“Ichi Ban”, meaning “first” in Japanese, was a more than appropriate moniker for two of the standout winners at the recently concluded 2012 edition of the Phuket King’s Cup sailing regatta, held off the Kata Beach Resort in Phuket from Dec. 3-9.
Matt Allen’s victory on Ichi Ban in the IRC 2 class was one of the stories of the 26th running of this now world famous maritime event, held annually in honour of His Majesty the King of Thailand’s birthday. The Adams 10-meter boat, built in 1976, had been lying unused and moored up in Sydney only 7 weeks before the Phuket regatta and was snapped up on a whim by Allen who spotted its potential and fancied it could fare well as an IRC 2 racing craft.
Hurriedly shipped over to Thailand prior to the event, the crew on Ichi Ban set to work the long hours preparing the boat and were still “patching up the rigging and bolting things down on the morning of the first race day,” said Allen. “It was amazing to sail on the first regatta day – the first time we ever put the sails up,” he added.
The fact that he and his crew then went on to win the first two races and finish second in the third on the opening day speaks volumes of the hard work put in by Aussie skipper and his team and vindicated his decision to enter the boat in this year’s regatta at such short notice. Against a very competitive IRC2 fleet, including a strong Thai Navy team, Ichi Ban continued to dominate over the following days of racing and had all but sown up victory in its class with one day to spare. The Royal Thai Navy 1 boat skippered by CPO.1 Wiwat Poonpat took the final day honours to finish second overall, with Peter Dyer’s Kata Rocks in third.
Ichi Ban’s namesake in the IRC1 class, the Beneteau 44.7 chartered by David Fuller and helmed by Jamie Wilmot fought a titanic week-long duel with Bill Bremner’s Foxy Lady 6, with the outcome of the class not decided until the final day of racing, however, Steve Manning’s Sydney GTS 43 Walawala 2 stole the limelight on the last day with 2 wins to scupper the last remaining chances for Bremner’s team. It was a special victory for Wilmot who has now helmed winning boats on seven separate occasions.
In what could almost have been deemed as royal providence, the rainy squalls that had been dogging the southern part of Thailand throughout November suddenly cleared on the weekend prior to the regatta start date and the event was blessed with blue skies and a mixed bag of wind conditions, ranging from benign to gale force, that tested the sailing abilities of the entire fleet throughout the week.
The IRC Zero class was notable for some absentees this year, including Neil Pryde’s Team Premier, however the smaller than normal fleet didn’t detract from the excitement as Pattaya based Kevin Whitcraft, the President of the King’s Cup Regatta Organizing Committee, skippered Won Ma Rang to three race victories and four seconds as they pushed Frank Pong’s Jelik all the way to the line. The Royal Malaysian Navy entered the fray for the first time this year with their DK 47 Utarid, skippered by Mohamad Razali Mansor, and the newcomers performed well to take third place in class.
Scott Duncanson made some history of his own in the regatta this year as he helmed Tuay Lek to victory in the one-design Platu 25 class to garner his fourth overall success and join Bill Gasson and Neil Pryde as the other illustrious names to have achieved this honour. Duncanson was followed up the podium steps by the Japanese duo of Junichi Ishikawa (Beaver) and Makiko Matsuishi’s (IPPAI) who finished second and third respectively.
Defending champion Roger Kingdom’s hopes of retaining his title in the Firefly 850 class were put firmly on hold as he and the rest of the fleet could only sit back and watch as Hans Rahmann and his crew on Voodoo put on a dominating performance during the week to wrap the title up with races to spare. Peter Dyer’s Dyer Straits took second overall, some way behind the flying Voodoo.
In the larger multihull class, there was a similar runaway success for Peter Wilcox’s crew on the Schionning Gforce 1500 Mojo as the much anticipated duel with Andrew Stransky’s Seven Seas 50 Fantasia failed to materialize, with the latter having to settle for a distant second while Henry Kaye’s Sea Cart 26 Sweet Chariot skippered by Mark Thornborrow took third overall.
Richard Dobbs Swan 68 Titania of Cowes defended its Premier Cruising title in style despite Thailand’s Ithinai Yingsiri X-55 Pine-Pacific scoring two wins on the final day and William Lo’s Hanse 545 easily secured victory in the Cruising class ahead of Jack Christensen’s Linda and Patinyakorn Buranrom on Sansiri.
Simon Morris’ Sirius 1935 literally cruised to victory as the only entrant in the Classic fleet while Barry Cunningham’s chartered S&S 47 Patrice III took home the Modern Classic class honours ahead of Peter Wood’s Commanche 42 Windstar and Nick Band’s Tartan 48 Emerald Blue.
The ever increasing Russian presence at the regatta was outlined in the Bareboat charter category with three out of the top four places going to crews from that nation. Kirill Sakhattzev’s First 47.7 Sail Plane topped the field and only Aussie Graeme Sheldon’s Hanse 400e Agility International in second place prevented a Russian one-two-three.
Finally, this year saw a return of the windsurfers, adding a new dynamic to the regatta and attracting, along with the dingy class, a whole new raft of young sailors who will cherish the memories of having taken part in such a prestigious event and fire up their ambitions to become the sailing stars of the future.
Singha Corporation, the Title Sponsors of the 2012 regatta, and Host Sponsors The Kata Group provided a superb closing party and prize-giving ceremony in front of hundreds of sailors at the Kata Beach Resort on the final night of the event that capped off another superb week of racing and socializing at Asia’s premier sailing festival. 34 nationalities were represented this year across the fleet of boats making it a truly international event.
This year, a lot of regatta aficionados came back again and Mom Luang Tri Devakul, one of the originators of the Phuket King’s Cup Regatta – and perennial supporter of this great event –was very happy to see the regatta continuing to flourish.
At the closing ceremony, all the winners in the numerous classes went forward to meet H.M the King’s Personal Representative, M.L. Admiral Usnee Pramoj, himself a “regatta repeater”, officiating in the first in 1987 and, thereafter, 1990 right through to the 26th this year. This makes ML Usnee a 24-time participant.
Frank Pong accepted the permanent trophy, as winner of the IRC zero class, designed by M.L. Tri and all winners received the most elegant replicas. The splendid trophy, graciously bestowed by HM the King, features nine silver sails rising up from a silver sea, super-imposed by the symbol of H.M the King, called the “Tra Sanyalak”, along with the King’s initials, and the Thai Numeral Nine for the Ninth Chakri Dynasty. The Royal Crown over-arcs the total trophy, indicating the King’s Royal Patronage.
After 26 years, the future of the Phuket King’s Cup Regatta looks brighter than ever. The next 12 months will no doubt have sailors the world over keenly anticipating the next edition in 2013.