'Bigger is better', or so the saying goes, but at the 2011 Phuket King's Cup Regatta this is no longer the case. A new trend is emerging. The all-out 50 foot plus racers of the IRC Zero Class, often labelled the 'Grand Prix Yachts', and the 'most competitive fleet' by many, are now being overtaken in the attention stakes as the highly competitive 40-footers have turned up in droves to contend Asia's classic, the 25-year-old Phuket King's Cup.
The IRC 1 Class this year looks like a who's who of boat brands. There is a Swan, a Humphrey's, a couple of Ker's, an Elliott, a GP42, two Beneteau's, a Mills, a Summit King, a Sydney, and a J/Boat. All 40-footers except stalwart Australian Maid who at 55 foot is hoping length, age and beauty can trump the smaller 'upstarts'.
IRC 1 is turning out to be the 'class to watch' with tight racing and a share of the podium shared across the fleet. At 13 boats, it's not the largest class in the fleet, but it is arguably the most competitive. Maybe these are the new 'rock stars' of the Asian regatta scene?
The all-Japanese crew on Karasu, a Summit King 40 skippered by Yasuo Nanamori, appears to have built up an almost unassailable lead going into the final day, sitting on 11 points, seven ahead of second placed Walawala 2, a new Sydney GTS 43 from Hong Kong skippered by Steve Manning, which, despite a penalty in Race 5 has put in a series of good finishes to move up to second in the standings.
Japanese IRC 1 entry, Karasu, is one of the story's of the fleet. A relative unknown, the boat is being raced by an all-Japanese crew. Skippered by owner Yasuo Nanamori they come to the Phuket King's Cup on the back of a successful domestic campaign.
Third and fourth places are equal on 20 points, two behind Walawala 2. EFG Bank Mandrake, a custom Mills 40 from Hong Kong skippered by Nick Burns, currently holds third from the Singapore Ker 40 KukuKERchu, skippered by Dave Ross, in fourth.
With the drop race accounted for, only two points separate second, third and fourth, with all to play for on the final day of the series.
Further back in fifth, 17 points adrift of a top three finish, is defending champion and three-time 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 acknowledges the increased competitiveness of the fleet this year.
'The level of competition has not gone up a notch this year – it’s probably gone up three.'
Reinforcing Allen's comment, are the results. After eight races, six different IRC 1 Class boats have had a top three finish. And there is still one more day of racing to go. Six out of the 13-strong class underscores how closely matched these boats are and the high level of competition on-the-water.
The Phuket King's Cup Regatta is a truly international event, and this is encapsulated in the IRC 1 Class, with sailors from Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, New Zealand, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Turkey, UK and USA taking part. 17 nationalities in total, including a crew from the Royal Thames Yacht Club (UK).
'There is a move in the region to 40-footers. There are more and more being bought 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,' commented Race Director, Simon James.
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.
For full results, visit http://www.kingscup.com/index.cfm?ntid=1223
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