The Phuket King’s Cup Regatta is Asia’s biggest and most popular regatta. 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.
With the Royal Patronage of His Majesty the King, the Regatta is organised 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.
Less than one day out from the start of the 24th Phuket King’s Cup and nerves are showing as the teams finalised registration and headed out on the water for last-minute training.
Only half of the cup fleet chose to take up the chance to shake out some of the nerves by competing in this afternoon’s practice race. But for many of them, it was a case of trying to get it right on the start, then a few legs of the course to test out the crew on the work and run before peeling off to do their own thing.
‘Kata Yai Beach photos by Grant, Phuketindex © “
Neil Pryde’s HiFi was one of the first boats out on the race track this morning; on the beach by 0900 and then straight out on the water. With the Racing class due to be the first start each race day at ‘not before 0905’, the team were keen to get into early morning race mode as they rediscovered the challenges of a light-air, early morning breeze off Kata Beach.
In the afternoon practice race with an eight knot breeze the Racing class had their own start all approaching the line with speed, but with enough distance between the six yachts to avoid any damage. Jelik 5, HiFi, Strewth, Mandrake Ffreefire and Team Premier were all out there.
Zhik Ichi Ban led the IRC1 and IRC2 fleet of 12 starters off the start working the line harder than their bigger brothers. ‘We did the full course. The breeze softened on the first work and there were a couple of shifts out there. We haven’t raced since the Top of the Gulf in May so today was a good shake down,’ Allen said.
It was a small fleet for the Multihulls and Firefly 850s. Staying well clear of each other at the start, Twin Sharks was seen hunting Voodoo.
On the cruising course the breeze was very soft making it difficult for the small number of competing boats to really test themselves, except of course for those needing some time to work out how to drive the boat in these conditions. Quite a few of the Bareboat Charter class were also out.
In the background the mammoth Perseus crew were trying desperately to hoist their kite. From a distance it looked like they had a twist on the hoist. Skipper Aaron Abramowitz said ‘we were setting the kites to check for rips or tears. They are such large kites that moving them around sometimes they can get damaged. One of our socks on the large kite had a tear in it. It wasn’t the crew, it was equipment failure.’
Abramowitz is confident his seasoned crew of 28 will be more than capable of handling the equipment on board. ‘There are a lot of professional crew; sailors, deck crew, captains, in addition to the regular crew on board. Basically there is a vast background to the people who are on board this week. Our helmsman is Rodger Snell from Bowen in Australia,’ Abramowitz said.
Ray Roberts’s and his Evolution Racing team chose to spend a few afternoon hours on the water training by themselves. ‘We felt that we needed a little bit of sharpening up with the crew as we have a few new faces on the boat. Always that brings a little bit of disjointedness into the sail manoeuvres. So, to be just as sharp as we know we need to be, because it is a very, very competitive fleet, we spent the time doing sail manoeuvres. Hopefully we are up to speed for the regatta,’ Roberts said.
Back at the regatta centre ‘Malcolm the Measurer’ was still busy with last minute IRC sail measurement jobs. About 14 boats had their certificates re-run overnight by the RORC office. As an IRC Measurer and member of the IRC Congress, Malcolm Runnels is eminently qualified to advise the owners of the reason for the current problem.
‘Each year you find something else comes up in the measurement side. This year it appears to be the turn of the definition of sail corners when sailmakers do cut-aways for tack hooks or genoa blocks or things like that. People look at the sails and see the clew ring there and think it’s the corner. But, the equipment rules of sailing have said for an awful long time, the definition of a corner is the extension of each edge of the sail and the intersection. It makes it hard for the measurer when you have to explain to the owner that in fact, the corner of the sail you are measuring is actually about 10 inches out beyond the piece of sail he has paid for,’ Runnels said.
The 14 yachts owners had three options available to them; fix it, not use it or have the IRC certificate modified so that, that sail or sails measure in. One of the yachts requiring a re-run on their certificate was HiFi with its rating moving up from 1.347 to 1.348.
The TP52 Team Premier were one team with some concerns over the sail measurement process. ‘They came to me this morning saying that did not agree with the way I measured their sails. I said, not a problem, let’s do it again. It was probably this corner issue,’ Runnels said. He now awaits the return of the Team Premier crew any time during the week for the sails to be re-measured. ‘If I am wrong and the rating is affected, then we can re-run the results.’
Late in the afternoon the skippers gathered for the obligatory briefing before heading off for the Opening Ceremony function at Kata Beach Resort.
The forecast for day one of the King’s Cup is for a west-north-west breeze anywhere between six and 10 knots.
Regatta website, www.kingscup.com