They’ve been called Formula One sailing boats and for the first time a fleet of the super-fast Firefly catamarans will be racing against each other when Asia’s biggest sailing event, the Phuket King’s Cup Regatta, starts on the Andaman Sea off the southern resort island of Phuket.
One of the 8.5-metre Firefly catamarans holds the speed record for sailing boats in Thai waters and the racing is expected to be spectacular with at least five Fireflys lining up to race in their own class at this year’s Phuket King’s Cup Regatta.
The Fireflys are designed and built in Phuket and will be part of the large multihull fleet contesting this year’s King’s Cup.
Multihull boats – catamarans and trimarans – will make up more than 20 per cent of this year’s fleet, which is expected to be the biggest ever as the King’s Cup celebrates its 20th year and the regatta’s patron, His Majesty the King of Thailand, celebrates his 60th year on the throne, making him the world’s longest reigning monarch.
Racing in their own class for the first time, the Firefly fleet will provide a fast moving, colourful spectacle for all sailing enthusiasts to admire. The home favourite is Moto Inzi, the winner of most events in Asia this past year, and skipper/owner Roger Kingdon and his very experienced crew will be keen to win their class.
They have sailed more than 30 races from Pattaya to Koh Samui and from Phuket to Langkawi in Malaysia and back. They have clocked up about 700 miles of offshore sailing and probably another 300 miles of close quarter racing, giving them a substantial jump on the rest of the fleet.
But they will face some strong competition from Marc Cudennec’s Chi Machine, the winners of the last event in Thailand, Phuket Race Week, who boast a very experienced team of French multihull sailors.
France are renowned for turning out very fast multihull boats and appropriately Chi Machine will be sporting the Club Med colours. Cudennec, who lives in Hong Kong, has brought a great deal of advice and enthusiasm to the class. He is passionate about multihull sailing, saying they are faster, easier and fun to sail.
Another Firefly to watch will be Mamba, the dark horse in the field. Owner Henry Kaye will be competing in his 20th King’s Cup and has become a very enthusiastic supporter of multihull sailing since he moved to Phuket nearly four years ago. Kaye has a well known crew and this year has invited Alice Lim to give input and advice.
Lim has won multiple King’s Cups sailing Hobies and other smaller multihull boats. Kaye has been a prime mover in the push for a separate class of racing for the Fireflys.
Andrew Marshall is also expected to be in the hunt on his Firefly Pink Lady, which is immaculate and Marshall’s attention to detail and boat layout will surely pay dividends. He is playing his cards close to his chest. The boat will be launched only a week before the event. His crew include some very talented sailors and they will be pushing hard.
Bill Phelps is another contender in this new class. Phelps has recently moved to Phuket and is building a new villa, but his new boat Twin Sharks is scheduled to be launched on December 1, two days before the start of the King’s Cup. His crew include one of Australia’s top multihull sailors from Queensland, the home of multihull sailing in the southern hemisphere.
Commenting on the growth of multihull sailing in the region, Simon James, the Chairman of the Phuket King’s Cup Race Committee said: 'In a move to encourage multihull entries the King’s Cup Committee are flying in the most experienced chief multihull measurer from Queensland, Geoff Cruise.'
'We are also giving this home-grown class it’s own start and have increased the number of races to seven to encourage competitive racing throughout the week.'
The growth of multihull sailing in Phuket has been fuelled by the popularity of Phuket-based yacht builders Latitude 8, who will have five Firefly’s on the water during the regatta.
There will also be some close racing in the other multihull classes, with another five boats in the regatta all designed by Phuket-based Australian Mark Pescott and built in Phuket at the Latitude 8 boatyard.
With the addition of the Phuket 8 Sportsboats, also built by Latitude 8 and designed especially for Thai waters, Phuket-built yachts will make up more than 20 per cent of this year’s regatta fleet, showing Phuket is now a major force in the Asian boat building industry.
The Phuket Kings Cup Regatta gives it’s whole hearted support to this new initiative as multihulls are easy to sail, fast and comfortable, if a little wet. This fleet will certainly be noticed, they will have fun and there will be competitive racing throughout the week.
The Firefly fleet is also growing rapidly – the eighth boat will be launched in January and the class plan to support all the major regattas in the region.
For more information, go to www.kingscup.com