Superb breeze, torn spinnakers, a couple of collisions and some very exciting racing was the order of the week for the 7th QBE Phang Nga Bay Regatta which commenced last Thursday from the Yacht Haven Marina at the northern end of Phuket Island.
A strong fleet of 34 yachts compiled into 4 classes were blessed with some of the most outstanding sailing conditions Phuket has enjoyed in years with blue skies and strong winds prevailing for the entire four days of the event.
'Hocux Pocux 2' the well campaigned X-682 from Hong Kong skippered by Denis (Bruno) BONUTTO managed to sail away with the overall racing class trophy for the week but not without a fight from one of the most competitive racing classes the PNBR had seen in its seven year history. David LINDHAL and his crew aboard local yacht 'La Samudra' the Swan 42 took out the cruising class A honours with 'Fat Cat' and the Latitude 8 built 'Charro' taking the cruising B and ocean multihull prizes respectively.
Day 1 saw the fleet push against the tide down the 6 mile channel from the Yacht Haven to a very wide start line where the breeze was blowing constant with approximately 12 knots. The upwind beat to the top of Koh Yao Noi tested the fleet with the smaller yachts struggling to make it up to the first mark. The larger yachts and multihulls lead the way with likes of 'Hocux Pocux 2', 'La Samudra', 'Charro' and 'Rhythm Stick' making it up to the gate and through to the finish in good time. The exception to this was 'Securicor Somtam Express' the locally built 25ft Phuket 8 who managed to stay in touch with the larger keelboats and took advantage of the stronger breeze on the port side of the course, which about half way through the race started to ease and thus favoured the lighter vessel.
The only incident of day one was when the catamaran 'No Fixed Address' on starboard tack went unnoticed to all on board the 58ft steel sloop 'Beyond Rotto'. Their calls also appeared to go unheard as the larger yacht ploughed straight into the side of the smaller cat tearing a huge hole in her port side resulting in a cracked dagger board casing and some new side opening hatches. Nobody was injured thankfully and both retired that day. To 'No Fixed Address's' credit they kept on sailing in the next three races of the regatta and in the end had a wonderful time and stayed competitive finishing fourth overall.
The second race of the week took the fleet from the southern end of Koh Yao Noi up through the beautiful Koh Hong group of Islands and down to Railey Beach. The conditions were ever changing with the breeze swinging from a north easterly to and easterly and then almost a south easterly throughout the race which kept the fleet pushing into the wind and the chance for any spinnaker use faded as the day went on. 1.5 meter swells pushed through the bay as the tide changed and once again only the larger boats made it home in reasonable time. 'Hocux Pocux 2' again leading from start to finish. Other notable performers included 'La Samudra', Time MILNER'S 'Charro' with the yachts designer Mark PESCOTT on helm, Joan MARIE the Young 11 'Ruby Tuesday' as well as cruising B's Julian HILL aboard 'Sanook'.
Race 3 was when all the action started with the fleet, apart from Cruising B, starting off the coast of southern end of Koh Dam Hong sailing upwind around the island then enjoying a spinnaker run down to Phi Phi. There was hustling at the start once again in the Cruising A division with 'Fi Tuen' giving their rivals aboard 'Rhythm Stick' a love tap on their aft port side. No real damage was incurred and surprisingly little was said about the incident. 'Hocux Pocux 2' as usual stormed off the line with speed and lead 'La Samudra', 'Fi Tuen', 'Pytheas Aura' and 'Rhythm Stick' around the top of the island.
Once the spinnakers appeared a white flash went past everyone in the form of Scott DUNCANSON aboard his Phuket 8 'Securicor Somtam Express'. This little pocket rocket just took off and narrowly missed catching the Multihulls 'Charro' and 'Slipper 1' who started 10 minutes before her. Duncanson was delighted with the yachts performance saying that "it was the first time the yacht had placed first under an IRC rating".
Somtam managed to beat their closest competitors by 20 minutes on corrected time, which was no mean feat given the calibre of the fleet. Four spinnakers were torn in the downwind run which had the crews enjoying some great north easterly winds.
Day 4 was again fun filled with a spinnaker start between Koh Phi Phi Don and Koh Phi Phi Lei. A nice long start line was set by the race committee and again Cruising B were let go first with Multihulls, Racing and Cruising A starting together. An incident free start let the downwind flyer 'Securicor' again blitz past leaving the rest of the class in their wake. The sight of the regatta fleet with their spinnakers flying in perfect blue skies was certainly a sight to be seen as well as a photographer's dream.
The course ran from Phi Phi to the gate located at the southern tip of Koh Kai then through the second gate off Koh Maiton and into Chalong Bay. Gate one caused the fleet some problems for it was laid too close to Koh Kai resulting in big wind shadow arising just as the boats went through. This tested the sailor's skills in all divisions as they flopped from side to side until they eventually made it out of the shadow and continued onto Koh Maiton. 'Securicor' however lead all the way to Chalong and just made it across the finish with Multihull 'Charro' hot on their heals. The rest of the fleet enjoyed probably the quickest run from Phi Phi to Phuket they had ever experienced with constant breeze of 15 - 18 knots pushing them home and gusts of up to 30 knots throughout the day.
1st - Hocux Pocux 2
2nd - Rhythm Stick
3rd - Securicor Somtam Express
1st - La Samudra
2nd - Fi Tuen
3rd - Antigua IV
1st - Fat Cat
2nd - The Four Winds
3rd - Sanook
1st - Charro
2nd - IMAGE asia Latitude 8 Cyrene
3rd - Slipper 1