by Rob Kothe
One of Australia’s sailing gurus is spearheading a surprising new campaign to win another Phuket King’s Cup with one of the Asia Pacific best known racing campaigners. And Day One at the 2012 Phuket King's Cup showed they are very much on a winner.
Phuket King’s Cup 2012. Ichiban.(modified Adams 10)
Michael Spies, a former dual 18 foot skiff World Champion (1993, 1995), first sailed south in the Sydney to Hobart at age 17 back in …. He sailed the second smallest yacht ever to Hobart, the 28ft (8.7m) Telerent in 1992, winning his division.
He co-skippered the Volvo 60 Nokia to a race record smashing victory in the 1999 Sydney to Hobart race and then headed up the campaign that delivered National First Real Estate, a Beneteau First 40.7, the overall handicap victory in the 2003 Sydney to Hobart race.
Spies, now a 30 Sydney to Hobart veteran has earned the reputation as one of the best optimisers of racing boats on the international scene. His work with the Beneteau 40.7 and the 44.7 turned heads across the racing world.
Now he has once again joined forces with Matt Allen, the former Commodore of the CYCA, who has been campaigning aggressively and very successfully across Australia and Asia with a long series of boats called Ichi Ban. Matt has three Phuket King's Cup wins under his belt from 2008,2009 and 2010.
The Ichi Ban’s include the modified Volvo 70, Beneteau 44.7 and a very fast Farr 400. The newest Ichi Ban has just been launched in time for 2012 Phuket Kings Cup comes the latest and possibly most surprising Ichi Ban.
A souped up Adams 10.
Phuket King's Cup 2012. Michael Spies (l) and Matt Allen.
And it’s quite a story… as Spies explains:
‘We have been racing in Asia for quite a few years now and Matt wanted to downsize the programme a little bit. Just make it a little bit more user friendly with a smaller crew and a bit more cost effective. We don’t want to do the long delivery sail needed to support the regattas on both sides of the Thai-Singapore peninsula.
‘So we needed a boat that would fit into a container and be trailable.
‘So we reached back into history. Looking at what owners had done with various models and so we looked hard at the Adams 10. One such yacht has been very competitive in Melbourne. We just thought we would try to take this success to the next stage.
‘We found an old Adams 10, some 35 years old that belonged to a Rabbi in Sydney, moored in Rose Bay and probably hadn't been sailed for about three or four years at least and it was rotten.
‘We put it in a container and shipped it up here into Asia and had shifts of nine working around the clock getting it ready. Now it is a pretty nice boat.
‘We found an old broken 30 Mumm mast we put back together and cut down and changed the rig plan a little bit to make it a more IRC orientated rig. It now has non overlapping headsails, extended the J with slightly bigger E with safety lines and inboard engine, folding prop.
‘We left the underwater appendages largely alone. It is still the original rudder. We just gave it a bit of a tune up and a bit of a trailing edge clean up. We would have liked to have spent more time on the thing.
‘We were looking at a new keel but just the fact that the hull is so deep V'd, short of blanking out the mould and major structure things, I don't think you can effectively hang a modern keel on it.
‘Just looking at the IRC handicap now. It is probably a .980 which is about right because we are heavy. We have got an inboard engine and we are assuming that Mike will carry the inboard engine factor back from the old IOR days which was 2% and a bit more fit- out inside.
‘We lost a bit on the carbon rigging to spreaders but we think up in other areas such as the engine and the fit out... well hope we have.
‘We have been working double shifts 24 hours trying to get the boat finished for this 26th Phuket King’s Cup. We were still working on the boat just a few hours before racing started.
‘All the boat work has been done in Phuket. We are always trying to support the local industry. We have been using the Latitude 8 factory and our friends at Royal Phuket Marina have bent over backwards and helped us fit the keel in time.
‘This local involvement is part of Matt’s ethos, to try and support not only the regattas but the local industry.
‘Fellow Australian Ian Short is coming up to sail with us. He has built the sails. We haven't seen them yet so hopefully we will hoist them for the first time tomorrow.
‘We had a very good run here with carbon fibre and Dimension Polyant sailcloth. It’s cost effective and part of the lower cost campaigning we need.
‘The Adams 10 is certainly a great platform. I owned two of them that we ran as corporate based racing in the early 90s and actually I won a couple of CYCA winter series in mine.
‘They are a freak boat and I think the freak boats are very much you can count on one hand.
‘The Farr 1104's, the Adams 10 and the Beneteau 40.7 are all in that category.
‘The Adams 10 designer, the late Joe Adams, bless his soul, definitely got the numbers right on this one. They were far ahead of their time.‘
And today Matt Allen was smiling as he stepped out of a RIB on Kata Beach after three windward leeward races.
After the first three races, in the IRC Division 2, in his 35 year old Adams 10, which was hardly more than a mooring keeper on Sydney Harbour a few months ago, he has two wins and a second ahead of the legendary Royal Thai Navy teams who have dominated this division over much of the last decade.
‘We could not be happier, there is still a lot of tweaking to do, we were still putting on deck fitting this morning.
‘But this fun racing, it’s just a little slower than the Ichiban 70, but it’s a lot of fun. There is plenty for the six of us to do, getting round the course.
Michael Spies was equally happy. ‘There is still a lot of tweaking to do, we managed to tuned the rig much better after the first race and that showed with much better upwind speed in the second race.
‘By the end of the week I am sure we will be close to our best speed, but we have already proved that our low cost concept works and it’s a really good racing in the IRC 2 class.’
Certainly the boat is performing well, but the racing is incredibly close with just 13 and six seconds difference on corrected time but the experience and class of Matt’s team made watching them on the race course a joy today.
Mat summed up 'We were just happy to be on the startline, after all seven weeks ago the boat was barnacle and weed covered in Sydney Harbour.
'We were nicely in phase in race 1 but the rig needed more tuning, in the second race we were in phase and with the rig better enjoyed the stronger conditions, but in the third race we had a not so good start and were out of phase. However Madam Butterfly made good gains in the lighter conditions, that definitely seems her strenght.'
One thing is for sure, the Royal Thai Navy will have a fight on their hands this week.
Racing continues tomorrow in the 26th annual Phuket King’s Cup and runs until Saturday November 8th 2012.