Asia's newest regatta, Phuket Race Week, anticipates a strong first year turnout when racing starts today.
"We were concerned that we might suffer from the 'too many regattas' syndrome, but it seems we've hit on the right formula,"
said Andy DOWDEN, director of organizers Image Asia Events.
Hosted by the stylish Evason Phuket Resort, on the island's Southeast coast, Phuket Race Week has gone for a number of firsts. The time of year - during the Southwest monsoon - may mean a touch of rain, but it also virtually guarantees consistent breezes.
Courses are set so that racing will take place offshore the host resort, with both start and finish lines within sight of land-based spectators. Weather permitting, at least one passage race will be included.
Tackling the thorny issue of classes, particularly the hurdle of attracting locally-based or visiting cruising boats, Phuket Race Week introduces 'Club Class' - a class for keelboats participating with the owner onboard, cruisers that do not normally race, so may not have a valid IRC certificate, and for charter boats who prefer a less competitive fleet. Then there's 'Charter Class', racing under the IRC Handicap system for any yacht chartered for the regatta and not crewed by the owner.
Race Week entries include notable names. Ulumulu (formerly Luna Nuova) and Karakoa will be there. Former King's Cup winners Radab KANJANAVIT'S Cedar Swan, Mark PESCOTT'S Summersalt and Michel ARNULPHY'S Cyrene lead what promises to be the biggest multihull fleet to cross an Asian regatta's start line. Stuart HARRISON'S Panic will challenge all four Phuket 8 Sport Boats in a competition worth scrutiny now that Pla Loma's Keith Moore has joined the little guys.
On the social side, Phuket Race Week plans to break the regatta party convention. Evason's stunning 'Into the Beach' waterside party area is the focus of all off-the-water activity. A 5-star regatta bar offering post-race Ao Chalong-type beer prices, a big screen showing raw footage of the day's racing and computer screens carrying results will blend seamlessly with the prizegivings and parties - all in the one area.
With Fosters on board as beer sponsor, Australia's favourite beer will flow once the formal festivities start, while Evason will be trying their hardest to outdo their renowned King's Cup culinary achievements.
Organized by the Phuket Boat Show team, Phuket Race Week, is held under the auspices of Ao Chalong Yacht Club. Headed by former King's Cup Race Committee Chairman and 2002/03 King's Cup President Andy DOWDEN, the lineup is strengthened by the Ao Chalong boys, bringing in their experience of regular racing in the waters off Phuket's East coast.
Run under ISAF rules, Phuket Race Week has New Zealand's unflappable John McLennan as Principal Race Officer, leading a team of international race management professionals and jurors.
"While we're naturally drawing on our King's Cup experience,"
said Dowden, "we're taking the opportunity of a fresh start to change the formula; our aim is not only to offer superb racing in good breezes, but at the same time to provide a post-race setting that encourages sailors to meet in one place, to have a few beers and chew the fat over what happened on the water."