered by Roman Guarsa. International Race Officer Ross Chisholm returned for his 10th straight year and provided a mix of courses over the five days of racing.
When quality counts, Samui Regatta comes up trumps. An IRC Zero Class of six of Asia's best included four TP52s (which were also scored in a TP52 division), the Custom Welbourn 52 of Sarab Singh and Frank Pong's ever youthful 75-foot Jelik. Five 40-footers and the Corby 36 Jessandra II make-up IRC One while a four-strong Cruising class ranging from 23-foot to 74-foot rounds out a varied, quality and international fleet.
With a mix of planing and displacement racers in the IRC One Class expectations were that course choice and prevailing conditions could dictate the outcome this week. However, after shaking off the cobwebs with two short windward/leewards, double first blood went to defending champion Jessandra II, skippered by Roland Dane and with Steve McConaghy onboard calling tactics.
Showing how evenly matched the "40- footers" are, a little over two minutes separated the entire class in Race 1. The Brown, Ketelbey, Sorensen-sailed Fujin performed consistently with two second places while third was shared between AsianYachting Grand Prix winner-elect, Black Baza, and EFG Mandrake III.
Le Conchon Noir V was looking for some distance to stretch their legs but had to settle for a Race 1 sub-60 minute windward/leeward and despite this managed to secure second place in their first ever race in Thailand. Gary Baguley's El Coyote scored the bullet with the smallest boat in the fleet, Mick Grover's Elliot 7 Moon Shadow, placing third.Day Two
It was a slightly more sedate start to Day 2 as the AP was raised onshore and the fleet waited out an impending storm in comfort. After said storm below through it was back to business. AP down and out to the start-line.
Following day one's storms and gusts in excess of 40 knots at times, the fleet looked a little worse for wear. Team Ulumulu, suffering from a broken boom yesterday, Black Baza with a prop problem and Moon Shadow deciding not to leave the anchorage saw them all DNS today, while some co-ordinated teamwork from the THA72 crew saw sails off the boat yesterday, flown to Bangkok, driven to Pattaya, repaired and flown back to Samui this morning and all rigged and ready to race in Race 1.
The effort was clearly worth it as THA72 roared out to round ahead of Jelik in Race 1, only to be later overtaken themselves, but the distance wasn't enough for Jelik who had to settle for second on handicap, two minutes behind THA72 on corrected time. Fast forward to Race 2 and THA72 excelled in the building 20+ knot breeze to correct out for the win by more than four minutes and make it four wins from four races.
Shredding a spinnaker yesterday didn't throw Jelik off their game as they held on for second place in Race 1, just three seconds ahead of Windsikher II. Freefire and Windsikher II tracked each other closely in Race 2 and while Windsikher II got the better of the duel it was the Bailey/ Wilmer skippered Oi! who sailed a clean race to secure second, their first podium of the series.Day Three
On day three with a slightly lower wind forecast, PRO Ross Chisholm and his Race Management team headed north out of Chaweng Bay to set a windward/leeward off Samui's northern tip for the IRC Zero and IRC One classes, followed by a 26 nautical mile coastal course, which took sailors towards the famous Full Moon Party beach off Phangan island, "Haad Rin", around the marks in the channel between Samui and Phangan, and back to the finish. For the Cruising Class, they enjoyed the single coastal course on day three.
It's all become a little predictable in IRC Zero as Kevin Whitcraft's newer generation TP52, THA72 – considerably lighter and clearly faster – is out performing the older generation TP52s of Oi!, Freefire and Team Ulumulu, together with the rest of the IRC Zero fleet. They added two more bullets to their tally today and whatever the conditions, whatever the course, appear unstoppable. The race is now on for second and third in the class and here it's heating up. With a track record of performing better over longer courses than windward/leewards, 2015/16 AsianYachting Grand Prix champion-in-waiting, Black Baza,Day Four
Day four produced classic Samui Regatta sailing conditions: a fresh 15 knots and building, blue skies and flat seas which delivered some of the fastest and most exciting racing yet. Following a windward/leeward for IRC Zero and IRC One, PRO Ross Chisholm sent all classes on a coastal course south past Lamai Beach towards Katen Island, finishing back off Chaweng Beach.
The dominance of THA72 in IRC Zero has come as a surprise to some. The ex-Provezza is well prepared and with a combination of former crew from the Provezza campaign and owner Kevin Whitcraft's local crew, they've put together a series of eight bullets so far, including two more today with a five minute handicap win in today's first race and in the second finishing just 30 seconds behind the larger 75-foot Jelik onthe- water. Meanwhile at the 52 Super Series in Italy, the new Provezza also scored two wins.
With an unassailable lead for Whitcraft, all attention was on the battle for second and third places. Close racing today between the TP52's Oi!, Freefire and Team Ulumulu saw all correcting out within two minutes of each other with Oi! getting the better finishing in third behind Jelik, in second. Experiencing a problem with their spinnaker hoist early in the race, Windsikher II never recovered and dropped to sixth.
There was plenty of action in IRC One today as Black Baza and Loco clashed rigs on the course. Both went onto the finish the race, however damage sustained to Black Baza meant they headed back to the anchorage and didn't compete in Race 2. Later in the jury room Black Baza were found to be at fault and disqualified from the race.
