Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Phuket, the King’s Cup Regatta and homeward bound

December 3 – 16, 2011
Once more we found ourselves zooming across the water in a high speed ferry, this time headed for the infamous island of Phuket. We’d timed our visit to coincide with the running of the King’s Cup Regatta with idea in mind of socialising with a number of cruisers we’d met on the Indo Rally that would be in town at this time. That all changed when we received an offer to crew on Steve and Trish Brown’s beautiful Oyster 56, Curious, in the regatta itself. We’d be sailing with great people we knew from the rally,  Jim and Barb Wallace off Contrails, Alan and Noi Hogg off Rogue, Brian Calvert off Further and a friend of his Chris Cowman and of course our crewmate from Nae Hassle Marc (Meerkat) Beerts.  We were sailors again instead of tourists.
By the time we checked into our budget accommodation in Patong Beach it was already dark so we headed out and had a great feed garnered from a range of the food venders located just at the end of the street and then turned in for an early night to be up bright and sharp next day.

Steve & Trish Brown's Curious
We grabbed a taxi over to Chalong Bay to meet everyone for a practice sail on Curious around to Kata Beach where the regatta is based. Sally had been invited to come along for the ride around the island so away we went. We set off finding our way in our various allotted positions and learning the boat. For many of us this was the first time we’d stepped foot aboard Curious so the learning curve was a little steep as we worked together to find the best and quickest ways to achieve things.
Rob was assigned a dual role of bowman assisting with the set of the big cruising chute Curious flies rather than a spinnaker and of hauling the slack sheet ropes in during tacks and getting them onto the electric winches. Karen got the job of sewer rat, being below in the forward cabin feeding the chute up on deck when needed and gathering it back in when it came down.  Unfortunately on the trip around Trish had a recurrence of a stomach complaint that had laid her low the previous week so by the time we reached Kata Beach the decision had been made that Trish would sit out the first few days of the regatta to get over things. Karen was reassigned to the critical role of controlling the mainsail which indicated how highly Steve regarded her sail trim abilities. Sally suddenly found herself no longer a one day passenger but now part of the crew taking over Karen’s role with the cruising chute.

Post practice team bonding Phuket style
The next day we tried to get a morning’s practice in before heading for registration to be followed by a big welcome party at the Kata Beach Resort but an almost complete lack of wind limited us to just going through basic procedures and refining our individual roles. We did run through the process of raising and lowering the cruising chute but couldn’t even find enough puff to go anywhere near getting it to set so we just motored back into the anchorage, tidied everything up on the boat ready for the first race the next day and headed in to get our registration process finalised and then enjoy the party. Brian decided that he really was a motor boat guy after all and elected to drop out from the crew but Steve was comfortable that we really would be able to cover all the roles between the crew on board anyway so there was no problem.

Even the resort pool got the King's Cup treatment

WOH! Do these guys know how to throw a party. The King’s Cup Regatta was established in 1987 to celebrate the 60th birthday of His Highness the King of Thailand and in the 25 years since the organisers have obviously been refining their event management skills in the hospitality area. Over a thousand sailors  can attest to the good time had by all with excellent live music, a massive array of very good food from suckling pig to Thai salads and just about everything in between and FREE DRINKS thanks to excellent beer and wine sponsors.  It was a great welcome to the regatta and the Curious crew certainly had a great time, ever mindful that we were racing in the morning of course.

The entire fleet took part in a cermonial sail past to honour the King on the way to the startline area next morning as a Thai Navy aircraft flew overhead scattering rose petals over the boats. Very cool.
So to racing. A few nervous souls on board but with Jim calling the shots as tactician Curious had a good start hitting the line just seconds after the gun. We stayed in touch with the fancied boats on the first leg of the 23 nautical mile course but with the light winds not suiting the 30 ton Curious we were helpless to do much other than watch them progressively disappear off into the distance. Oh well we had a nice days sailing and all learned our jobs a bit more.

Karen hard at work in light conditions
Back on shore we headed to a different resort for the presentation of trophies and guess what, party time again. This resort seemed determined to outdo the previous nights efforts and once more we were rocking the night away with more food than we could eat and more bubbly than we could possibly drink, although we did try.
Race two and another solid start for Curious but what was a promising wind faded away to leave us all but becalmed by early afternoon. Skipper Steve then had a conversation with the committee boat that provided one of the quotes of the regatta. After being told that the race was not being shortened and we had a bit over three hours left to reach the line to be classified as a finisher Steve replied “Well we’ll just have a bite of lunch here and then we’ll probably start the motor and go home. I guess that means we’re withdrawing.”

Sorry no photos of the windy days - we were too busy

Starting to suffer from late nights-early mornings sleep deprivation and not being in a party mood we decided to give that evening’s function a miss and get some extra sack time which proved invaluable. Some of the crew did go along however and said it was yet another great event.
Wednesday – race three and at last there’s wind. 20 plus knots of glorious wind in fact and Curious was loving it as were we. Even better was that Trish had got over the worst of her stomach bug and was back on board with us. 

