Record fleets race to the wire at 25th Anniversary King’s Cup Regatta

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It was fitting that the final day of the landmark 25th Phuket King’s Cup Regatta on Saturday, December 10, was blessed with bright blue skies and racing conditions that some considered to be the best for many a year.  And with everything to be decided in several race categories, the 1,000 plus sailors from around the world, crewing the largest fleet in the event’s illustrious history, ensured that some fierce competition would unfold as the Regatta reached its exciting conclusion.

With the northeasterly trade winds gusting at up to 25 knots, it was sure to signify some dramatic action out on the ocean and it could have been almost prophetic words from regatta media stalwart Captain Marty who, upon witnessing the blustery morning conditions, said, “When it (the wind) gets up like this, things can start to break.”

‘Team Premier’ (left) attempts to make up ground on ‘Freefire’ (center) and ‘Hi Fi’ (right) during the final day of racing at the 25th Phuket King’s Cup Regatta.‘Team Premier’ (left) attempts to make up ground on ‘Freefire’ (center) and ‘Hi Fi’ (right) during the final day of racing at the 25th Phuket King’s Cup Regatta.

Sure enough, calls started to come through not long after on race radio that first Joep Kleine Staarman’s X-342 ‘Minx’ had reportedly dismasted and was shipping water, Jon Wardill’s Cassidy 55 ‘Australian Maid’s absence from the start line was explained by a broken boom, and finally Sam Chan’s TP52 ‘Freefire’ sustained damage to a mainsail.

For the boats that were able to thrive in these conditions, ‘Team Premier’, skippered by Hannes Waimer, maintained its local dominance over the IRC Zero Class that has already seen it claim line honours at the 2011 TOG Regatta and Phuket Raceweek to take first place ahead of Neil Pryde’s ‘Hi Fi.’

Japanese entry ‘Karasu’ heels hard to port with victory already in the bag.Japanese entry ‘Karasu’ heels hard to port with victory already in the bag.

An overnight protest by both ‘Hi Fi’ and third placed ‘Freefire’ (caused by a drifting marker buoy) had eventually been overturned by the race officials, leaving ‘Team Premier’ with a decisive 4 point advantage going into the final two races.  Despite ‘Hi Fi’s gallant fight back to win race 9, they were unable to shake off ‘Team Premier’ which finished a close second and later took the final race 10 after ‘Hi Fi’ retired from competition.

Winning skipper Hannes said later, “We’ve raced in 10 King’s Cups now, but this is the first time we competed as our own team under the name of ‘Team Premier’ (so) it’s extremely satisfying to win after trying many times before.”

In IRC 1 racing, Japan’s Yasuo Nanamori’s Summit King 40 ‘Karasu’ was crowned champion boat after putting together an amazingly consistent series of results with nine podium finishes out of a possible ten.  With the title already wrapped up on the final day, it just remained for the chasing pack to battle it out for the minor places and Steve Manning’s Sydney GTS 43 ‘Walawala 2’ eventually got the nod for second place over David Ross’ Ker 40 ‘Kukukerchu’ after some of the closest racing of the week in any class.

‘Royal Thai Navy 1’ were popular winners in the IRC 2 Class.‘Royal Thai Navy 1’ were popular winners in the IRC 2 Class.

The winning crew on ‘Karasu’ is incidentally the first all-Japanese team to claim a victory at the Phuket King’s Cup Regatta.

Flying the flag high for the home nation, and in special honour of His Majesty the King during the month of his 84th birthday, was ‘Royal Thai Navy 1’ helmed by Chief Petty Officer First Class Wiwat Poonpat and his team of Thai sailors who defied the odds to score first place in IRC 2 Class.  Against a fleet of much more strongly fancied contenders the Thai crew was able to fend off all challengers, with Bill Bremner’s Ker 32 ‘Foxy Lady 5’ finishing in second and Arbuzov Andrey’s Russian team on ‘Ruby Tuesday’ third.

“We are very proud to be able to take overall victory for His Majesty the King’s birthday.  I’m sure all Thai people will be very appreciative of this result, and hopefully we can encourage more people into the sport of sailing,” said a naturally ebullient Wiwat.

In the Premier Class, Richard Dobbs’ British team on ‘Titania of Cowes,’ performed strongly all week to edge out ‘Baby Tonga Strongbow’ skippered by Peter Sorrenson, while third place went to the biggest boat in the fleet, the 82-foot Swan from China, ‘Chao Ren Plus One’.

Roger Kingdon’s ‘Moto Inzi’ and Hans Rahmann’s ‘Voodoo’ had a titanic battle to the finish line in the final passage race of the Firefly 850 Sports Class, with ‘Voodoo’ crossing the line first but still failing by a whisker to take the title from ‘Moto Inzi’, which had carried forward an overnight 1 point lead and secured top place in the morning race.  Neil Ayre’s ‘The Frog’ finished third overall.

In the Multihull Class, Alan Carwadine’s ‘Sidewinder’ proved to be unmatchable throughout the week and was a runaway winner ahead of David Roberts Andaman Cabriolet ‘Da Vinci’, skippered by Mick Coleman in second, with David Liddell’s ‘Miss Saigon’ taking third.

With 5 wins out of 7, Mike Crisp’s Hanse 400e ‘Venture’ was a clear winner in the Bareboat Charter Class ahead of Oliver Heer’s ‘Sail Plane’, but the real interest was in the struggle for third place between four Russian boats that eventually saw Mikhail Beloborodov and his team on ‘Tonicola 2’ claim the final step on the podium.

Modern Classic Class was won by Bo Standergaard’s ‘Patrice III’ by two points from Peter Wood’s ‘Windstar’ in second and Nicholas Smith’s ‘Free Wind’, in third.

In the Cruising Class, ‘Odin’, manned by Aquacraft Asia, finished with a win on the final day to claim top honours overall while second place went to William Sax’s ‘Astraeus’ with Jack Cristensen’s ‘Linda’ in third.

Finally, there was a demonstration event this year with the kiteboarders putting on an exciting display on the two days that conditions allowed them to compete.  Frenchman Olivier Dansin won four out of five races to finish well clear of two-time Asian Champion, Thailand’s Narapichit Pudla, with Turkey’s Salih Alexander taking third.

Speaking at the closing awards ceremony, once again graced by the presence of His Majesty the King’s personal representative, Admiral Mon Luang Usni Pramoj, the President of the Phuket King’s Cup Organising Committee, Kevin Whitcraft said, “This anniversary year has been an event of particular poignancy and has been one of the most exciting Regattas in years.  Our sponsors have also supported us strongly each and every day, and everybody has had an enjoyable week.

“The Phuket King’s Cup Regatta is renowned throughout Asia, and with good wind and beautiful conditions, the racing has not disappointed and we will continue to push, to innovate and to improve it.”

Going hand in hand with the offshore action was the usual smorgasbord of fantastic social events laid on by the sponsors throughout the week that was capped off in fine style with the grand closing party and firework display held at the Kata Beach Resort, that brought a colourful and fitting conclusion to this quarter century Phuket King’s Cup Regatta.

Generous sponsors of this year’s event included Kata Group Resorts Thailand, PTT Group, Siam Winery, Singha Corporation, AIA Thailand, PTT Global Chemical, PTTEP, Thaioil, Centara Grand Beach Resort Phuket, Boathouse and Sunsail.