While the Thai's are busily preparing for a massive influx of tourists this season over 70 yachts have descended onto the beautifully renovated Kata Beach Resort for the 17th running of the Phuket Kings Cup Regatta.
Gulu LALVANI's Royal Phuket Marina Resort and Spa project are back on board for the second year as principal sponsors after reassessing plans when Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak announced that the Thai government is going to scrap import duty on foreign boats. Chris KING one of the regatta's Co-founders in 1987 and regular participant has returned as president of this years organising committee pointed out, "It is great to see the Royal Phuket Marina involved again, as a Phuket-based marine company supporting Asia's premier yachting event makes an ideal marriage when promoting and developing the Phuket marine tourism infrastructure.
This years King's Cup is the fourth """"" five star, grand prix racing event on the 2003/04 AsianYachting Calendar and the 2nd event on the annual Sir Thomas Lipton Perpetual Cup Series and the Omega Asian Yachting Circuit All these events combine the results from a selection of the region's finest keelboat regattas into individual unified entities with different pointscoring systems and trophy presentations.
All eyes will be on the Racing Classes who are joined by a new Farr 520 Plis Play from DK Yachts with a teak deck and full interior, Ray ORDOVEZA'S previous winner Karakoa from the Philippines possibly skippered by Steve BENJAMIN from North Sails, 2 very slippery Phuket 8 sportsboats and another Mumm 30 Luk Loma from Singapore under David HAMILTON'S helm. Last years winner Peter AHERN'S YO! is back to defend the hard fought title and Ray ROBERTS Farr 52OD Hollywood Boulevard is in the hunt after a convincing win 2 weeks ago at the Raja Muda Regatta in Malaysia.
The Premier Cruising class is shaping up to be a battle of the giants with Richard KAHM'S 28 meter Diablesse taking on a variety of 50 to 60 footers including Dennis BONUTTO'S X-612 Hocux Pocux 2, George OLIVET'S Big Buzzard having won the racing class in previous years and John WARDILL'S Australian Maid who narrowly missed out on last years title after a countback.
The remaining yachts which make up the bulk of the fleet are mainly cruiser/racing yachts or outright cruisers have been placed into 3 separate IRC Classes that are classified by their handicap ratings. The usual lot of Phuket based yachts that have individually won on different occasions all stand a chance again here given suitable conditions. The Royal Thai Navy are back in force with 2 competing yachts to defend the title they so narrowly won last year from Gotcha Lagi! that this year will be raced by the all girl Dewi Bayu Team from Malaysia that pulled a few surprises in the racing class at the recent Raja Muda Regatta.
The Classic Class has been strengthened by the return of Jens Ehrhardt's magnificent 42m Sylvia, Stephen Pepperell's beautiful Herreshoff designed Long White Cloud and 3 time winner Christopher Edwards has donated a new perennial Xyphias Trophy for the Classics named after the vessel with which Mr Edwards has had so much success in past Kings Cups.
Ten large Multihulls have entered this highly contested class that is usually overlooked in favour of the racing monohull counterparts. Thailand's Radab KANJANAVIT'S Cedar Swan starts each year as one of the favorites but will be hard pressed by many of the locally built catamarans and Tony LOUGH'S Securicor Fine Pitch that has won here 3 times before.
So as the stage is all set plus the Simon JAMES led race committee are ready to tackle any issues and designed courses to suit all craft, all that is needed is the light North Easterly trade winds to co-operate and we will witness a wonderful week of exciting yacht racing in the Andaman Sea this year entirely conducted from the Kata Beach Resort in Phuket.