Phuket’s King’s Cup 2015 proved a hair-raising ride for multis where crews went hard both on and off the water, reports regular attendee Kevin Green.
I need little excuse to jump on a plane for the 10-hour ride to Asia’s premier regatta in Thailand’s main tourist district but this year a particularly strong multihull fleet was the big drawcard, including a new one-design class. The multihulls were part of the sprawling 168 fleet – comprising 90 yachts and 78 dinghies – sailing off Phuket’s south west corner during mid December. The combined 22 multihull entries make it the region’s largest multihull regatta.Attracting a large international group of sailors from Europe, the middle east and Asia Pacific the King’s Cup again lived up to its reputation as the pre-eminent event in the region with about 1500 sailors competing. Onshore, the nightly parties run at various top hotels gave crews the excuse to sample the burgeoning tourist promenades around Karon and Kata Beaches; and for the clubbers the raunchy Patong Beach.
We sailed in strong north-east trade winds during a week which had plenty thrills and spills – including the dismasting of Australian Ben Copley’s TP 52 Kodo – so there was plenty to talk about at the bars around our sailing venue at the Kata Beach Resort. The seven boat multihull racing fleet was dominated by Queenslander Alan Carwardine’s Stealth 11.8 models, with three pushing hard for honours. “Galeforce and Java have really pushed us this week to get the best out of our boat and take the title,” Hurricane skipper Carwardine told me afterwards over a beer at the glitzy Kata Beach Resort party. However our chat was cut short by a huge squall that crashed in, causing mayhem for the party and worry for the anchored fleet. Charter manager Chris Runnegar from Elite Yachting and I stared out from the shelter of an umbrella as the 30kt offshore winds whipped the bay. “Our charter yachts are anchored facing west so this easterly is dangerous!,” lamented expat Aussie Chris. The weather is a reminder that Asia is firmly in the typhoon belt and tragically sunk a new Beneteau Oceanis 60 recently, leaving no trace of crew or boat in the South China Sea.
Among the fleet was the interesting looking Airplay Raw 30 crewed by Australian dealer David Renouf of Just Multihulls and Extreme 40 pro Andrew Macpherson from Sydney; along with Singapore based skipper Scott McCook. Built in infused carbon by experienced Kiwi builder Paul Hakes at Hudson Yachts China the Airplay Raw 30 is a performance, folding trimaran with double berth, so ideal for Asian events such as the Neptune Regatta that takes sailors on an island odyssey through Indonesia to the equator. Another interesting multihull and looking like a mother swan with the other multis mere cygnets around her, was the Racoupeau designed 67ft Fountaine Pajot Arabella. Weighing over 26 tons and sporting an enormous flybridge, skipper Grant Horsfield was the admiral of the fleet, with enough accommodation to house most of us multihull sailors.
The new Performance Multihull Class consists of five new Corsair Pulse 600 yachts on only their second outing. Having sailed one around Sydney Harbour I was keen to race the 19ft Pulse and thanks to factory manager Zam Bevan I got my wish for my sixth King’s Cup. These two or three crew trimarans are ideal charter boats for fly-in crews who don’t need to be hot sailors to enjoy the user-friendly Pulse, thanks to high volume amas and a moderate rig.
Crewing with English expat and experienced monohull racer Glywn Rowlands we battled hard to make our way through a field of mostly professional sailors/boaters but found meagre pickings until the passage race which literally gave us a bit more leeway to get through the fleet for a podium finish. Passage race highlights include seeing the wonderful island scenery around the south of Phuket with glimpses of those famous karst limestone stacks made famous in James Bond movies. On some of the islands boutique resorts nestle among the trees, so one day I plan a quiet family holiday here, with perhaps a beach cat to zip between them. The Pulse 600 has recently been modified with a stronger mast and larger asymmetric kite (25-32sqm) but proved very stable in a fast (18-20kt) downwind sleigh ride that brought big smiles to all the sailors as we sped past the monohull fleets. The high volume in the Pulse’s amas saved us several times from pitch polling, giving us confidence to push the boat hard, going deep to de-power where necessary.
