All set for the annual celebration of sailing...
With 75 racing yachts, 40+ Windsurfers and 40+ Dinghies running their own series, the waters off Kata Beach Resort comes alive for another week of fast and furious sailing action. Throw in a sailpast and 21 Gun Salute on the King's birthday (Wed 5th) off Cape Prom Thep, the South West coast of Phuket is the place to be.
Proclaimed the 'Jewel in the Crown' of Asian Regattas and well known on the International sailing scene, this event is the fifth point scoring regatta on the annual AYGP Championship, that ultimately goes toward being crowned the AYGP Skipper and Yacht of the Year. Most crews come for the racing and also to enjoy the Island, the tropical sailing conditions and the wonderful Thai hospitality at the nightly prize giving parties that are second to none.
Participating yachts have been divided into 10 classes by IRC handicap bands or by design and style of construction. The top IRC 0 class is down on big boats and after some adjustments a healthy spread of yachts is divided amongst the IRC classes.
Frank Pong's 76ft RP Jelik tops the scales as the biggest boat this year and if the conditions suit is expected to convert line honours into handicap wins in the IRC 0 class. They will be coming up against Ben Copley's RP45 Katsu, the Malaysian Armed Forces DK 47 Utarid skippered by Mohamad Razali Mansor and the President of the King's Cup, Kevin Whitcraft's GP 42 Won Ma Rang is bound to give them a run for their money.
The popular 40 to 45 foot IRC 1 class are closely matched and will battle it out to the very end. Based on past performances Steve Manning's Sydney GTS 43 Walawala 2 and David Ross' Ker 40 KukuKERchu will set a cracking pace at the front of a close knit pack, with Fred Kinmonth/Nick Burns Mills 40 EFG Bank Mandrake and Bill Bremner's Mills King 40 Foxy Lady 6 ready to pounce in the handicap stakes. They will all have to watch out for David Fuller's chartered Beneteau 44.7 Ichi Ban that blitzed the Raja Muda Regatta two weeks ago and has won here several years in a row. Dark horses are Matti Sepp's Swan CS 42 Katsu, Ian Ford's Sydney 40 whalewatchingsydney.net and the Russian march on Park Viacheslav's Jeanneau 50 Feeling, Dmitry Gornyy's Farr 43 Switchblade and Andrey Arbuzov's chartered Young 11 Ruby Tuesday has also tasted success here before.
The Royal Thai Navy have dominated the IRC 2 Class for many years but this time defending the title just got that little bit harder. Matt Allen returns with an Adams 10 also named Ichi Ban and is all fired up with a hot shot crew familiar with local waters. Stuart Williamson's First 34.7 Skandia EOW is always in with a chance and Peter Dyer's Humphrys 3/4 tonner Madam Butterfly has also won here before.
Returning to defend the Premier Cruising title, is Richard Dobbs Swan 68 Titania of Cowes that completely dominated the class last year. Gary Simmons has chartered the Beneteau F53 Baby Tonga and two X-55's Peter Forsythe & Jing Lee's Xena and Thailand's Ithinai Yingsiri on Pine-Pacific will be taking measures to stop Titania of Cowes repeating the dose. If conditions are right, William Lo's Hanse 545 No Name could also spring some surprises.
With 23 entries the Bareboat Charter Class is the biggest by far with competitors from Russia, Australia, Japan, Singapore, Netherlands, Thailand and China, will be the battle of the United Nations. They range from Richard Wendt's Beneteau Cyclades 50.5 Men With Hats, to four Sun Odyssey 44's and Sunsail 41's, right down to Gusev Boris Hanse 315 Sudsakorn 2. They will also be competing for the hotly contested Sunsail trophies and the crews that can adapt the quickest to the often tricky conditions are likely to be on the podium by the end of the regatta.
An interesting battle between the S&S designed yachts Peter Wood's Commanche 42 Windstar and Bo Sondergaard's S&S 47 Patrice III is developing in the Modern Classic / Cruising Class. They will be joined by Nick Band's legendary Tartan 48 Emerald Blue that has a long history at the King's Cup, Nick Smith's Ericson 38 Free Wind hot off the recent Raja Muda, William Sax's Fraser 41 Astraeus and Jack Cristensen's Bavaria 49 Linda that placed second and third last year in the Cruising Class.
On paper, all six entries in the one design Firefly 850 Sports Class are capable of running away with the title. In the past Roger Kingdon's Moto Inzi, Peter Dyer's SEA Property and John Newnham's Twin Sharks have won here before but reigning champion Hans Rahmann's Voodoo have taken pole position at every regatta they entered in the past year and must start odds on favourite. Richard Colman returns on the rebranded Team AIA and if George Eddings Blue Noze can apply enough pressure on Voodoo they will bring the series to a compelling conclusion.
Seven different designs make the Multihull Class an interesting comparison in speed and overall performance. Henry Kaye's Sea Cart 26 Sweet Chariot has a factory works team onboard led by Mark Thornborrow but has proved a bit sticky in light airs. Alan Carwardine returns with a new Stealth 11.8 Hurricane that preformed exceptionally well under charter at the Raja Muda. His old Stealth 12.6 Sidewinder that cleaned up last year has changed hands and John Punch has rebranded her Sidewinder of Darwin and hopes to stay on the pace as they make their debut at the King's Cup. Hot after victory at the Raja Muda, Peter Wilcox's sleek looking Schionning Gforce 1500 Mojo brings a new dimension to the class and expects to continue on their winning ways. Do not write off Andrew Stransky's Seven Seas 50 Fantasia as they picked up several victories in the latter part of the season and ended up the highest scoring Multihull on last seasons AYGP. This class has provided a lot of entertainment for the Phuket based fleet both on the water and in the super competitive market place.
Last but not least, four one design Platu 25's are going head to head in their own class. Three Japanese skippers Makiko Matsuishi, Junichi Ishikawa and Toshio Furuta will be taking on the Thai champions led by Scott Duncanson with the oldest fordeck hand and class coordinator ferreting around on the bow.
Inaugurated in 1987 to mark the 60th birthday of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyedej, the regatta is organised by the Phuket King's Cup Regatta Organizing 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. Held each year during the first week of December the 2012 event is already living up to the reputation as the ultimate showcase for Thailand's seafaring heritage.
Although overnight the weather took a turn for the worse and a few boats washed ashore again, the stage is set, registration and skippers briefing completed, last minute sail measurement and new IRC certificates being computed.
All we need is for the North East tradewind to establish itself for racing to get underway in earnest. First things first, its time for the traditional opening ceremony and welcome party at the Kata Beach Resort & Spa.
Racing begins tomorrow with Race Day 1 hosted by Boathouse and Mont Clair wine.