The Lead Up

Six Senses Phuket Raceweek has come a long way in a very short time. Last year, double-Olympic gold-medal winner Shirley Robertson's graced the event and this year sailing speed and distance stars Paul Larsen and Dee Caffari participated in the 8th annual version, held off southern Phuket’s waters from July 21-24.

Larsen has a history of sailing some of the wildest and fastest boats ever to grace the oceans and is the project leader and pilot of the Vestas Sailrocket team, which is currently preparing in Namibia for the an attempt at the “Outright Speed Sailing Record”.  He was a member of Pete Goss’ ill-fated Team Philips attempt to sail a £4m superyacht in The Race - a no-rules, round-the-world event. The attempt was scuppered when the ill-fated 120ft catamaran was severely damaged before the event started. The revolutionary carbon fibre yacht - developed by designer Adrian Thompson in Totnes - broke up in severe conditions during a pre-race trial in the Atlantic in December 2000. Larsen’s many achievements include winning a non-stop circumnavigation in the Oryx Quest and a double-handed lap of Britain Goss on a 30ft Seacart trimaran. Paul skipped the Andaman Cabriolet cat, Da Vinci during Raceweek.  

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Caffiri became the first woman to sail solo, non-stop, around the world against the prevailing winds and currents and was awarded an MBE in recognition of her achievements. More recently, she competed in the 2008/9 Vendee Globe - a gruelling race around the world, non-stop and alone – crossing the finish line in 6th place out of an original fleet of 30 competitors. In June of 2009, Dee and an all-female crew smashed the monohull speed record around Britain and Ireland. She is also the first woman to sail around the world three times. Dee aims to compete in the Vendee Globe once again with the intention of gaining a podium position. At Raceweek, she sailed on Grenville Fordham’s Andaman Cabriolet cat, Nina.  

The beauty of having an all-year sailing season, allows regatta organizers to take best advantage of the prevailing trade winds. In late July, the southwesterly monsoon can produce anything from light to moderate breeze, right through to severe squalls. Over the years, Image Asia Events, in conjunction with Evason Phuket & Six Senses Spa, has created an event that today rivals the best in the region. The regatta’s  reputation has grown in stature for delivering four days of world-class yacht racing from the superb 5-star Evason Phuket. It  recently was voted “Best Asian Regatta 2011” at the annual Asia Boating Awards held in Hong Kong.

Top billing in the IRC Racing class went to Neil Pryde's professional racing team, who test ran the TP52 Team Premier with a view of purchasing her. David Ross' brand new Kerr 40 KukuKERchu made her regatta debut and judging by the design shape was expected to raise a few eyebrows. Locally based Ben Copley's Swan 42 Katsu and Rick Pointon's J130 Jingjing from the Beijing Sailing Club recently secured podium places at Pattaya and Koh Samui and as the same crew of heavyweights are fronting up again they could prove to be a handful. Although the two Phuket 8's, Scott Duncanson's Quantum Fusion M and Ray Waldron's Surf Patrol might seem to be outclassed with the bigger boats, given enough wind where the 8m (26ft) yacht can get up and plane, they have been known to pack a punch way above their weight.

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In the IRC 2 class, seven evenly matched performance yachts ranging from 25 to 42 feet were pitted against each other. Bryan Gauson's refitted 1976 Sydney Hobart Race winning Farr 1104 Piccolo and John Vause's Young 11 Ruby Tuesday have both won Raceweek before. Peter Dyer's IOR 1/2 tonner Team Sea Bees has been the bridesmaid on two occasions and Co. Pornprom Sakultem skippering the Platu 25 Royal Thai Navy 4 have come through a school of hard knocks to be here. Stuart Williamson's Beneteau 34.7 WDB Endeavour of Whitby ended up on the bricks last year and are eager to carry on with the performance before their early exit.

Nine heavy-displacement cruising yachts contested the IRC 3 Class. A number of relatively new Beneteau, Jeanneau and Bavaria yachts took on the age-old pedigree Horst Lakits Swan 55 Big A and Jim Ellis S & S 12.8 Remington that have both won King's Cups and many major titles in the Asian region.

The Andaman Cabriolets Niña and Da Vinci  were up against David Liddell's Corsair C37RS Miss Saigon, hot after its win in the SEA Property Multihull Championship and Alan Carwardine’s Stealth 12.5 Sidewinder is eager to get back into the winners circle.

