Tricky opening day
Some you win and some you lose, but for Ray Robert's Evolution Racing it was a win, win result in two of their three Phuket King's Cup races.
It seemed that for others with the luxury of three races today, getting a grasp on the current, shifty winds and the competition also took its toll as each of them struggled in the first race then strove to the head of the class in races two and three.
Evolution Racing started the first day of King's Cup with a bang. Wanting to prove to his Racing class competition that his boat is the dominant leader on the Asian racing scene, Roberts with tactican Kiwi Finn sailor Dan Slater, drove the boat hard to deliver a 4-1-1 scorecard.
Another skipper looking to deliver a hat-trick result this year is Australian Matt Allen campaigning Ichi Ban with his Michael Spies on the tactics. While they delivered a winning first place, some missed opportunities in the second and recovery in the third gave them overall 2-1-1 placings.
The King's Cup weather has returned to its traditional light airs where knowing the local conditions, studying the tides and keeping your head out of the boat were all important factors on the first day.
With a postponement flag flying on both courses the Phuket King's Cup fleet of 106 boats waited patiently this morning for a race start.
Soft breeze, an outgoing tide and heavy cloud made for a difficult start in the Premier and Cruising classes. Race officer Ross Chisholm thoughtfully radioed all skippers on his course reminding them to stay clear of the big boats in the Premier class.
Baby Tonga, with Australian IRC Champion, Peter Sorenson, at the helm, led the fleet across the line with only a slight duck of the line right before the gun to ensure he did not break. Rob Williams's Odin tried to push Baby Tonga across, but obviously the very experienced Sorenson was not interested in this fight. Jon Wardill's Australian Maid took the mid-line choice keeping clear of the pin end melee while Don Algie's Storm 2 were tucked in at the start boat end. Perseus was the last to start as the crew of 26 tried to push the 50m yacht across the line in a soft northeasterly breeze.
Another postponement flag went up for the rest of the classes as the race committee watched for the breeze. Finally, the Cruising, Bareboat Charter, Classic and Modern Classic classes got away.
On the southern racing course the fleet finally got the heads-up from race officer, Jerry Rollin, that it was time to get serious.
First off was the Racing Class. While the big boat of the class, Frank Pong's Jelik III led the 10 boats across the line, Sam Chan's FreeFire and Song Xia Qun's Jelik V were over early forcing them to return to clear the line. At the first mark Neil Pryde's HiFi was well ahead of Evolution Racing, but Jelik III continued to lead the fleet through the race. Then came HiFi. Evolution Racing just nudged ahead of the recovered FreeFire on the top mark followed by Nick Burns's EFG Bank Mandrake. At end of race one HiFi dominated on handicap from Mandrake with Jelik III finishing in third.
IRC1 Class, with defending champion, Matt Allen's Ichi Ban, on the start, had a general recall and a warning from Rollin to watch out for the strong tide on the start line. As if this was not enough to contend with, Allen was then called over early and had to return, quickly clearing the line.
Yasuo Nanamori's Babe led the fleet ahead of Ichi Ban and Ben Copley's Katsu. On results in race one though Ichi Ban recovered to take first place ahead of Rick Overton and Kenn Eyears's Kukukerhcu, then Babe into third.
The seven Firefly 850s had a clear start in their first race. Hans Rahmann's Voodoo led the fleet at the first mark, way ahead of a pack of four Fireflys. But at the end of race one it was Pierre Forsans's Pagatoon in first, Andre Marshall's Pink Lady in second and Voodoo back in third.
The multihulls also had a clear start in their first race start with Henry Kaye and Fergus Wilmer's Thor, powering ahead of the fleet enjoying the flat water and nine knot breeze. But it seems the handicap and some good sailing from the other fleet members may have finally slowed Thor down as they placed in third behind Andy Pape's Da Vinci and Neil Ayre's Shanghai Baby.
In the IRC2 division, it was a case of nerves onboard Jeff Harris's Rapscallion as they crossed the line early. At the top mark it was Peter Dyer's Team Sea Bees leading Brent Morgan's Men at Work, but by the finish Men at Work had finally pushed out Dyer's team to take first place, Team Sea Bees in second and Ray Waldron's Sea Patrol in third.
Then a rain squall passed over the land and moved out to sea. There was hope some more breeze would come with it, but that didn't eventuate. Rollin's sensibly held the fleet at bay for about half an hour before setting the new course at 330 degrees in a seven knot breeze for the second race of the day.
Off on another windward/leeward course, the Racing Class were first to start. At the pin end it was Hannes Waimer's Team Premier, Geoff Hill's Strewth, Jelik III and Jelik V off to a clear start. Evolution Racing seemed to be buried on the start line below HiFi. EFG Bank Mandrake was a late starter with Kevin Whitcraft's Won Ma Rang missing the radio call for a start and finding themselves several minutes behind the rest of the fleet.
Evolution Racing tacked to port powering away from the fleet, but still behind Jelik III. At the bottom mark first time round Evolution Racing held their lead over HiFi with FreeFire hard on HiFi's stern. Racing towards the finish the battle was on for Evolution Racing and HiFi with Evolution Racing holding their lead to take second place on the line. These results delivered a first place to Evolution Racing, a second to HiFi and a great result for the all-Chinese team on Jelik V finishing in third.
