fired up for Asia's biggest regatta...
Seventy one yachts in eleven classes have registered so far and can be broken down to 29 IRC racers, 30 cruisers and 13 multihull's. The regatta also encompasses a fast-growing International Dinghy racing program, for Optimist Boy & Girls, Laser 4.7, Laser Radial, Laser Standard, 420 and new this year the Radio Controlled IOM class taking flight. This is designed to promote and encourage youth and Olympic sailing in Thailand. Plus provide sustainable growth to the Thai marine industry, as these young sailors, can expect to go on and become crew on keelboat/multihull racing teams and compete in future years.
The weather forecast for most of the week, is for North Easterly trade wind in the mid to high teens, with a little slow down in the afternoon. These are the classic King's Cup conditions, that skippers and crew dream about and should provide great racing, around the nearby islands.
For the first time in many years, 5 X 52 footers in the clash of the titans, for the IRC 0 title. Sarab Singh / Nick Burns Welbourn 52 Windsikher II is the odd one out, not being a TP52, but used to taking on PKCR Chairman Kevin Whitcraft's TP52 THA 72 and the defending champion Ray Roberts TP52 Team Hollywood. Roberts has also chartered his stable of TP52's, based in Langkawi, to James Johnstone's Eastsail under the Chinese flag and Aussie Rob Aldis on Millennium Racing. Although they are from different generations, they should be compensated by different IRC handicaps, at the end of the day.
A close knit 8 yachts have entered IRC 1 and although mostly been chartered and from different design boards, they are very even in performance. Craig Nicholls Sydney 40 Mod Aquari II is the defending champion and expecting a dog fight with Larry Dean's' First 44.7 Fujin, Yasuo Nanamori Sydney 40 Karasu (Emagine), Gusev Boris Farr One Ton Uminoko, Mati Sepp's Swan 42 Club Loco from Estonia and the Russians on Alexey Mashkins Cookson 12m MegaZip, who save their best performances for Asia's premier event each year. The Japanese on Kazuki Kihara's First 40.7 Char Chan have tasted victory here before and although a few years have elapsed, can never be written off.
The IRC 2 class is a little down in numbers, but familiar boats that have won here before, are fronting up with different skippers and ready for battle. The defending champion Feng Minzhi Mumm 30 Highlead Encourage (Judy) are hoping to make it a three-peat this year, but face some stiff competition from their Chinese rivals, Li Xiao Jing's Kerr 32 Su Zhou Sea Man Sailing Club (GETAWAY ICHI) and Shen Sheng's 3/4 Ton Humphreys Bigboys Sailing Team (Madame Butterfly). Andrew McDermott's Corby 36 Jessandra II, is ready to overturn last years close result and Andrey Eliseev's First 34.7 Endevour of Whitby expects to be in the mix. A couple to be worried about, are Garry Holt/Michael Spies Seaway 25 Sydney Premier Karting Park making their first appearance and Morton Jakobsen's VX One Design Sports boat Over Here, that just missed out last year, after a late charge. Certainly a class to watch.
Nine glamorous yachts are gracing the Premier Cruising Class. The biggest is Team Spirit's Swan 90 Team Spirit and the smallest is the defending champion, Andy Cocks Beneteau First 50 Firstlight. Past winners Peter Cremers Warwick 75 Shahtoosh, Fei Zhao's First 53f5 Baby Tonga and newcomers Brian Pozzey Oceanis 523 Resolution Of Whitby, Michael Brinkers Andrews 70 Bella Uno and Doug Sallis Hanse 575 Colie, all face an uphill task coming up against multiple winners, Thailand's Ithinai Yingsiri's X55 Pine-Pacific and Geoff Hill's Smith 72 Antipodes, are always ready for a good fight.