 Five of the most competitive Firefly 850 One-Design catamarans battled it out, hoping to end Voodoo's dominance over the last two years. Coming into the final day of the SEA Property Multihull Championship last weekend three boats The Frog, Moto Inzi and Voodoo were holding a three way tie for the lead. Given the right conditions this class is fast and furious making the close racing very exciting for the sailors and spectators alike.

There were only two boats in the Classic Class, Mark Myking's William Garden Idiom and Tom Howard's North Sea Fishing Boat Seraph. Another first in Thailand, Mount Gay Rum – the oldest brand of rum in the world and sponsor of 120 regattas worldwide – chose Six Senses Phuket Raceweek as the platform for its brand launch in Thailand.

The Racing

The signs were ominous as the fleet left the anchorage on Day 1 of the regatta, and Principal Race Officer Simon James was forced to raise the AP Flag and postpone racing early on. After a four-hour delay, racing finally got underway in six knots of SW breeze, which built up to ten knots during the afternoon allowing James to fire away two short windward/leeward courses in quick succession. Several boats were eager to get going and jumped the gun at the start, and were recalled for their efforts. The ones that did not return were disqualified. At the end of the day competitors were praising the race committee for competing two races in the trying conditions.

TP52Team Premier blitzed the fleet and ended up with two firsts. However, only a few minutes on corrected time separated the entire IRC 1, eight-boat fleet on both races. Rick Jingjing and KukuKERchu traded second and third places while chasing Team Premier.

Paul Larsen skippering the Andaman Cabriolet Da Vinci triumphed in the first two races to go directly to the top of the Performance Multihull class. Second and third places for Miss Saigon put it in second overall, showing the form it displayed the recent SEA Property Multihull Championship. Neil Ayre's Corsair 28 Shanghai Baby ended up in third overall but as Sidewinder had steering problems in Race 1 but rebounded with second place in Race 2.

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The unstoppable Ian Coulson skippering Voodoo slammed home two wins in the Firefly 850 One-Design class on the first day and Affirmed its intention of defending its  title, Two second places for Peter Dyer's Team Land & Houses allowed saw it finish second overall. Following suite John Newnham's Twin Sharks two third places saw it grabbing third overall.

The two boats in the Classic Class disappeared round the island on a passage race and when they returned Idiom was in the lead and went on to snatch victory from Seraph, by a couple of minutes after three hours of racing.

The second day of the 2011 regatta brought good wind and good sailing. While competitors gathered ashore, a rain storm swept through the anchorage leaving behind good consistent winds for which Raceweek has become famous. PRO Simon James wasted no time in laying a startline off Bon Island and after the AP was lowered, the fleet went into sequence. IRC3 and Classics completed a single “round-the-island” race while all others completed a short windward-leeward course followed by a longer second race.

 

Day Three brought with it an early shower, followed by light winds, which filled in nicely for a 10am start. PRO James decided two races were in order for most classes, and to shake things up, made it a mix of short windward-leewards and longer passage races. The third day of a four-day regatta is very important for improving a team’s performance and determining the eventual outcome of the regatta. It’s “mover and shaker” day for some as the drop race comes into play and not so fortunate for others. Racing got away on time in 7 to 9 knots with scattered showers roaming across the course area, which generated strong gusts that would favour one side of the course, then the other. As Race 5 was coming to a conclusion the building storm cell to the SW descended on the course and unleashed its power on the remaining competitors giving them a thrilling spinnaker run to the finish. Half-an-hour hour in survival mode and then the storm passed over, it was back into racing in favourable winds.

On the final day, swirling wind and small whitecaps deterred some teams from participating for fear of breaking valuable equipment on their boats. After winning the first six races Neil Pryde decided not to race the borrowed TP52 Team Premier, as it already won the IRC 1 Racing trophy, even with two races to go. Two Phuket 8s and Baby Tonga also withdrew, leaving the four 40-45 footers to do battle among themselves for the remaining podium places. A mixture of windward/leeward and passage races were selected for different classes as conditions moderated to a steady 10 to 12 knots with a rolling seaway left over from the passing storms.