Struggling to convert their on-water speed to handicap wins so far this week, and a DNF in Race 1 today, Ambush revelled in the longer distance coastal course and scored their first bullet of the series. Two more second place finishes for EFG Mandrake III make it five in a row and they now sit comfortably in second place overall. A disappointing fourth in the second race, following a win in the first for Jessandra II, will be quickly forgotten as their seven point lead puts them almost out of touch of the rest of the class.Final Day
After beginning the week with storms gusting to 40+ knots, the 2016 Samui Regatta settled into its tradition of delivering consistent, fresh breeze concluding with 20 knots on the final day and lots of surfing as the fleet completed two races and with it brought down the curtain on a successful 15th Samui Regatta.
IRC Zero and IRC One were the leaders' to lose but the two windward/ leewards set for all classes would determine the podium places and the winners in Cruising.
First up were IRC Zero and it was another win for Kevin Whitcraft's THA72, and with that it wrapped up the title. Some may argue it was all a little repetitive, but with a well set-up boat and a crew that didn't drop a beat all week, they made it look all too easy. Despite their dominance on the results sheet, Sarab Singh's Windsikher II pushed them hard in Race 1 today finishing one minute behind on corrected time – the closest of the series – while a further seconds back was the Bailey/ Wilmer Oi!
With just two points separating Windsikher II and Oi! going into the final race, and THA72 not competing, all was still to play for. Two minutes separated the top three in the final race of the IRC Zero series and it was the fast finishing Oi! who claimed the race win. Windsikher II, however, sailed a solid race to correct out in third and with it secured their second place overall in the standings. Troy Yaw's Team Ulumulu scored their second podium of the series, a well-earned third. Jessandra II galloped to another win in IRC One and much like THA72 they wrapped up their class with one race to spare. Fujin sailed into second place ahead of EFG Mandrake III and with it closed the margin to two points in the overall standings.
Although having already won the class title, Jessandra II were out on the course racing hard and despite their valiant efforts had to settle for second in the final race, a mere three seconds behind EFG Mandrake III. David Dimmock's Loco finished third – their second podium of the series – and just nine seconds Moon Shadow separated the top three in the final race. Winning the last race was enough to steer EFG Mandrake III into a comfortable second place overall with the Brown/ Ketelbey/ Sorensen Fujin in third.
A DNS for and DNF for SailQuest Hi Jinks turned the Cruising Class into a two-boat showdown and it was Le Cochon Noir V who drew first blood. Winning by just six seconds they took the series into a final race decider, one point adrift of El Coyote.
Just two Cruising boats on the startline turned the final race into a drag race, and El Coyote sealed the title in style with the race double – line honours and the win on corrected time.
Having scored three firsts, two second places and one fourth on the 2015/16 AsianYachting Grand Prix (AYGP) championship this season, Steve Manning and Anthony Root's Ker 42 Black Baza, were crowned Skipper and Yacht of the Year at the season-ending Samui Regatta and with it add a new name to the AYGP's history – the "hardest sports trophy to win in Asia".
The Samui Regatta came to a close with the traditional lavish Gala Dinner on the lawn hosted by Centara Grand Beach Resort Samui, marking the end to the regatta's 15th year and the start of planning for the 16th which will take place 20 to 27 May, 2017.Overall Results (top three in each class)
The 2016 Samui Regatta kicked off with two days of dinghy racing on the opening weekend – 23 young sailors from Samui, Phangan Island and Phuket competing in two classes: Optimist Dingy Class and the 420 & RS Feva Class.
The first day of the dinghy racing was cut short by a storm. With winds gusting to 45+ knots a sterling job from the race management and on-water safety teams saw all boats and sailors back on shore safe and sound, and with just a single race completed it meant the pressure was on the second and final day of racing.
Three races for both classes were run on the second day and using his local knowledge Natthakarn Panyawan (Samui) finished with a 2,5,3,2 scoreline that was enough to secure the win by one point from Keeratila Krongbun (Phuket) with Bunyamin Klongsamut (Phuket) one point further back.
Samui Regatta has hosted Optimist racing many times in the past and despite a hiatus of a few years, Optimists returned this year due to the joint efforts of the regatta organizers and the Samui Yacht Club Regatta. With many of the Samui optimists having been paid for previously by Samui Regatta sailors and crew from Hong Kong and Singapore, it was fitting to see them back racing at the regatta, underscoring the grassroots and community spirit of this truly international event.
A first this year for the regatta this year was the introduction of the 420 & RS Feva Class comprising five entries.
A strong finish from the pairing of Nattapol Panyawan/Stephanie Bjork (Samui), with two wins in the final two races saw them tie Kanchai Wongpadung/Suwanna Kingkaew (Phangan) on points, with the count-back in Nattapol Panyawan/ Stephanie Bjork's favour. Three points back in third place was the 420 of Adisak Kingkaew/Teerawut Thamut (Phangan).
So often there is no pathway for youth sailors beyond the Optimist, and it is encouraging to see the Koh Phangan Youth Sailing School's initiative to introduced 420 and RS Feva racing opportunities to youngsters in the area.