Wild and windy beginning...
Its that time of the year again when hundreds of sailors from all over the world descend on Phuket in Southern Thailand to compete for the prestigious King's Cup trophies. The airports are full of people with regatta shirts milling around for connecting flights and picking up some last minute duty free gifts. On arrival at the Kata Beach Resort the place is humming with boat registration, sail measurement, race management meetings and the all important media registration in full swing. Just wandering around and taking it all in, gives one a good appreciation of just how much goes on behind the scenes into organising such a large event.
The regatta is always held over the week that His Majesty the King of Thailand's birthday falls each year. On the 5th December the whole nation and International sailors will celebrate the longest serving monarch in the world HM the King 80th birthday, 61 years since his accession to the Throne and the 21st Phuket King's Cup. A strong flow of north easterly trade winds is presently being experienced along the entire length of the Kra Peninsula which is expected to last for the next few days and should see the regatta off to a good start. Quite a milestone and the media jokingly say that the weather received each year is partially organised by His Majesty to test the Thai sailors racing skills. Keep your fingers crossed!
The three leading contenders for the 2007-08 AYGP Championships Frank Pong's Reichel-Pugh 75 Jelik, Fred Kinmonth / Nick Burns Mills 51 Fortis Mandrake and Ray Roberts DK46 Quantum Racing will be going head to head again but Chris Meads Corby 43 Full Metal Jacket, Dong Qing's Judel/Vrolijk 52 Microlab Moonlight Shadow from mainland China and Stephen Reith's Sydney 40 Foxy Lady III will be going all out to spoil their party.
The Sportsboat Class has Scott Duncanson past winner Phuket 8 Somtam Express and Kipsan Beck's trapesing Pornstar taking on five Platu 25's that were especially designed for the light Asian weather conditions. How they handle the stronger breeze and contain the rapidly planning Phuket 8 is sure to determine the outcome.
With 15 boats entered in the Premier Cruising Class is the biggest to date. Several new faces have appeared on the scene. Bob Yapp's Nest 56 Yo Mo, David Brennan's J160 Pipe Dream IX and Anthony Hastings Beneteau 53 Baby Tonga are relatively unknown but already being touted as prospective title chances. If the breeze stays in Hans Rahmann's 70ft Judel/Vrolijk Yasooda fresh from winning the Raja Muda two weeks ago, Dr Ian Nicolson's Dubois 80 Intrigue and Peter Churchouse's Moonblue 2 will all be in with a chance.
Three IRC Classes have been created to keep similar boats racing against each other. IRC 1 and 2 are split based on their TCF ratings. IRC 3 takes into account the yachts Hull Factor making it more competitive for smaller cruising boats as opposed to pure round the cans racers. Steve Manning and Robert Van Parodin are fielding two new Beneteau 44.7's Walawala and Tantrum that expect to be leading the IRC 1 fleet. Jeff Davidson Mumm 30 Panic has been raking in the silverware recently and wants to add a King's Cup to his ever increasing trophy cabinet.
IRC 2 is likely to be very competitive this year with the Thai Navy Farr MRX's re-challenging for the crown. Lieutenant Commander Pornprom Sagultem is helming Royal Thai Navy 1 which has won 'back to back' since 2003. They can expect some added pressure from Peter Dyer's Madame Butterfly (2006 IRC 1 winner) and Raja Muda IRC 3 winner David Lindahl's Swan 42 La Samudra all competing for the IRC 2 trophy.
IRC 3 sees Cinders the smallest boat a First 285 skippered by Thai Khet taking on the much bigger Dr Basil Diethelm's Swan 44 Sarabande, Bo Sondergaard's S&S 46 Patrice III and Larry Emerson chartering the S&S 42 classic Remington to contend with.
The multihull divisions continue to grow at an alarming rate in Thailand. Eight Firefly 850 sportsboats are racing in their own One design class that have attracted allot of overseas attention with top flight skippers and crews clambering over each other to get aboard. Ian Southworth from the Hamble Sailing Club onboard the 2006 KC winner Chi Machine now renamed Sea Properties tops the list of big names. Henry Kay is a Kings Cup veteran returns again on Mamba with the rumor of a hot Aussy sail maker onboard and some spanking new sails. Roger Kingdon on Moto Inzi fresh from his win at the recent Phuket Race Week that wrapped up the 2007 Firefly Annual Awards will be looking to start the season off on a winning note. The stunning hull graphics of Pagatoon owned by Pierre Forsans and Voodoo Child owned by David Hill have both made the supreme effort of transporting their boats overland from Ko Samui.
A number of new Corsair trimarans have been launched in Pattaya that have made their way over to Phuket and swelled the ranks of the Racing Multihull Class. First they will have to beat Mark Pescott's class winning 10m catamaran Summersalt and Khun Redab's multiple winning Cedar Swan before they can claim the title.
Performance Multihull Class sees Bob Mott's Faraway 48 Raimon Land Chameleon heading the challenge. Aussie Don McGrath's Oram 44 Cat Out of the Bag and Simon Grant's Silkline 50 HarAlley will be aiming to spoil the party.
Rounding out the rest of the classes is the Ocean Rover and Sunsail One Design class. Ocean Rover is designed to encourage live aboard cruisers and first time visitors to join in the regatta in a less competitive division. Twelve boats have entered which includes the classic oldies which always add some colour and grandeur to the event.
Six Sun Odyssey 35's will battle it out for the Sunsail awards. Christian Eschenburg German crew and Keith Harding's English crew have have faugh it out over the last couple of years and expected to be at it again this year.
More KC 07 info and results at www.kingscup.com.
Photo Edition of the AY Race Reports at: http://asianyachting.com/news/PKCR07.htm.