The fleet of the 2012 Phuket King’s Cup Regatta comprises a broad mix of boats crewed by an international assemblage of sailors from over 35 countries. In all, the fleet has grown to encompass an extraordinary 168 entries this year. Among them are 78 ocean-going racers and cruisers, 50 dinghies and 40 windsurfs. The jewel in the crown of the Asia yachting circuit, the Phuket King's Cup Regatta’s reputation for world class competition draws entrants from every corner of the globe year-on-year, and its growth in diversity of racing classes is adding to its international appeal.
The Phuket King’s Cup Regatta features IRC0, IRC1 and IRC2 racing classes; competitions between some of the fastest sports sailing crafts available. Additionally, the Regatta enjoys a very high level of participation in its Bareboat Charter class, a class in which the boat is chartered and drive by the charterers. It is up to the skipper to crew the boat and make it race-ready. The 2012 Phuket King’s Cup Regatta attracted 23 boats in this class, with many different different boat types and nationalities taking part, including the largest number of Russians taking in the Regatta, ever. In addition to monohull boats, the Regatta also features catamarans and trimarans – fast and stable, the quickest are generally the one-design, Phuket-built, Firefly 850 Sports catamaran.
The 2012 Regatta saw the reintroduction of the Platu One Design class: a 25-foot sailing yacht, popular in Asia and Europe, it is a small easy-to-handle racer with surprising power and speed, and yet not prohibitively expensive to buy. Owners of these yachts compete in several series in South East Asia, and its addition to the Phuket King’s Cup as a specific class has broadened the diversity of the Regatta yet further.
Other classes include Premier, Modern Classic, Classic and Cruising; perennial favourites amongst the worldwide sailing community, and classes that broaden the accessibility of Regatta competition to as many people as possible. Kevin Whitcraft, President of the Phuket King’s Cup Regatta Organising Committee, said, “It is the belief of the Phuket King’s Cup Regatta Organising Committee that the sport of sailing should be supported and developed wherever possible, and the hosting of a diverse class structure allows a great number of international teams of various sizes to take part. It creates a magnificent occasion with very close racing throughout the classes.”
From the large keelboats and multihulls, the Regatta includes a number of small dinghies, including in 2012 the Optimist, the Laser and the Topper. The Optimist is a small, single-handed sailing boat usable by children up to the age of 15 – an internationally recognised one-design youth racing class. The Laser is a simple, fast and fun one-man racing boat, an Olympic class, and is sailed in waters all over the world – over 250,000 have been sold since its introduction in 1974. The newly added Topper class is an 11-foot sailing dinghy, and has been a popular training and junior racing vessel for over 30 years.
The dinghy classes have been an important part of sailing in Thailand since the late 1970’s, teaching essential seafaring skills to young and grass roots sailors. It continues to play a vital role in evolving Thailand’s success as a sports sailing nation, and dinghies have featured in the last four Regattas, helping to empower the progression of youth sailing. Predominantly Thai participants, 2012 welcomed international sailors to the Optimist and Topper fleets – from China and Australia.
Last year, the Regatta also included Kiteboarding as a one-off exhibition class to mark the Quarter Century Anniversary of the Phuket King’s Cup. The decision to host 20 riders from the Kiteboarding Tour Asia (KTA) was seen as an innovative step for the Regatta. Kiteboarding is an exciting and growing sailing discipline which is regulated by the International Sailing Federation (ISAF).
For 2012, the Regatta welcomed the return of the Windsurfing class, providing an injection of cool to the event and growing the diversity further. The class attracted windsurfing stars from around the world, including Thailand’s own Ek Boonsawad and Siriporn “Dao” Kaewduanggam, and the Ladies 2012 Olympic Gold Medallist Marina Alabau Neira from Spain. Ek recently represented Thailand at the 2012 London Olympics, while Dao won the 2010 Youth Olympics in Singapore. They competed with the best the windsurfing world has to offer, with Hong Kong and Thailand leading the standings and demonstrating their superiority in the sport.
Ek Boonsawad, 24, said, “I started windsurfing because of my father, Pattana Boonsawad, the secretary-general of Windsurfing Association of Thailand. Not only was he a windsurfer but he was also a national coach. When I was 15, I joined the Hong Kong Open Windsurfing Championships at junior level. I learnt some techniques from those who were better than I was, and I also realised that different conditions greatly affected the race. After that race, I joined many more in other countries including Spain, France, Holland, England, some in Asia, and especially those in Europe because I had to collect points for the Olympics. Every athlete had to be in the top 100 to qualify for the Olympics. At the age of 20, I joined the Olympics in Beijing for the very first time.”
Siriporn Kaewduangam, 18, said, “I began windsurfing at the age of 13 when my school recruited windsurfers for its team. My school was close to the beach, so there was a windsurfing class available. My teacher used to be a national athlete. Back then, I didn’t know what a windsurf was. I applied because I loved the sea; I love marine sport, and windsurf takes me to many places. These are the reasons why I practice so hard.”
Windsurfing was a successful addition to an ever-growing and ever-more-colourful Phuket King’s Cup Regatta, which continues to look for new ways to build further excitement, diversity and interest for sailors, media, sponsors and guests.