The Giant awakens - and enters the Phuket Kings Cup

Frank Pong at the helm of Jelik, China Team match racing in Hong Kong harbour
His local press call him 'China’s most famous sailor', and in December retired businessman Frank Pong will be leading a small fleet of Chinese-owned yachts to southern Thailand to take part in the annual Phuket King’s Cup Regatta.

Mainland China has experienced a growing interest in competitive sailing in the past couple of years, and with the Beijing Olympics approaching, the country’s sailors are now starting to travel abroad to take part in regattas to sharpen their skills.

For the first time a team of sailors from mainland China took part in the Phuket King’s Cup Regatta last year, and they attracted a large following of Chinese media, complete with daily television updates sent to Shanghai and other large cities.

As the countdown starts to this year’s regatta, which is held from December 2-9 in the beautiful Andaman Sea off the resort island of Phuket in southern Thailand, the experienced Pong has been helping some of his countrymen gain international experience. But it hasn’t been easy.

'A major hurdle is the language barrier,' says Pong.

'Most (yacht) owners from China do not speak English and they have been coming to me for assistance in just sending in the entry forms for their boats.

'Of course, that is the easiest part of all. Race Instructions are the hardest part.'

For many years Pong has promoted the sport of sailing in China, he has sailed in most of Asia’s regattas and owns some of the region’s fastest yachts.

At this year’s Phuket King’s Cup Regatta he will be sailing his 75-foot yacht Jelik, a big, sleek boat that powers through the water with the slightest puff of wind.

Pong will be joined this year by countrymen Adam Wu and Qiu Jian Min, who are entering their 41.5-foot Corby, named Hummingbird. Both owners are members of the Longcheer Yacht Club in Shenzen.

Blue Juice Day 3 racing - 2005 Kings Cup

The two owners were part of the Chinese team which took part in last year’s King’s Cup, when they chartered Blue Juice, a Phuket-based yacht.

Hummingbird has already taken part in one sailing event in Thailand, the Koh Samui Regatta, which the two owners entered just after they bought the boat in March this year.

'They are keen and have been practicing regularly in the summer,' said Pong.

He added that there are two other possible Chinese entrants for the Phuket King’s Cup Regatta this year, including Cavalier, a 40-ft catamaran which sailed all the way from France to the Longcheer Yacht Club in Shenzen last year.

Pong said that many other Chinese yacht owners were keen to enter this year’s Phuket King’s Cup Regatta.

'I was told by various other owners from the Mainland that they too want to join,' he said.

Pong also predicted there would be a large crowd of people following the Chinese yachts at this year’s regatta, including another big team of Chinese media.

China’s racing at the 2005 Kings Cup
'It is likely you will see hundreds of supporters this year, if all the boats attend.'

China’s most experienced yachtsman also explained that getting to Phuket would be no problem for the owners and skippers while the boats’ crews sailed their vessels to the resort island.

'Hotels and flights bookings are no problem. Chinese travel agents are very familiar with organising large groups to South East Asia tourist spots,' he said.

The Chinese contingent will be part of a record fleet expected for this year’s regatta for two reasons – the regatta will be celebrating its 20th year and this year also marks the 60th anniversary of His Majesty the King of Thailand’s accession to the throne. His Majesty, an award-winning sailor himself, is also the regatta’s patron.

The Phuket King’s Cup Regatta organisers will be staging special events this year to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Asia’s leading sailing competition and the regatta’s main sponsors, property developers Raimon Land, have commissioned a commemorative book celebrating the event’s 20-year history.

With the Royal Patronage of His Majesty the King, the regatta is organised every year by the Phuket King's Cup Regatta Organising 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.

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