Phuket Raceweek, organised by rights owner Image Asia Events, is held every year in July at the Evason Phuket & Six Senses Spa on the holiday island's southeast coast.
“I must say it was an exceptional regatta! The whole of our crew thoroughly enjoyed the week. Congratulations to you and your team on putting on one of Asia’s finest regattas. We will definitely be returning next year,” said Baby Tonga’s Anthony Hastings.
Hastings’ sentiments were echoed by Evolution Sails’ Ray Roberts, who felt compelled to take the microphone while collecting his Racing Class winner’s trophy. “I've had a fabulous time. It's my first time at this regatta and it's possibly the best experience I've had in Asia… I came here expecting the regatta to be much less competitive, but it was very tight racing… where the gap between first and second was [sometimes] less than 10 seconds.”
“Great Regatta! The best in Asia. We recommend Raceweek wholeheartedly to all prospective participants,” said Mike Downard, CEO of Sail in Asia, sailing on Peter Dyer's Madame Butterfly.
Blessed by perfect winds and blue skies – typical Phuket weather at this time of year – Race Officer Simon James sent all except Club/Charter and Classic classes on eight races over four days, combining windward-leeward courses with round-the-islands races, taking in the superb scenery within sight of regatta HQ – a unique feature of Phuket Raceweek.
Asian regatta organisers often hear participants complain about being back on shore when there’s wind and they could still be out there racing. Not so at Phuket Raceweek 2009! Too much racing? Perhaps… “I’d be happy with six races,” said Yo!2’s Peter Ahern, competing in his third Phuket Raceweek. “I see this as a more relaxed regatta with time for visitors to enjoy the sights of Phuket rather than spend all day on the water,” he added.
“A great regatta that should grow,” remarked the current Asian Yachting Grand Prix (AYGP) title holder, Hi Fi’s Neil Pryde – like Roberts, at Phuket Raceweek for the first time.
On the water, the competition was fierce. IRC Racing, IRC 1 and Multihulls went to the wire, with just seconds separating the leading contenders right up to the last race. Despite winning both races on the last day, Pryde’s Hi Fi couldn’t quite topple Roberts’ Evolution Sails from the top spot, giving Roberts the first points on the 2009-10 AGYP scoreboard.
Coming out on top of the hotly-contended IRC1 class, former SEA Games Gold Medallist and Thai National Junior Sailing Team coach, Jaray Tipsuk with his all-Thai crew on the Platu 25 Mitrmitri, became the first Thai skipper to take a first place at Phuket Raceweek.
Perhaps the biggest upset of the week, though, was in the Multihull Class. Henry Kaye and Fergus Wilmer’s all-carbon Sea Cart 30 Thor, fresh from victories in the Koh Samui Regatta and the Phuket Multihull Challenge, had to settle for second place against the new design ‘Andaman Cabriolet’, Da Vinci Niña. Launched only five days before the regatta, Da Vinci Niña had brief sea trials on Wednesday and went on to score two bullets in Thursday’s two races.
Commenting on the 2009 entry list, Image Asia managing director, Grenville Fordham, noted, “At 33, the number of entries was down on last year’s 41; but the standard of boats and the level of competition were the best yet. I was particularly delighted to see a record number of entries from overseas this year.”
Fordham added that he sees the future growth of Phuket Raceweek coming from two different directions. “Now that we’re part of the AYGP circuit, and some of the contenders have experienced Raceweek for the first time, I’d be surprised if we don’t see more of the region’s top racing boats here next year. Our other focus is yacht charter. Phuket has a competitive fleet of yachts available to charter for regattas. With low season hotel and charter rates and the most spectacular cruising grounds in the world on our doorstep, we plan to target the yacht charter market, offering cruising/racing or racing only packages for 2010.”
Of course, as with most Asian regattas, Phuket Raceweek is not only about the racing. The regatta tavern adjacent to the jetty bustles with post-race banter, while the evening prizegiving parties are legendary – with overflowing buffet tables, courtesy of Evason’s superb chefs, free-flow beers, wines and spirits and top-class entertainment flown in from Bangkok just for the regatta.
The general consensus, as participants and guests got stuck into the final night’s gala party, is best summed up by Asian Yachting’s Capt. Marty Rijkuris: “What a great regatta Phuket Raceweek has turned into. Hard racing during the day and plenty of entertainment at night. What more could a sailor wish for? It does not get much better than this, anywhere in the world.”
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