to shoot for the stars...
As reported in the December 2010 - AYGP Newsletter, ten high tech yachts have entered the racing class and are more than ever determined to get the better of Neil Pryde and Ray Roberts, that run full on professional campaigns and have dominated proceedings over the last few years. Boat owners are constantly working on modifications to improve the boats performance and optimize the IRC rating to suit the local conditions. No stranger to the King's Cup, Hannes Waimer returns with a TP52 Team Premier, this time all the way from Dubai. This makes it five TP52's on the starting grid, which is a first for the Asian region and we can expect some start line drama and close battles on the high seas as the racing unfolds. By scoring 3rd place in the Raja Muda, Xiaqun Song and her all Chinese crew on Frank Pong's TP52 Jelik V have shown they are a force to be reckoned with and intend on getting in amongst the action again. Royal Varuna Yacht Club Commodore, Kevin Whitcraft, is back with his renamed GP42, Won Ma Rang and Markus Fiala's Farr 11s Tazo Too from the UAE is hoping for the right conditions for the canting keel, twin rudder and foiled yacht to come alive. Perennial line honours winner, Frank Pong's 75’ Reichel Pugh, Jelik III has won here before, as the early morning starts are held in fresh breeze, that usually fades away by midday, may once again play into their favour.
From my Impiana Private Villa which overlooks the race course (See Photo) yesterdays squally unpredictable conditions have been replaced with a steadily building North Easterly land breeze that is usually experienced this time of the year. The Wind GURU forecast is a bit up and down for the first few days and increasing towards the end of the week which should see some good fun in the sun sailing conditions for all to enjoy.
Fourteen magnificent yachts have turned up for the Premier Cruising class this year. Although Antony Hastings won't be defending the title, his Beneteau F53 Baby Tonga has been chartered by the Audi Australian IRC Champion skipper Peter Sorenson and his team from the Middle Harbour Yacht Club in Sydney. Dr Ian Nicolson 80ft Intrigue is usually the biggest boat in the fleet, but has been dwarfed by Aaron Abramowitz’s 50 metre S/Y Perseus. Other prominent skippers doing battle in the class and past winners are Peter Churchouse's Warwick 64 Moon Blue 2 from Hong Kong and Jon Wardill's evergreen Cassidy 55 Australian Maid, can expect some strong opposition from newcomers Don Algie's Warwick 66 Storm 2 from Australia and Jens-Erik Host's Farr 72 Farr Out all the way from Denmark. Leading the Thai charge is Suwan Poopoksakul's very patriotic X-512 Lawana that normally carries the King's birthday wishes on the spinnaker.
Two IRC Classes 1 & 2 have been divided into rating bands and form the bulk of the fleet where the competition is expected to be fierce. A gaggle of Beneteau First 44.7's have fronted up, with defending champion Matt Allen's Zhik Ichi Ban expecting to make it three in a row. However they won't have it all their own way as formidable opposition is expected from Ben Copley's Swan CS 42 Katsu, who won the 2010-11 AYGP season opening Six Senses Phuket Raceweek and Peter Wintle's Kerr 37 Koull Baby that won IRC 3 at the Raja Muda last week. Also coming from a comprehensive IRC 4 Raja Muda victory is David Ross' Kerr 32 Kukukerchu that is chartered to Rick Overton/Kenn Eyears from Singapore and although they have been elevated into Class 1, expect to hold their own against the bigger boats. Two well campaigned Sydney 40's, Sarab Singh's WindSikher from Singapore and Japan's Yasuo Nanamori have chartered Babe, are expected to have a grudge match and be amongst the leaders at the end of the day. After a few years absence, Thailand's Schle Wood Thanen returns with a Sleeker 45 Pasaya and hopes to iron out a few cobwebs from the crew.
In IRC2 the Royal Thai Navy have dominated over the last few years and the three Farr MRX yachts are expected to lead the standings once again. First they will have to overcome Nigel Passmore's chartered Humphries 3/4 Tonner Team Sea Bees that has beaten them before under owner Peter Dyer's leadership. Also two Japanese chartered Platu 25's helmed by Nobuyuki Kawanishi and Ms Makiko Matsuishi an accomplished J24 sailor will be out taking the fight to them. Leif Ho's Thai built RS Elite Carrera dominated the 2009 Top of the Gulf Regatta but had to concede on the last day due to work commitments. Jeff Harris Elan 340 Rapscallion from Malaysia joins the party and might throw a spanner in the works.