This event is the fifth point scoring regatta on the 2019-20 AsianYachting Grand Prix (AYGP) and gives the early leaders, Ray Roberts TP52 Team Hollywood, John Newnham's Firefly 850 Twin Sharks, Chris Mitchell's Naut 40 Lady Bubbly and Geoff Hill's Smith 72 Antipodes a chance to improve their standings. Ultimately the skipper and yacht with the highest pointscore at the end of the season, will be crowned the AYGP Skipper and Yacht of the Year. Check out the current 2019-20 AYGP Rankings by clicking on Skipper - Yacht - Regatta and Scoring System.
The bulk of the monohull entries come in the Bareboat Charter (16), Modern Classic (3) and Cruising (11) classes. They aren't just here to make up the numbers but are seriously chartered to contest the class titles, while having fun in the exotic tropics. Entries in these classes represent the United Nations of Sailing, with the Chinese (8) and Russians (7) coming in force, followed by Japan (3) Germany (2) Australia (2) Singapore (2) and one apiece from Sweden, Switzerland, Korea, Kong Kong, and Thailand. Over the years Igor Ginzburg's Sun Odyssey 409 Sunsail Phailin have been successful in the Bareboat Charter Class. The Russians on Andrey Novoderezhkin's Bavaria 36 Kata Rocks Sea Escapes are back to defend the Modern Classic class title. Switzerland's Lars Zika's CNB 60 She-Ra is the biggest yacht in the Cruising Class and the healthy wind forecast could suit them to a tee.
Although the media tend to concentrate on the monohull racing classes, the Multihull fleet has undergone some ownership changes and continually pushing the barrier. Phuket is home to several world renown Multihull designers, builders and sailors, so it comes as no surprise, they are fielding 13 platforms in the Racing, Cruising and the highly competitive Firefly one-design class.
With some boats changing hands and new ones being acquired, all eyes will be on the Multihull Racing Class. Mark Thornburrow takes over the reigns on the defending champion, Moore 36 Bonza (Ex Fugazi), while Dan Fidock has acquired the reigning Aussie champion, Grainger 10m (Ex Mad Max) and renamed it Fugazi. Danny Moore & Nigel Cross have rebuilt Henry Kaye's Seacart 30 Thor, upgraded her to semi foiling in the process and renamed her Frankenstein, on their first outing. Dirk Weiblen's YG 25 No Fear and Gaetan Verhegge's 10m Bakewell White Fugazi - Team Blood Red are on different ends of the size scale, performance and by taking on the speed machines, will produce some lively entertainment.
Four entries in the one design Firefly 850 Sports Class, will have to be ready from the beginning, if they are to stand a chance against John Newnham's all conquering Twin Sharks, from snatching their fifth title in a row. Arch rival Hans Rahmann's Voodoo have settled on second place on recent outings but aim to reclaim some of their former glory. In past years Neil Ayre Mamba, has had some winning moments but requires some consistency throughout the regatta. The same goes for Peter Taylor's Ballerina, as only minutes separate the fleet, it's possible to spring a few surprises.
The growing popularity of cruising catamarans in the region has produced a racing revival in the Cruising Multihull class. Ranging from Robert Hossack's Raptor 2001, two Chinese entries Lin Huawei's Seawind 1160 Asia Pacific Sailing College (Compass Rose) and Zhang Yong Dong's Andaman Cabriolet Wuhan University EMBA Sailing Team (Da Vinci), narrowly missed out on the win last year and is taking on Theimann Peter German Team on Alienkat to round out the 4 boat fleet.
The regatta is organised by the Phuket King's Cup Regatta Organizing Committee under the auspices of the Royal Varuna Yacht Club, in conjunction with the Yacht Racing Association of Thailand, the Royal Thai Navy and the Province of Phuket. Held each year during the first week of December, the 2019 event is already living up its reputation, as the ultimate showcase for Thailand's seafaring heritage.
The stage is set, registration and skippers briefing completed, last minute sail measurement, new IRC certificates being processed and final class reshuffling completed. First up, it's time for the traditional opening ceremony and welcome party at the Beyond Resort Kata.
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