The Phuket King's Cup 2011 is the biggest yet and certainly has one of the most competitive fleets ever assembled in the event's 25 year history.
While in its early years the winning skippers tended to be British, New Zealand and Australian expatriates many of the key classes are now being dominated by Asian sailors.
Welshman Simon James has been the event’s Race Director for much of the last decade and is rightly proud of the very positive feedback that has been coming from skippers and crews in recent years and of the development of Asian talent.
‘We don’t just sit on our laurels and say 'this is what we did last year’ and keep doing exactly the same things year after year.
‘We look carefully at the boats that come to our event each year. We try to design the classes and course layouts to suit them. We are always looking at the boats that are available across Asia and looking at ways to provide new opportunities for our Asian fleets and Asian sailors.
‘One of the things we have done as organisers, which seems to have benefited Asian keelboat sailing, is to make a concerted effort to provide an IRC measurement facility so that everyone knows that if you come to the King’s Cup the rules will be followed.
‘We provide, via Malcolm Runnels, a sail and hull measuring service and Jenny Howells from the IRC in the UK is onsite to facilitate the rapid production of certificates.
‘We use IRC handicapping for the cruising classes. A lot of boats in the cruising class do not regularly race so it is very hard to produce a performance based handicap and we offer a package entry fee for the cruising classes, which includes their first IRC certificate as part of their entry.’
‘Over the years we have encouraged the bareboat fleet and it’s been very successful. This year we have eight Russian crews chartering in that fleet alone. Now we are looking at how can we further develop that area.
‘There are sailors from more than 25 countries competing at this regatta.
‘Dubai and Hong Kong teams are battling for the lead in Division 0, a strong Japanese crew currently leads IRC 1, and the Thai Navy looks like it could take it's fourth IRC 2 division win.
‘Overall we’d like to think that our efforts have played a part in the strengthening of Asian sailing.
‘Returning to the event’s roots, we have re-introduced dinghies so the kids can now sail and we have a large Thai involvement in the dinghy class. This year we have 14 kids from the Sunshine Children’s Home (an orphanage,) racing and one of them won the series. They’ll all be here on Saturday night for the Royal presentations and that will be exciting and very good.
'This year we have invited the Asian kiteboarders as a demonstration class and we’ve discovered they have more wind speed limitations than was suggested, but we will see how we can work on that aspect.
‘It is all about getting people out on the water and participating in the King’s Cup and we are very proud that the majority of boats here have Thai sailors racing as crew. Local knowledge certainly helps.
‘The Thai kids have great natural talent, they lead the world in the Optimist classes and these results can be found in the keelboat fleets as well.
‘Look at the Navy teams. Even though they are sailing old boats they’ve been consistently in the top three for seven years now, with new crews every year.’
‘Phuket is a popular worldwide destination and there are only a certain number of boats in the region. Although there are many charter boats there aren’t a lot of racing charter boats, so we need to find a way of growing the event in that department as well.
‘We are keen to run One Design Nationals, Asian Region or World Championships as we have the infrastructure here. Our aim is to have a different group here every year, so the regatta is not only competitive but is also growing.'
One of the best known skippers on the entire Asian circuit is Frank Pong, who has competed in ten out of the last twelve Phuket King's Cup regattas.
This morning he said 'I haven’t been to too many events in the Med or Caribbean but the people who have say ‘Frank don’t be in a hurry to go to Europe or any of those places.'
'The Phuket King's Cup is a fabulous event and it just keeps getting better and better. All you have to do is look at the venue, the hospitality, the waters and the economy of the event.
‘We have it good here in Phuket. As the saying goes ‘Come on in … the water is fine.'
For news, results and information on the 25th Phuket King’s Cup please visit the event website www.kingscup.com
Sponsors of the 2011 Phuket King's Cup Regatta include Kata Group Resorts Thailand, PTT Group, Siam Winery, Singha Corporation, AIA Thailand, PTT Global Chemical, PTTEP, Thaioil, Centara Grand Beach Resort Phuket, Boathouse and Sunsail. Media Partners include 91.5FM, Helm Superyacht Asia Pacific, The Nation, Phuket Best Group, Phuket Gazette, Phuket Magazine, Sail-World.com, SEA Yachting and YachtStyle Asia.