After 25 years there is still no outright winner when it come to bragging rights for winning the Phuket Kings Cup. This year’s entry list is lacking some of the usual faces, possibly leaving the field open to a new name.
In the early years of the event it was Henry Kaye, Bill Gasson and Jeffrey Lowe whose names kept repeating on the leader board, and then Ray Roberts, and Neil Pryde as well. Gasson, Pryde and Roberts all have four wins apiece, but none of them are competing this year. How about a ‘Masters’ division next year?
Other sailing notables who have won in the past include Hong Kong’s Frank Pong (HK) – present this year and definitely looking to add another King’s Cup to his trophy cabinet. Not only is his 76-foot Jelik the biggest boat in the IRC 0 division, but Pong has been in ‘optimising’ mode recently and word on the street (or the beach, if you prefer) if that the boat is performing well. Very well.
Other Asia Pacific sailors who have won the racing division include Karl Kwok (HKG, 2000), Ray Ordovezo (PHI, 1999), and Peter Ahern (AUS, 2002). Last year's IRC 1 winner, Yasuo Nanamori (Karasu), came from Japan, racing in a division stuffed to the doors with hot 40-footers. Competition was such that Matt Allen’s Ichiban – IRC 1 champion for the three previous years – was relegated to fifth in division. This year Allen is sailing another Iciban – a resuscitated Adams 10 - in a bid to collect another King’s Cup and join the glitterati on the ‘Four X Winners’ podium.
The Royal Malaysian Navy are putting in an appearance in IRC 0 for the first time, with their well-sailed DK47, Utarid. In IRC 1 the 40-footers are back with a vengeance – 10 boats primed to go at it hammer and tongs, with a good fight on the cards between David Ross’s KukuKERchu, Steve Manning’s Walawala, Bill Bremner’s Foxy Lady and the evergreen EFG Bank Mandrake team.
Henry Kaye has won in both keelboat and multihulls divisions, but this year his Sweet Chariot (Sea Cart 26) is being raced by Mark Thornburrow, no doubt looking add a new name to the Who’s Who list.
IRC 2 will be where the Thai supporters will be focussing their attention, with two Royal Thai Navy entries up against Peter Dyer’s Madame Butterfly and Matt Allen’s ‘new’ Ichiban.
The biggest division is Bareboat Charter fleet, but with one entry unlikely to make the start line after Kinnon ended up on the beach in the aftermath of a severe front which rolled over Kata Beach last night. Rescue operations were still under way at time of writing. There is a substantial Russian representation among the Bareboats – 12 entries out of 23 – so no doubt there will be plenty of rivalry both on shore and on the water. Quite possibly vodka will play a part.
The brightly coloured Firefly 850s will be zipping around, and Hans Rahmann (Voodoo) will be looking to make it three-in-a-row this year. But first he’ll have to get past Roger Kingdon (Moto Inzi) and Peter Dyer (SEA Property).
If some creature comforts are more your style, Premier Cruising might be your division. Richard Dobbs’ immaculately turned-out Titania of Cowes is defending her Premier title, racing against a pair of X-55s, Xena (Peter Forsythe) and Pine Pacific (Ithinai Yingsiri), with familiar PKC competitor Baby Tonga in the mix as well.
Today dawned grey wet and very uninviting. By lunchtime the sun had dried up the rain, and the big swell from the west had abated – today’s Practice Race was abandoned – not, as somewhere reported, on account of ‘a lack of umbrellas on the Committee Boat’ – but because the local longtail drivers declined to ferry crews out through the substantial surf, and disappeared for an early lunch.
With 75 boats on the roster it’s not the biggest fleet the Phuket King’s Cup has ever seen, but the quality is there. Strength in depth, and all that. The next five days of racing are sure to produce some fierce battles at close quarters, and we’ll be bringing you the stories and the pictures. Man the guns, and ready a broadside.