Our boat was chartered from Java Racing, based at the Krabi Sailing Centre who delivers this new OD Class to regional events; something dealer Multihull Central Australia is also considering. Thailand dealer Andrew De Bruin from the recently established Multihull Solutions office is keen to point out that these boats are also good in open classes as well. “The Pulse has a competitive OMR handicap and will compete well in mixed fleets so offers owners’ plenty of variety,” De Bruin told me. OD rules are being formulated and ISAF OD recognition require 70 hulls, which De Bruin says will be achieved within a year as about 35 are already built. De Bruin and Bevan teamed up for the first outing of the Pulse at July’s Phuket Race Week and took the title but at the King’s Cup were pinned back by Queensland expat Elizabeth Schoch who showed us all a clean transom by dominating the 10 race series to take the title; chased closely by American Scott Galle. Galle is a local Corsair 750 owner so had a fair idea about sailing these trimarans: “The Pulse is similar to the 750 but is more sporty and a lot of fun to race,” he concluded.
A bigger and more imposing cat to charter is the 8.53m Firefly 850, a boat I really enjoy racing but on big days is not for the inexperienced. These Phuket built strip planked boats have been a regular fleet for around the last 15 years or so. The tall figure of designer Mark Pescott was on hand as usual and despite telling me he wasn’t working on any new designs, a new Firefly 850 is being built. With no moulds and only jigs, these boats can be homebuilt but production numbers are of course limited by this process. Fleet numbers this year were down to five boats with John Newman’s Twin Sharks dominating, aided by the sharp tactical eye of Alfie Rowson. “These boats are fantastically competitive,” declared the experienced Scottish expat mono hull and multihull racer.
Enjoying the Cup
The King’s Cup is a fairly arduous event with early morning starts and long humid days so crews have to pace themselves (both on the water and in the bars!) to last the five day competition. Pomp and ceremony abound as well, with the major event of every Cup being the King’s Birthday sail past on December 7, that attracts a fleet of Thai navy vessels stretching over the horizon for the royal salute. For the prize-giving there’s formal dress and the King’s Representative lords it over the winning sailors, giving an interesting insight into Thai culture. The Thursday lay day is welcomed by weary sailors and their families who can enjoy a day trip around the 50km long island or a fast boat ride to the world famous Phi Phi Island. Cable skiing is newer addition to Phuket and handily near the airport in the north part of Phuket. For my day off I chewed the fat with local expat Aussie catamaran designers Alan Carwardine and Bob Mott at their respective yards where both are busy on new projects. Carwardine and business partner Roger Diggelmann are building two new Stealth models simultaneously. “It allows our 20 staff to be fully employed, so when one boat is drying out after fibreglassing when can work on the other boat,” explained Carwardine as we walked through the yard. Nearby in Ao Chalong town veteran sailor and charter operator Bob Mott likes to build in a different medium, alloy. His Andaman Cabriolet designs are popular charter boats in the region for Aussies and the new alloy cat is a sturdy addition that will launch in early 2016. Next year is the 30th anniversary for the King’s Cup and should be a big one, so start planning now and see you there.
Phuket International Boat Show - January 7-10, 2016 (annually)
Thailand Yacht Show, Phuket (February 8-14, 2016) for charter and yachts.
Faraway Yacht Charters:
Southeast Asia Pilot by Bill O’ Leary & Andy Dowden 3rd Edition (pub: Image Asia)
www.katathani.com – secluded yet only 5 mins from race venue
www.phuket.com/katabeach/ - Race venue hotel
www.centarahotelsresorts.com – newest five star hotel about 15 mins from race venue
Approximately 9hrs to Bangkok then change for 1.5hr Phuket flight. Direct to Phuket with Jetstar. Also direct flights from Singapore.
Money: Australian cards work in most ATM’s
Currency: 26 Baht: $1
Visa: automatically one month for Australians