The 27th Phuket King’s Cup Regatta launched in beautiful sunshine and in consistent winds as this classic race in the Andaman Sea kicked off with one of its largest ever fleet of keelboats; 105 entries competing over a newly expanded range of 15 individual classes. The scene is set for epically tight action across many class structures and a huge range of hull lengths this year.
In the Grand Prix class IRC0, a 6-way contest between representative vessels from Hong Kong, Australia and Thailand will do battle during the course of this Regatta week. Jelik skippered by Frank Pong started this year’s competition with the kind of form this team enjoyed last year. On corrected times, they won the first race and were quicker than second-placed “Oi!” by 17 seconds on times adjusted for handicap. The team look set to dominate again in 2013, although race two of the day brought them only a fourth place finish, yielding to Ray Roberts’ OneSails Racing team.
Frank Pong, Skipper of Team Jelik, said, “We obviously came here to win following our performance last year, but in race one we were surprised by our overall pace adjusted for time, and the fact we were able to overtake rivals on handicap. In the second race, we sailed into a hole (in the wind) by the bottom buoy on the first lap, and the 52-footers came charging down on us. We were all close for most of the two races, having a lot of fun close-quarters; a characteristic very typical of this Regatta! We would like to thank Kata Group Resorts Thailand for sponsoring this classic race, and for hosting several of the beachside parties.”
Ten super-fast craft competing in the IRC1 class were headed by familiar leaders Foxy Lady 6. Their nearest rival from last year’s King’s Cup, EFG Bank Mandrake, finished fourth in the first race. This class plays host to the Royal Malaysian Navy entry, Utarid, which managed a fifth-place finish. Race two saw foxy Lady rule the class also – staking an initial claim in eventual class honours.
IRC2, a class which this year features several Russian entries all racing popular larger variants of the Beneteau First type of boat, will see close racing between the aforementioned Eastern European entries versus two Australian and one Japanese boat. In the first race, it was the Japanese who bested all competitors. Yasuo Nanamori and his Karasu team put in a great display in last year’s competition, and are beginning again this year in similar form. IRC2 race two was won by Karasu also, ahead of Peter Sorensen’s “Fujin.” The team looked very relaxed following their first races of the week, and have ‘set out their stall’ as the team to beat again.
Last year’s lightning-quick Ichi Ban skippered by Matt Allen finished as runner-up in its first race, behind new team Red Kite 2 in the IRC3 class. The Royal Thai Navy team “Navy 1” skippered by LT.JG. Pontep Sookudom is competing in IRC3 this year, with the boat finishing fifth in its first outing. In the second race of the day, Red Kite 2 was victor again, ahead of several Aussie challengers competing for class honours.
Ross Chisholm, Race Officer of the Phuket King’s Cup Regatta, spoke of the increasing number of classes this year, and the new class structure: “We’ve made the decision to replace existing regulations this year in areas such as crew weighting, so that they are more aligned with IRC regulations. This results in certain boats moving up or down classes; it’s interesting as some boats want to race in lower classes to stand a better chance of winning, whilst others seek to compete at higher levels.”
Sunsail Charter division, a class introduced by boat charterer Sunsail, saw “Rambutan,” a Thai-registered vessel skippered by Petr Kochnev take first place ahead of nearest rival “Tamarind” of Australia.
In Premier class, defending champion Pine Pacific took the first race, with less than one minute separating them from runner-up “Overdrive” (on adjusted times).
Sports Boats, a divisional contest between designs which share an identical robust and fast “Platu” hull, witnessed close racing between several Japanese competitors, with Makiko Matsuishi on IPPAI winning both races.
The Bareboat Charter class, resplendent in 19 entries – the largest category of boat this year, was led by Kikolay Shkurin and his “Sita” team. Team Venture, an experienced competitor from previous regattas, placed second.
Open Charter, a new division for this year which was introduced to address disparities between bareboat vessels in previous regattas, presented some fascinating action in its first year. Russian crews made an exceptional showing, with “Sarawadee” placing first ahead of nearest rival “Little Eva.”
Firefly 850 Sports class, a division which hosts a single-type sports catamaran, features two particularly fast teams amongst its six entries; Roger Kingdon’s Motor Inzi team, and Hans Rahmann’s Voodoo team. Moto Inzi was victorious in the opening race, whilst British entry Twin Sharks was victor in the second race.
In Multihull Racing class, Mark Prescott’s Da Vinci team and regular King’s Cup competitor took the first race, whilst Asia Catamarans Hurricane skippered by Alan Cardwine won the second.
In Multihull Cruising class, Japanese team “Minnie” was furiously quick, establishing early pace for the class in race one.
In Modern Classic class, the Sansiri Windstar team could do no better than fourth, with Jim Ellis’s Remington team taking the first round.
The Classic class hosts just three teams this year, all of them new to the Phuket King’s Cup Regatta; “Sunshine Schooner” was quickest in the first round, in an all-Thai-registered grouping.
In Cruising class, Chris Mitchell’s Australian-registered “Lady Bubbly” placed first by two-and-a-half minutes against Singaporean rivals “Rainbow Dream.”
Conditions have been very good today with overnight rain keeping itself at bay, setting the scene for a week of superb competition. The Phuket King’s Cup Regatta Under Royal Patronage marks the birthday of His Majesty the King of Thailand, and has launched in 2013 with a suitably spectacular fashion – a week of exceptional racing and superb beachside parties to reinforce the King’s Cup’s reputation as the premier sailing event in all of Asia.