With 21 starters the Bareboat Charter Class is the largest by far and with competitors from Russia, Australia, Japan, UK, Hong Kong, Thailand and Germany will see the battle of the United Nations. Five SunOdyssey 35 princesses and five SunOdyssey 44i make up the bulk of the fleet and are also competing for the hotly contested Sunsail trophies. Most skippers and crew are new to the King's Cup and the ones that can adapt the quickest to the often tricky conditions are likely to be on the podium by the end of the regatta.
Only three boats in the Classic Class will not deter them from setting full sail and beating each other up around the course. Simon Morris' staysail schooner Sirius 1935 comes from a successful Raja Muda and Paul Brunning's 12.8 metre Alan Pape design Dondang Sayang is back looking to repeat the 2008 win. New to the Asian region is Rene Tiemessen's Alondra from the Netherlands but being a Phillip Rhodes design brings a lot of pedigree to the class.
The biggest stipulation for the Cruising Class is that competitors are entering the event for the first time. Especially designed for short-handed cruisers who don’t normally race, but still like to have fun on the water amongst the racing boats. Andy & Jenni Brennan's Delphia 40 Jenzminc VI, made a good account of themselves at the Raja Muda and Barry Elsbury's Nautor Swan 15.6 Apsara comes stacked with the famous Aussie Wolverines band lead singer John Clinton onboard and 2000 Australian Olympian skipper Neville Wittey on the helm.
Seven entries will be fighting it out in the hotly contested Firefly 850 Sports class. This year Hans Rahmann's Voodoo has won every regatta they entered and must start odds on favourite. Roger Kingdon's Moto Inzi has won here before and has constantly applied the pressure on Voodoo throughout the season which will bring the title to a compelling end. Last years winner Twin Sharks is back, this time chartered by UK's John Newnham who expects to be in the running again. Richard Colman also from the UK has chartered SEA Properties and will have a grudge match with Twin Sharks in the Battle of Britain.
The Modern Classic Class encourages yachts who have previously done the King’s Cup before, but as time has gone on, don’t have a chance in the top IRC classes anymore are presented with an unique opportunity to come back. Reinhard Haiber's legendary Meridien 47 Pytheas Aura has won in the past and will reopen the battle with old sailing foe Jim Ellis S&S 12.9m Remington who also has won here before. Simon Jupe's Hardin 45 Waconda is also in with a chance but will have to contend with Andy Dowden Atlantic 61 Iruvai the biggest boat in the class. Having won the Classic Class on numerous occasions, old salt Christopher Edwards returns with the Fusion Schooner Glaz and intends on adding another trophy to the cabinet.
Last but not least, the Multihull Class comprises of several popular Corsair trimarans, two Andaman Cabriolet's and a mixture of production catamarans. This class has provided a lot of entertainment for the mainly Phuket based fleet both on the water and in the super competitive market place. They all will be chasing Henry Kaye and Fergus Wilmer's Seacart 30 Thor, the defending champion that have won everything before them this year. Andy Pape skippering the Andaman Cabriolet Da Vinci took the fight to Thor at Six Senses Phuket Raceweek and expects to go one step further. A couple days after launching, Alan Carwardine's Stealth 12.6 Team Lewmar showed on several occasions some excellent boatspeed and could do some damage here if they have fully harnessed the boats potential. Grenville Fordham's Andaman Cabriolet Nina won on their first outing and together with the Corsair trimarans have been in and out of the placing's during the season.
Inaugurated in 1987 to mark the 60th birthday of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyedej, the regatta has been held each successive year during the first week of December and the 2010 event is already living up to the reputation as the ultimate showcase for Thailand's seafaring heritage, epitomised by His Majesty himself and anticipated the event to demonstrate its value as an iconic tourism magnet.
Racing begins tomorrow with Race Day 1 hosted by Kata Rocks
This King's Cup - AY Race Report is kindly bought to you by the following supporters