For the past several years it has been a tradition at the Phuket King’s Cup regatta to conduct a Sail Past on 05 December, in celebration of the birthday of His Majesty King Bumiphol Adulyadej.
Since the sad demise of His Majesty, today’s Sail Past was a Commemoration rather than a celebration, and it was held on 09 December. The official name of the late King is Rama IX.
It was a solemn occasion. In the past, jubilant racing crews have hip-hip-hoorayed for His Majesty, but today’s procession was conducted in complete silence from the passing of Kevin Whitcraft’s TP52, THA72, with the Thai character ‘9’ at the head of the mainsail, down to the very last Optimist in the line, baling madly in choppy seas. For those of us who have been close to the King’s Cup for many years (13 for me), it was the end of an era. Blessings on His Late Majesty for having inspired one of Asia’s greatest sailing events.
And then it was down to business – racing day four of a five-day regatta. RO Simon James sent off all the Bravo divisions on a course to round Koh Hi and return, and PRO Ross Chisholm despatched the Alpha course boats on a section of islands courses of varying lengths that included Koh Bon, Koh Hi, Koh Aeo and (for the fleet of foot – or keel) the Safe Water Mark near Cape Panwa. In 15 kts of easterly breeze it seemed like a good idea at the time, but it was destined not to last.
“Even reaching down the coast from Kata towards the Koh Kaeo Noi gate it was pretty funky,” said veteran sailing journo John ‘Robo’ Roberson (so you know it must be true). “The breeze was very up and down, and swinging. It was starting to fade as we got to the first gate, and the trip up the inside of the islands was slow, hard work.” Skippering Rerefine in IRC 1, Jamie Wilmot added, “we started with crew on the leeward rail – and we finished with crew on the leeward rail. It was a long hot day.”
With a couple of knots of tide sluicing out of Phang Nga Bay, the Koh Kaeo Noi gate proved tricky for some.
The beat to the top of the islands was won by those who stayed out of the current best, but it was slow progress for everyone, and in some cases actually stationary.
Mandrake distinguished herself with a rock-hopping trip along the fringes of Koh Hi and Koh Aeo, only to fall into a hole on the seaward side of the islands and watch all her division competitors competitors catch up from behind. In practical terms went from first to eighth for the day, and waved good bye to a division title in the process. Nick Burns has sore knuckles from knocking at this particular door. “If only we had been finished at gate three…”
After playing follow-the-leader all week behind Kevin Whitcraft’s seemingly turbocharged TP52, THA72, Ray Roberts (Team Hollywood) got one back today. “A lucky shift,” said Roberts, but that is being too modest. By the time the Men in Red got around the Safe Water Mark they had 500m on TH72, and never let go an inch, cruising downwind past the islands on flat water for their first win of the regatta in the two-boat IRC 0 division.
Even the superlight and superfeisty Firefly 850 cats found it hard going in soft-to-non-existent breeze. On board series leader Twin Sharks, Jason Corall reported, “we extended, then the wind died and the fleet compressed. Then we extended, and then compressed again. It sort of went in phases. Fortunately we finished on an extension, but wasn’t a foregone conclusion by any means!”
The leader of the Multihull Cruising division, Ying Yang, was a no-show this morning and therefore scored DNS. The Regatta Director later ascertained that the visiting Japanese crew had chartered the boat for only five days – which were up at the end of yesterday – and flown home.
Virginia says, “when it’s advertised as a five day regatta, check to see if there’s a Lay Day.” Australian Maid was spotted sailing with two reefs in less than 10kts of pressure, but later shook out the reefs to expose a massive rip in the sail. Where’s the man with the needle and thread when you want him? Overdrive suddenly found the top of the gearbox to record her first win of the regatta in the Open Charter class.
Tomorrow is the last day of the Phuket King’s Cup 2016. Many of the division champions are decided already, but some battles remain. Henry Kaye (Thor) has seen more battles than most, and holds just a 1.5 point advantage over Andrew Hurford’s Phantom V in Multihull Racing. “I have competed in every King’s Cup,” Henry reminds us. “Well, there were two occasions when I was unavoidably detained, but my boat was there both times.” Cheering you on tomorrow, Henry – Brace.
by Guy Nowell, Sail-World Asia