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Phuket King’s Cup 2016 – The answer my friend…
The Wolf. Phuket King's Cup 2016. © Guy Nowell / Phuket King's Cup

Phuket King’s Cup 2016

All good things come to an end. The Phuket King’s Cup 2016 wrapped up yesterday with bright sunshine and not a great deal of breeze, but enough to squeeze in ‘just one more’ race on both course areas.

There were no surprises in the two-boat IRC 0 division, with Kevin Whitcraft’s slippery THA76 nipping round the track to record track yet another win in front of Ray Roberts’ Team Hollywood. That makes eight bullets from nine races, and it is a great shame that the competitive numbers just weren’t there.

The notion of a TP52 division has been in the air for a while, but it really didn’t happen this time. Similarly, the Raja Muda Selangor International Regatta signaled a TP52 division for the 2017 event – THA72 sailed down to Langkawi for the event and Team Hollywood started at the beginning in Port Klang, but that was it. Sarab Jeet Singh’s Windsikher measures 52’, but it isn’t a TP, so “doesn’t count.”

The maximum competition – if you like competition – was one level down, in IRC 1. Nine boats makes for a decent fleet, and it was a four-way fight at the top end of the list. Nick Burns (Mandrake III) had one hand on the trophy on Wednesday, took a tumble at the front end of a compressed-finish race on Friday (8th on corrected time, ouch), and just didn’t have enough runway with which to recover in one light air race yesterday. Yasuo Nanamori’s Karasu took a division win for the fourth time (believe it!). Mandrake second, the most grammatically challenging boat name (Yes! Jessandra II, Adam Gosling) rolled home in third, and Steve Manning’s Black Baza finished the regatta with a bullet for fourth place overall.

Senga (Belinda Cooper) went into the last day in the lead in IRC 2, but threw it away by being OCS followed by a very slow restart that left them in seventh place for the race and third overall. Where there’s a loser, there’s a winner. The Mumm 30, Judy (April Jorgensen) stepped up to the plate and rounded out her regatta with a bullet and the division title overall. On the longtail ride back to the beach, the King’s Cup newbies from Australia said, “we’ve had a fabulous time here. We’ll be back as soon as possible, and we’ll be telling all our friends.” (And if anyone from Judy is reading this, I owe you 40 baht for the tuk-tuk ride. Hope to see you next year!)

Peter Cremers’ Shahtoosh started the regatta strongly in the Premier Cruising division, but didn’t do so well when the wind blew less than 20kts – 75’ of Alan Warwick’s finest lines require a bit of pushing! So Ithinai Yingsiri’s well-raced X-612 Pine Pacific rose to the top, a full 8 points in front of the Royal Malaysian Navy’s Zuhal, and the Premier title stays in Thailand.

There was absolutely no doubt about the Firefly 850 Sport division. Twin Sharks (John Newnham) sailed home with a clean sheet of first places – the proverbial ‘picket fence’ score – to defend their 2015 title. Some of the victories were closer than others, but you can’t see that on a one design results sheet.

Phuket King’s Cup 2016 – The answer my friend…

THA72. Phuket King’s Cup 2016. © Guy Nowell / Phuket King’s Cup

After many years of trying (Shanghai Baby, a chartered Firefly, and now a Pulse 600), Neil Ayre claimed a King’s Cup victory at long last. “I’m very very happy,” he said, “but I was a lot less happy on Friday morning when we discovered that the central hull was leaking through the rudder pintles. I’ll never go afloat again without sealant and spanners.” (And I’ll lend you a knife any time, Neil).

The biggest division in this year’s King’s Cup, with 12 starters, was Multihull Racing, although that was quickly whittled down to nine when Adrenaline retired hurt and Hurricane and Java were dismasted, all in the very first race of the regatta. Cedar Swan withdrew with damage on day two. It was intense at the top all the way through the regatta. The brand new Alan Carwardine-designed Phantom V locked horns with Henry Kaye’s (second) Seacart 30, Thor, and going into yesterday’s closing race it was Thor by 1.5 pts. At the end of the day it was Phantom by 0.5 points, disappointing Mr Kaye by the very smallest of possible margins.

The 30th Anniversary edition of the Phuket King’s Cup started under grey skies, and worked its way through breezes both strong and light to sunshine on the last day. If you like an extended metaphor, it was as if His Late Majesty King Rama IX, for whom this event is named, recognised the somber mood that opened the event, and drew away the clouds to pour some sunshine onto an occasion that commemorates his skill and enthusiasm as a sailor.

Five days’ racing served up a bit of everything in terms of both courses and conditions. 12 classes, 98 races, 2 racing areas, 93 boats, 21 nationalities and only 4 protests reads well. “I think that sailors in general are getting litigious,” remarked Jury Chairman Bryan Willis. We remember some years ago when the King’s Cup jury sat through 29 protests. John Doerr suggests that the improvement is down to better understanding of the RRS on the part of the competitors, better race management, and an increased appreciation of the risk/reward of heading for “The Room”.

Phuket King’s Cup 2016 – The answer my friend…

Phuket King’s Cup 2016. © Guy Nowell / Phuket King’s Cup

Being an RO is often a thankless task: it is, quite literally, an attempt to “please all of the people, all of the time,” and we all understand that’s impossible. However, PRO Ross Chisholm and RO Simon James (who was doubling as Regatta Director as well) got a full card of races away and distinguished themselves by virtue of patience, flexibility, and good humour. Herding cats is for beginners: it takes a resolute RO to get the Cruising classes all pointing in the right direction at the right time. Patience and abundant communication helps when there is a percentage of the fleet that doesn’t know what an AP means. The Racing divisions are more familiar with flag signals and start sequences, but over on Course Bravo there are a fair number of crews for whom this is the only racing they do all year, and sometimes in a foreign language to boot. As racing ended yesterday, it was good to hear competitors calling up the Race Officers on the radio with a ‘thank you’. It was a well-deserved nod for a job well done.

In view of the recent demise of His Majesty King Bhumiphol Adulyadej, many people have enquired about the immediate future of the Phuket King’s Cup. As far as anyone knows, the event will continue. There’s no reason why it shouldn’t: it will no longer be a birthday celebration for His Late Majesty, but is it really necessary to have such a raison d’être for a regatta? Speaking at the end of the Royal Awards Ceremony, the King’s Personal Representative, H.E. Air Chief Marshal Chalit Pukbhasuk, said that he “looked forward to seeing everyone again next year.” Take that as a touchstone for intent. For the time being, the answer my friend, is blowing in the wind.

After 30 illustrious years, the Phuket King’s Cup is a well-established event with a reputation for excellence. It is practically a brand in its own right, and it is a vehicle that injects a huge financial contribution into the local Phuket economy every year. We congratulate the Organising Committee on another successful regatta, and hope to be seeing old friends, once again, at the Kata Beach Resort in December 2017.

Full results at www.kingscup.com

by Guy Nowell, Sail-World Asia

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