The Phuket King’s Cup is the premier event in Asia for 40-footers and this year the competition is fierce.
One of most successful IRC racers in the history of this rating rule has been the Mark Mills designed EFG Bank Mandrake now sailing in Asia.
Launched as Tiamat in 2005, she won that year at Cowes Week and in 2006 she won Class 0 and the RORC Best overall title. A win at the French IRC Championships followed in 2007.
As Ngoni and under new ownership, she won the 2008 Copa Del Rey and Voiles De St Tropez, then three more regattas including the 2009 Italian IRC titles.
The boat then came to Asia, where she is currently campaigned by Nick Burns and Fred Kinmonth. Now called EFG Bank Mandrake, she has won Hong Kong’s Nautica Typhoon Series, China Coast Race Week and the recent Raja Muda Regatta.
EFG Bank Mandrake came into the 2011 Phuket King’s Cup as the raging hot IRC 1 favourite, but she finished unexpectedly back in fourth place.
She was behind the Japanese IRC Champion Yasuo Nanamori onboard the Summit 40 Karasu, Singapore sailor Steve Manning with his brand new Jason Ker designed Sydney GTS 43 Walawala 2 and David Rowe’s KukuKerchu, the McConaghy International built Ker 40.
Yasuo Nanamori has been running a very experienced Karasu team for close to 20 years. They showed up on the international scene win a class win at the Kenwood Cup in Hawaii in 2000.
They have been on the Japan Cup podium for most of the last decade and in September Karasu won the 2011 Riviera Japan Cup, which is the major Japanese inshore regatta.
This is their fourth visit to the King's Cup. In 2009 they were third in IRC 1 in an old IOR Farr 43 Switchblade, behind Matt Allen. Last year they won their first IRC 1 race in a chartered boat, which was swept onto Kata Beach one night, ending their regatta.
This year they have showed their mettle. Nick Burns said this morning ‘The Japanese are sailing superbly with an excellent boat and excellent speed. They get themselves out of holes and they have absolutely flawless crew work. They are very, very good. We haven’t had that level of competition before from the Summit 40.
‘Steve Manning and his Walawala 2 team have been doing very well and they too are very fast. We have more experience with our boat, we are a year and a half in. They have only been sailing their new boat for a week, so to be sailing so well is brilliant.
‘We have definitely improved over the last year and a half, but look what the Walawala crew have done this week. Who knows what they will be like at King’s Cup in 2012.
‘They’ve had very good performance in both light and heavy breezes. The Ker 40 KukuKerchu is better in heavy wind and Walawala 2 seems to be good in both light and heavy breezes.
‘This is definitely the best 40-foot fleet in Asia. It’s very competitive and you only have to sneeze twice and you have lost five places.
‘Yesterday on the start line, we started between KukuKerchu and Walawala 2 and we were squeezed out like a pip.’
Steve Manning had been sailing a Beneteau 44.7 for seven years with mixed results, before moving up his new Sydney GTS 43.
Manning explained ‘After looking at the latest, very impressive windward leeward 40-foot designs from Mills and Ker, we figured were needed a slightly different boat with more offshore performance and with a little more of a cruising configuration. The new design suits us perfectly.
‘For us to be ahead of Mandrake, one of the most successful IRC 40-footers in history, is very good. To be ahead of them and the Ker 40 KukuKerchu is rewarding.’
Designer Jason Ker commented ‘With very competitive reference points to start from and extensive use of our highly accurate RANS CFD optimisation techniques, we had no doubt whatsoever that the GTS 43 design would prove to be highly competitive, but we are impressed and surprised how quickly Steve Manning and his team on Walawala 2 got to grips with the boat. They started winning races in mixed conditions, after only a few days of sailing.’
Lawrence Mead from EFG Mandrake said ‘We will have to lift our game for 2012. The Japanese are sailing well and they are really optimised, with a fast boat. They deserve to win this regatta.
‘We need to go out and find half a percent. Everyone is always getting faster so we have definitely got to go faster too.
‘Looks like it’s time we had new sails’ he smiled.
Mark Mills explained ‘Mandrake was designed as a nice fast sailing boat, with IRC performance coming as a result of good all-around capabilities, rather than as a result of pure rule conformance.
'She has a more balanced performance profile across inshore and offshore events than later, specific inshore and thus rating oriented designs, such as our equally successful Summit 40, which Yasuo Nanamori Karasu is sailing so well at the moment.
‘A production development of Mandrake called the MAT12 was produced for MAT in Turkey, an excellent small production yard we have worked with subsequently on other projects.
‘The MAT 12 is a slightly longer evolution of the Mandrake type form. It has the latest Mills foils and significant improvements in righting. This design promises to be even more competitive with its longer water lines and higher sail area to DSPL ratio, making it more suited to regatta formats in locations like Asia, where there is a mix of passage and windward leeward racing.’
In fifth place was defending champion and three-time King’s Cup winner Matt Allen and his all Australian crew on the Beneteau 44.7 Ichi Ban. Having won every year since his debut in 2008, Allen says ‘the level of competition has not gone up just one notch this year – it’s probably gone up three.’
Race Director Simon James agrees. 'There is a move to 40-footers and there are more and more being brought into the region and racing on the Asian circuit. The standard of racing is high, as can be seen from the IRC 1 class competition this year.'
By 2012 it seems the number of very competitive new designs on the IRC 1 start line of the Phuket King’s Cup will go up with the MAT12 likely to join the custom Mill’s Mandrake, Ker 40, Summit 40 and Sydney GTS 43 designs.
Hong Kong sailor Mark Thornburrow summed up. ‘The Phuket King’s Cup is the premier event in Asia for 40-footers.
'Phuket is close enough to Australia, Hong Kong and Japan. Here in Phuket you could have an Asia Pacific Big Boat circuit that would rival anything in Europe.’
Phuket King's Cup IRC 1 class. Top five Series results after 10 races:
1 JPN4500 Karasu - Yasuo Nanamori (JPN)
2 SIN2008 Walawala 2 - Steve Manning (SIN)
3 AUS55 Kukukerchu - David Ross (SIN)
4 HKG2282 EFG Mandrake - Nick Burns / Fred Kinmonth (HKG)
5 AUS6038 Ichi Ban - Matt Allen (AUS)
For full results, news 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.