The Phuket King’s Cup committee faced a dilemma of how to honor HM Bhumibol Adulyadej’s life and love for sailing and yet be respectful of his passing at the same time. But they were able to pull off it as Master of Ceremonies Radab Kanchanavanit continually reminded regatta participants to be respectful and tone down their celebrations during the week. (Radab hails from one of Thailand’s most prominent sailing families as his father Dr. Rachot Kanchanavanit was one of the event’s founders and won the 1993 Phuket King’s Cup Regatta.).
Story by guest writer: Scott Murray and Photos by King’s Cup Regatta 2016 team & Guy Nowell
Although each of the regattas in the Southeast Asian sailing circuit, commonly known as the Asian Yachting Grand Prix, has their own unique characteristics and advantages, none can match the Phuket King’s Cup Regatta in term of numbers and prestige. Indeed, if sailors are picking one regatta to race in – it’s the Phuket King’s Cup. This year, 94 keel boats and multihulls were divided into 12 classes competing with 106 Optimist, Topper and Laser Dinghies totaling over 1,500 sailors from 30 nations.
The regatta was first held in 1987 as part of national celebrations to mark the auspicious 60th birthday of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the world’s longest-reigning living monarch. His Majesty the King was a passionate sailor and created yachting history in 1967 when he and his daughter Princess Ubolratana Rajakanya won a gold medal in the OK dinghy class at the 4th South East Asian Peninsula Games. Each year, he sends a personal representative to present the trophies to all the winners at a gala closing ceremony.
The Phuket King’s Cup Regatta brings together the best the region’s sailing community has to offer from the organizing committee led by Kevin Whitcraft, to the race officers Simon James and the competitors who come from around the world to race in the event.
The regatta has come a long way since it was founded in 1987 by then-incumbent Flag Commodore of the Royal Varuna Yacht Club (RVYC) Chris King, Dr. Rachot Kanjanavanit, Al Chandler, Adolph Knees and Mom Tri Devakul. The Phuket King’s Cup Regatta has always sailed under the direction of the RVYC, with extensive logistical help from the Royal Thai Navy and support from the Yacht Racing Association of Thailand (YRAT) along with several authorities in the province of Phuket.
It has a well-earned reputation for delivering a shore-based social schedule that can be more demanding than the race action as skippers and crews are assured of non-stop action, gourmet food and a variety of entertainment to suit everyone’s tastes and dispositions. In many ways, the regatta is a reflection of what makes Thailand so special from the food and hospitality to the ocean, beaches and stunning topography.
A variety of downwind and ’round-the-buoys races and a popular scenic island passage race provide suitable challenges for the many competing divisions, including racing, performance cruising, cruising, multihulls and classics. The regatta also has a very strong youth dinghy fleet that it supports with a year-round racing series to help foster the long-term appreciation of sailing in the Kingdom.
Phuket is blessed with balmy tropical weather, good winds and stunning scenery. In short, all the ingredients for near perfect sailing conditions. The regatta has grown in size and reputation so it now ranks along with the Caribbean’s Antigua Race week and Australia’s Hamilton Island Regatta, as among the world’s great sailing regattas.
Phuket has become a Mecca for sailing enthusiasts from all corners of the globe. They are drawn by the great ’year-round weather conditions, the stunning scenery and the friendly locals. With the establishment of an increasing number of suitable on-shore backup facilities including marinas, service and charter businesses and regular sailing events, Phuket has emerged as Asia’s premier marine leisure destination.
Last year’s winner of the premier racing division (IRC Zero), Sarab Jeet Singh’s Windsikher II had to retire due to boat damage heading out of Langkawi without even getting a chance to defend their title. Then the first two days brought rough sailing weather and many boats were damaged. A few were forced out of the regatta early including Alan Carwardine’s defending multihull-class champion Asia Catamarans Hurricane and Mick Coleman’s Java, both dismasted, while Mark Horwood’s Adreneline suffered a broken beam was also forced to retire from competition. Danny Moore Carbon Custom 36 3Itch sat out day two, repairing a damaged back beam, but was able to return for the final three days of racing.
During the first race of the second day Anthony Root’s Ker 42 Black Baza was hit by Andrew de Bruin’s out of control Pulse 600 H30 Multihull Solutions and both joined the growing casualty list. Black Baza sought redress and was granted the win in that race, luckily suffering only minor damage, but de Bruin’s Corsair was forced to retire from the regatta.
The sail past is one of the marquee attractions of the King’s Cup, and this year it happened before racing on the fourth day (Dec 9th) with all the boats sailing past and saluting the HTMS KLAENG and other fully dressed Royal Thai Navy vessels stationed off Koh Pu to honour HM King Maha Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun (Rama X’s) accession to the throne.
Kevin Whitcraft, President of the King’s Cup organizing committee, and his brother Tom, the outgoing Commodore of Roya Varuna Yacht Club, have always performed well at past King’s Cups and this year was no exception, as their team came fully prepared to compete in the IRC Zero Class with their latest TP52 THA 72. They won seven of the eight-match racing duels against their only competitor Ray Roberts formidable TP52 Team Hollywood, who have several IRC 0 victories to his credit (Sarab Singh’s Windsikher II, would have made it a three-boat class). The Whitcraft brothers triumphantly captured their first Phuket King’s Cup Regatta in grand style, sending a warning to fellow competitors that they will be a force to be reckoned with in future events.
Thailand’s Ithinai Yingsiri’s X55 Pine–Pacific defended their Premier Cruising class title. The Malaysian Armed Forces Farr 520 Zuhal, skippered by Mohd Masyuri, challenged Khun Ithinai all week and second place on the final day gave them second overall. Better suited to strong wind, Peter Cremers Warwick 75 Shahtoosh finished third in the final light-air race, but had to be admired for deftly maneuvering their big boat around smaller yachts on tight courses.
The Phuket Dinghy Series provided some enjoyable viewing for the sponsors and parents all week. Winners were as follows: Optimist winner, Paliga Poonpat; Optimist Boys winner, Saranwong Poonpat; Optimist Girls winner, Paliga Poonpat; Laser 4.7 winner, Aryhit Romanyk; Laser Radial winner, Apiwat Sringam; Laser Standard winner, Keerati Bualong; 470 winners, Navee Thamsoontorn/Nut Butmasari; 420 winners, Suthon Yampinid/Nopporn Booncherd.
The regatta finished with the traditional Royal Prize Giving Ceremony and final party at the host Kata Beach Resort and Spa and Pramookpisitt Achariyachai, President of Kata Group Resorts Thailand, said, “Kata Beach Resort and Spa is the long-established home of the Phuket King’s Cup Regatta since 1998. We were very proud to support this prestigious event for the 18th year. The event attracts the finest yacht sailors the world has to offer and they descend upon the Andaman Ocean in great numbers to race their yachts in the presence of crowds of spectators. The area of Kata Beach is heavily populated during the regatta week, with many awe-inspiring yachts located just off shore, while a great deal of spectators – both local and visiting – line the shores to witness the display. This gives us the opportunity to present our Kata Group brand to a worldwide audience via a superb sponsorship platform.”