With a record number of yachts looking very likely, the 20th Phuket King's Cup Regatta looks set to expand further its title of being Asia's biggest sailing event.
The biggest fleet on record will start racing off the southern resort island of Phuket from December 2-9 as the Phuket King’s Cup Regatta celebrates its 20th year and the regatta’s patron, His Majesty the King of Thailand, celebrates the 60th year of his accession to the Throne.
Earlier this year, Race Director Simon James, undertook an expansion and upgrade of on-the-water equipment, adding to the regatta’s already substantial stock of necessities needed to host this large event.
James has acquired 1,500 metres of extra anchor lines, 11 new anchors, 200 metres of strong anchor chain, new class flags to accommodate the increased numbers number of classes racing this year and five new buoys.
More than 100 boats have pre-entered this year’s regatta, which was named Yachting Event of the Year at the prestigious Christofle Asia Boating Awards in Singapore in April.
In the past few years Thailand has become the center of sailing in Asia and there are now five large international regattas held in the Kingdom every year. The jewel in the crown is the Phuket King’s Cup Regatta, which last year attracted slightly more yachts than the famous Sydney to Hobart race.
This year’s fleet in Phuket will be the biggest on record anywhere in Asia. And the competition is expected to be tough in the many different classes of boats, which will race over many different courses on the Andaman Sea off Kata Beach on the southern tip of the island. As many as 14 different classes of boats will be racing at this year’s Phuket King’s Cup Regatta.
China’s most famous sailor, Hong Kong-based Frank Pong, will again be contesting the top flight Racing Class on his sleek 75-foot yacht Jelik and this year will have Adam Wu, another Chinese sailor, hot on his heels on his boat Konka Hummingbird. But the Chinese sailors will have to get past former winner Neil Pryde on Hi Fi, Sam Chang’s Ffree Fire 52, which is expected to be very competitive, and Fred Kinmonth and Nick Burns’ Mandrake, another boat with a fine racing pedigree.
The Sportsboat Class is another division which always proves to be super-competitive, mainly because of it’s local flavour. A large number of boats in the class – which has at least 12 entries with more expected – were designed especially for the conditions off Phuket and built on the island.
Highly-respected Australian yacht designer John Duncanson designed a super-fast racing boat called a Phuket 8 especially for the sometimes choppy seas and low swells off the island, and one of the two Phuket 8s entered in this year’s regatta is expected to have a big advantage on its identical rival.
Somtam Express is owned and skippered by John Duncanson’s son Scott, who is a former world junior sailing champion. The other Phuket 8 in this year’s King’s Cup is Vino, owned and skippered by Great Britain’s Phil Wardrop, also a sailor with plenty of experience, and he is expected to give Duncanson some tough competition.
The other boat in the Sportsboat Class especially designed for Thai waters is the Platu, and there are at least five entered in the regatta so far, with more expected. Four of the quick Platu boats will have Japanese skippers this year.
The center of attention this year, however, could be another lightning-quick class of boats designed and built in Phuket. Called a Firefly 850, these 8.5-metre racing catamarans have been dubbed the 'Formula One' machine of the sea and one holds the record for the fastest sailing boat in Thai waters. With their sleek looks and colourful paintwork, these flying cats are always a favourite with photographers and they are so fast they could tow a skier.
Designed by Phuket-based Australian Mark Pescott, one of the world’s leading designers of multihull boats, the Firefly 850s are built at Mark Horwood’s Latitude 8 boatyard in Phuket and they have orders for many more, which will lead to some spectacular racing in the years to come.
Apart from the Firefly boats, which will be racing in their own class, there are also at least 12 entries in the other multihull class, with some very fast and competitive sailing expected between the catamarans and trimarans. Veteran Thai skipper Radab Kanjanavanit always mounts a strong challenge on his boat
Cedar Swan, which was built and sailed in many King’s Cups by his late father, Dr Rachot, one of the pioneers of competitive sailing in Thailand.
To highlight the popularity of sailing in Thailand, yacht charter company Sunsail Thailand has the majority of it’s chartered and entered in the King’s Cup – some will be racing in their own one-design class, while others will be in the Bareback Charter Class.
A special candlelit tribute, hosted by Mom Tri's Boathouse, will be held on Kata Beach by the 1,000 or more sailors involved in the regatta on December 5 to celebrate the birthday of the regatta’s patron, His Majesty the King of Thailand. December 5 is His Majesty’s birthday and is Fathers’ Day in Thailand and also National Day.
A special book celebrating 20 years of the Phuket King’s Cup Regatta, and detailing the history of sailing in Thailand – written by the Kingdom’s leading sailing writers, Peter Cummins and Alan Parkhouse, commissioned by Raimon Land and published by Ensign Media – will also be released during regatta week in Phuket.
The social side of the King’s Cup is legendary with parties and prize-giving every night and this year principal sponsors Raimon Land have promised some stunning entertainment.
'We have some first-class international entertainment lined up during the regatta and this year looks like being even better than last year,' said Henri Young of Raimon Land.
'We are happy to support not only one of Thailand’s biggest sporting events, but also Asia’s biggest sailing extravaganza.'
This year’s Phuket King’s Cup Regatta will be sailed over five days, in the first week of December to coincide with His Majesty the King’s birthday on December 5.
The principal sponsor of the Regatta is Raimon Land PLC, who are joined by Kata Group, TMB Bank Pcl, Chivas Brothers (UK), Royal Phuket Marina, Thai Beverages PLC, Thai Airways International PLC, Mom Tri’s Boathouse, Coutts Bank, Sunsail, Phuket Magazine, The Nation, Phuket Gazette and a host of local businesses which support the event.
Fore more information on the event, go to www.kingscup.com