As winds grew to 13-15 knots, KukuKERchu lead off the start from with Jing Jing and Katsu close on her stern. Katsu tacked early and lost ground as KukuKERchu and Jing Jing stretched out a small lead on-the-water and rounded the top mark ahead. After three loops and a crew injury on KukuKERchu, Jing Jing took the win on corrected time with Katsu in second and KukuKERchu in third. Katsu headed in to the final race of the series with a one point lead over KukuKERchu. In Race 2, Jing Jing took her second win of the day with Katsu in second and Babe in third. Team Premier took the series win from Jing Jing in second on count back and Katsu in third.
As the breeze eased off the choppy one metre sea made for hard going in the IRC 2 Class. Several skippers had voiced their displeasure at Piccolo, starting tactics, which the jury had already discussed at length and were determined to get the better of them. Piccolo's skipper Mark Chapman made sure they kept their nose clean and stayed on the pace to win both Race 7 and 8 and graciously defend the title. Fourth and second places for Pornprom Sakultem skippering the Platu 25 Royal Thai Navy 4 is enough to hold onto second overall. Apart from the Race 1 win, Peter Dyer's IOR 1/2 tonner Team Sea Bees has consistently scored third places to naturally end up third overall.

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The IRC 2 class was sent on a shorter windward-leeward, and with a tie for second and third going into the final day, the race was tight. A clear start and the class enjoyed the stronger winds as Piccolo stretched out a lead and took line honours and a handicap win with WDB Endeavour of Whitby in second and Team Sea Bees in third. Having the series win almost in the bag, all eyes were on Royal Thai Navy 4. Team Sea Bees and the rapidly improving WDB Endeavour of Whitby for the minor placings with Piccolo finally taking the win in Race 2 today from Royal Thai Navy 4 and Team Sea Bees, in second and third respectively. Piccolo took the series title from Royal Thai Navy 4 in second and Team Sea Bees in third.

The IRC 3 boats were sent on a longer course for the first race, heading off around Lon Island and into Chalong Bay. With just four points separating the top three, Remington was expected to enjoy the longer course. As the fleet sailed into the patchy winds in the Bay, Don't Think Twice retired and Remington came out on top with the win on corrected time from Dreamtime in second and Venture in third. As the winds dropped PRO James decided to call it a day for this class leaving Remington to take the series win from Linda in second who won on count back from Dreamtime in third.

In the Performance Multihull class Sidewinder streaked off into the lead and after surviving the light patches in Ao Chalong reappeared in front to claim the daily double and solidify its position at the top of the table. Second place for Da Vinci dropped it to second overall after leading the class for half the regatta. Third place for Miss Saigon put it out of contention for winning the class. With the bit between his teeth Alan Carwardine drove Sidewinder mercilessly in the final race to clinch the title. Miss Saigon slotted into second place in front of Da Vinci but they ended up in the reverse order on the podium.

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The one-design Fireflys were all geared up for the white caps and expectations were high as Team Land and Houses took a two-point lead over Voodoo into the final day. Voodoo enjoyed the conditions and returned to winning form in Race 1 with a first over Twin Sharks and Team Land and Houses, finishing second and third respectively. In Race 2, the top spot was still up for grabs. Team Land and House took the win with Moto Inzi and Twin Sharks coming second and third. Voodoo slipped to fourth in the final race meaning Land and Houses took the series with Voodoo placing second and Twin Sharks coming in third.

After winning three of the four grudge matches Idiom sailed into the sunset with the Classic Class trophy. Seraph, skippered by Khun Bao, wasn’t far behind but had to settle for second in the two-boat contest.

The Wrap

“This is my first time in Phuket, first time in Thailand and first time in Asia. And I'm loving it,” said Dee Caffari during the regatta. “It's a really good atmosphere. It's great to see so many boats on the water. The sailors are happy, the resort is beautiful. We're getting in some great sailing and I am enjoying the sightseeing as we sail around the islands.”

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Six Senses Phuket Raceweek was well documented as there were webcams at the resort, mini-cams on the boats, a cameraman in the water and a whole assortment of media covering the event.

The regatta served up everything for the participants – light winds, storms, rain, good winds and white caps, keeping the participants on their toes. The “tradition” of a testing final day continued as five boats chose not to leave the anchorage.

This time of the year anything from dead flat calms to sailing straight into the blustery teeth of the SW monsoon can be experienced. Over the years, the sailors have grown accustomed to this and they come prepared for anything that can be thrown at them. The friendly and casual nature of the event held in five-star Evason elegance with free flowing culinary delights has made this regatta one of the best in the region.

The DNA of Six Senses Phuket Raceweek is professional race management, an onshore venue second-to-none, and challenging sailing conditions in some of the most scenic sailing grounds around. True to form, the 2011 version turned out another great show.
http://www.phuketraceweek.com

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