Now we were actually up with the leaders and racing them. Despite being in the cruising division some of these boats had been all but stripped below decks and were way lighter than our 30 tons. Heck we even had a washing machine on board which proved invaluable in making sure we were spick and span in our crew shirts every morning but certainly add to our speed. However when the wind blew we came into our own. Although this was a shorter race around the buoys we had a ball and ended up in a very tight battle with a light weight Bavaria, Linda, that saw us going tack for tack around the course with the advantage swinging back and forth. We knew a fast Hanse, Odin,  was out ahead of us but our focus was on this fight and in the end we lead Linda over the line by just 16 seconds.

Steve collects our second place trophy
 A check of the results page on the internet later in the afternoon confirmed we had scored second on handicap by 4 minutes 22 seconds. Tonight’s was a party we were certainly not going to miss. We started long before Steve went on stage to collect the trophy and the whole Curious crew celebrated long and hard after taking comfort in the knowledge that Thursday was a lay day and we could all sleep in. Which is exactly what we did.
Friday’s race four was another short race around the buoys but unfortunately the winds were again light and not to Curious’s liking. So light in fact that at times we found ourselves drifting backwards in the current. 
Where's the bloody wind?

After fighting the conditions all day we rounded the final mark for the last leg to the finish line only to have the wind completely desert us again. With the finish line coordinates entered in our chart plotter the GPS showed the line to be just .8 of a nautical mile away but at current speed our ETA was just over 17 days away. BUGGER! Fortunately this time the race committee awarded finishing positions based on where everyone was located on the course at the time and sent us home but sixth was a good as we could manage in the  conditions. Still it was another great party that night at yet another resort with much more merriment.
Saturday was the final race of the Regatta and we were all feeling a bit subdued as we headed out towards the start line area in very light winds. We were expecting the race committee to nominate one of the short courses so everyone could get done and back in for the big grand finale night but were surprised we were to be racing over one of the longer, round the islands routes. The wind began to increase ever so slightly as we zigged and zagged in our prestart manoeuvres and by the time we again hit the line right on the gun we had enough for Curious to start getting motivated. The wind continued to strengthen and even before we reached the second mark we knew we were again in a good fight for second spot with the same boat, Linda.
Steve with his harem - 5 of the 11 on board were girls

We actually lead them around the second mark and as we beat to windward tacking towards the bottom mark were edging a little further ahead each time we crossed. Preparing for the last tack to make the mark and head for home and just as we started to feel very good about our place in the world the gods of yacht racing gave us a wake up call. On the tack the slack in the sheet rope flapped wildly as the genoa came around the inner forestay and managed to wrap around the chartplotter monitor in the cockpit. With thousands of dollars worth of electronic wizardry at immanent risk of being whipped overboard by the flapping sail we spent all of about 45 seconds untangling things and getting back up to speed. Unfortunately that was all our rivals on Linda needed to seize the upper hand and get in front. Then on the long downwind leg we found the wind almost dead behind us which suited their spinnaker a little more than our cruising chute and we found ourselves slipping  back ever so slightly.

The Curious crew knew how to party
 A small windshift towards the end of the leg brought our chute fully into play and gave us hope but when we rounded the mark set just off an island that had obstructed the view of Linda we realised how much of a lead they’d gained. However the wind was again around twenty knots and on the reach Curious was charging at near 10 knots through the water. Ahead we saw the Bavaria overpower and lose some ground, then another little mistake cost them some more time. Meanwhile Steve and Karen were working together with helm and mainsail trim while Alan and Chris were constantly  tweaking headsail trim to coax every ounce out of the boat as we watched the gap continue to close. We knew two things. First up, they would have a slight speed advantage on the short, upwind run to the line after the final mark but more importantly, we didn't actually have to pass them because on handicap they needed to cross the line a about six and half minutes ahead to beat us. We just needed to get close enough.

Two second places was a great result given the conditions

We continued to close on them and rounded the final mark hot on their heels but still far enough behind to know it was going to be a very close run thing. Surprisingly they failed to move further ahead on the run to the line and with stop watch ticking we measured the margin over the finish and headed to shore quietly confident Curious had earned another second place.  Sure enough when the results were posted, after almost four and half hours of sailing we’d placed second on handicap three minutes thirty six seconds ahead of Linda and it was party time again for one last fling.
Despite the big night most of the crew came together again for a farewell breakfast next morning as we were all heading off to different destinations. We certainly wanted to make sure we got to thank Steve and Trish one more time for letting us be part of such a great week’s sailing with them aboard their beautiful home. 

Says it all really
Saying goodbye to all and going our separate ways after breakfast really did bring home to us that our South East Asian adventure was all but over. We had one last day in Phuket picking up some last minute Christmas presents for the family and then the following morning  we headed for the airport with Marc to fly back to Singapore where we spent two final days together before again all heading to the airport but this time we were flying south to Australia and Marc north to the UK.
We’d spent an incredible six months together and were extremely thankful that our personalities had meshed so well to make our rough times bearable and our good times great. We had been the three inhabitants of meerkat manor in the bow of SV Nae Hassle laughing, joking and, on many occasions, letting off steam together. We certainly could not of wished for a better crewmate and sitting at Singapore airport, waiting for our flight to be called all talk was of when and how we could sail together again.  That it will happen is almost a certainty.
When finally we did have to break up the party and board our flight home closing the final chapter of our first but not final major sailing adventure there was no goodbye, just a see you later.

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1 comment:

  1. Hey!
    Your post is very much interesting.Pictures are just awesome.


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