In IRC1 the postponement flag was up briefly while the start line was re-laid, then the 15 boat fleet were off. Three boats were recalled while Ichi Ban and Kukukerchu found their speed and took off with Babe close behind. At the bottom mark first time around, Katsu was in a commanding position, but a poor kite drop cost them heavily letting Peter Wintle's Koull Baby and Rick Pointon's JingJing inside them. At the finish it was Babe into first just five seconds ahead of Ichi Ban then it was Koull Baby in third place.
The Firefly 850s had another great race with a clean start and John Newnham's Twin Sharks leading Roger Kingdon's Moto Inzi with Voodoo trailing in third. On the finish it was Voodoo ahead of Pagatoon and Twin Sharks.
Thor had one hull up at the start of race two as they again led the fleet on a clear start up to the top mark. Da Vinci joined Thor at the pin end pushing hard to deliver a good result. They were unable to repeat their race one performance with Thor taking out first, Da Vinci in second and Miss Saigon moved up to third.
In IRC2 the ten boat fleet pushed the line, except for Rapscallion who chose to take a more conservative approach in their second race start. The Royal Thai Navy 1 team did an excellent job to finish in first place, pushing out Team Sea Bees with Royal Thai Navy 4 moving into third.
Facing a forecast of fading breezes for the next two days the race committee chose to then set the Racing, IRC, Firefly and Multihull classes off on another and third race.
In the Racing class Evolution Racing delivered another first place to place them first overall in the division. Jelik III placed second and FreeFire into third.
"In the third race we did okay, but on the third leg we lost our jib. The light number one just disintegrated. We lost maybe two minutes. The crew worked very well taking the old jib down and the new jib up. Hopefully it can fixed over-night. We lost bit, but then came back," Chan said.
These results leave Evolution Racing in first overall, HiFi back in second, after fourth in race three, and Jelik III up in third place. These results are subject to a protest hearing currently being held, lodged by Jelik III against FreeFire for an incident in the last race of today..
Ray Roberts explained: "In the first race there was a big shift and two or three boats got the jump out on the right hand side of the course into a new pressure lane and they got a big jump by the top mark. We had a good start, but we were just to leeward of the new pressure vein that came through. HiFi, Jelik and Mandrake got a jump on us. Generally though we are pretty happy. The boat is going well and the crew are sailing the boat well. Some you win and some you lose."
In the IRC1 class, Ichi Ban returned to form winning the race. Having won the IRC1 division one for the last two years, Allen is certainly campaigning his team towards a hat-trick third overall win. Second in the race was JingJing with Katsu finishing third.
"I thought we were pretty good in the third race," said Allen. "We were OCS in the first race, but we came really nicely. In the second race I think we picked the wrong headsails both times. In the third race we got on the wrong side of the big shift up the first work, a massive right shift. Then we just laid through so we were okay with it.
"It was pretty difficult day. A lot breeze up and breeze down, lots of shifts. It was pretty hard to be consistent out there today. I think we will see with the (overall) score it will be mixed around. Babe was sailing well, but all the other boats were pretty much up and down. It was a really tough day, especially for the tacticians."
In the IRC2 class Royal Thai Navy 1 delivered another first with Men at Work in second and Thai Navy 4 in third. This leaves the class defending champion Thai Navy 1 up in first place overall with Men at Work in second and Team Sea Bees in third.
The third race for the Firefly 850s was handed to Voodoo as they clearly found their stride in the tricky conditions. Second was Pagatoon and third Pink Lady reflecting the class overall results.
Thor did it again in the Multihull class ahead of Da Vinci and Alan Carwardine's Sidewinder. Again, it was a case of a race result reflecting the overall placings after three races.
At the end of the one-race day for the cruiser/racer classes, in Premier Class it was Peter Forsythe and Jing Lee's X-55 Zena ahead of Baby Tonga and then Australian Maid.
Wardill commented: "We had a good race. I think we might have got a third. We sailed boat-on-boat with Baby Tonga virtually the whole day. The lead changed several times, but in the end she got us. There was adequate breeze. It wasn't great, but enough to keep us all moving. We were a little bit disappointed that they didn't have a second race particularly with the forecast for the rest of the week."
In the Bareboat Charter class first place went to Darren Shipard's Bourgeois Tag, second to Mike Crisp's Venture and third to Russian Ilya Ermakov's Sarawadee.
The Classic Class all finished with Paul Brunning's Dondang Sayang in first, Simon Morris's Sirius in second and Rene Tiemessen's Alondra third.
The Cruising Class was won by Richard Macfarlane's Aida, followed by Barry Elsbury's Apsarra to Roger Harris's Simone. As one Simone crew commented on returning to the beach, the breeze was soft and there were no reason for breakages on their boat today.
Modern Classic Class enjoyed the conditions with Jean Rheault Souay 1 finishing in first, Bo Sondergaard's Patrice III in second and Reinhard Haiber's Pytheas Aura in third.