The King’s Cup Race Committee never selects a course with a beam reach – too easy. None of the 64 Race Courses in the 29th Annual Phuket King’s Cup Regatta Course Diagrams Handbook are designed with wind over the beam. Not one.
There are ‘sausage’ courses with Windward / Leeward Marks. Island Courses of 20 – 30 miles that can bake your brains under a blazing Thai sun if the wind drops on the long downwind finish, Trapezoids with their many different Marks and dangerous crisscrossing yachts, and Geometric courses designed to confuse. But none with an intentional wind on the beam.
This year we have good wind; meaning – we have wind. Our 49 Bavaria, Linda, with a crew of nine does well with 12+ knots but has difficulty in light wind. Serious difficulty.
Day 1: Excellent 12-15 kn of wind. The Committee announces our category, Cruising Class, will do Course 13 along with 4 other Classes. We scramble to look at the Handbook to see Course 13 – an Island Race of 22nm: leave Mark 1 to Starboard, pass through Gate 1, leave Ko (island) Kaeo Noi to Port, around Ko Aoe to Port, back towards Gate 1, leave Ko Bon to Starboard, through Gate 1 and north towards Kata Beach to the Finish Line.
14 yachts in our class is a crowded starting line. All Classes go sequentially, one minute between each. There’s a 4 minute warning horn, a 1 minute warning and then our Start horn. Mark 1 is always head to wind so we line up on a starboard tack a couple hundred meters from the Start Line and gain momentum; easing and tightening the sails to gauge the line as the time ticks down from the 1 minute warning. The Start horn sounds; we’re over the line within seconds of the horn with only a little shouting of “STARBOARD” as we call off yachts approaching from port.
Day 2: As the fleet of 110 yachts head from Kata Beach to their respective start divisions, we’re betting on two short races today. There’s good wind and the Committee needs 5 races to qualify as a Regatta. We have 6 days to do this but we all want the lay day off on Thursday. The VHF crackles …. The Race Committee calls for Cruising Class and 4 other Classes to do the Andamans Sea Race – 30 nm!
With 15 kn of wind holding through the race, our yacht passes competitors; we’re holding a good line on the long close hauls due to our 2 meter keel. We pass the 53 Swan, Big A, in our class; she’s sleek but we outmaneuver her on two tacks to the windward mark after passing through the Ko Racha Gate. We choose not to fly the spinnaker on the long downwind leg because we can hold the line to the final Gate on a broad reach and we’re at 8 kn of speed. Big A, also not flying a kite, slowly caches up and passes us at the Gate as we turn into the wind for the Finish Line. But, Big A is one of the few yachts with a higher rating than Linda and we’re close enough on Actual Time to beat her on Corrected Time. We place 2nd in the class! Cold beers on the beach!
Day 3, 5 & 6: We do two short windward / leeward courses on Day 3; the wind is down so the yachts slowly tack to the windward mark with crews on the leeward rail and adjusting spinnakers on the downwind leg when the Committee announces over the VHF: “Course 13 shortened to Finish at Mark 3, Yellow Buoy”. Thank you!
Day 5 is a longer Trapezoid race with better wind but we drop in standings due to a penalty at the start line. This is caused by a port tacking yacht not heeding calls thereby requiring us to tack in front of another starboard yacht causing her to alter course. The port boat received a penalty but we did as well even though we needed to tack or T-bone the offending yacht.
Two sausages are announced over the VHF for the final Day 6. By now, most yachts know where they are in the Combined Standings and we need to beat Jazz to be on the podium. Jazz is a smaller Japanese cruiser with a lower rating than Linda that does well in light wind. In the first race of Day 6, there is low wind.
In the 2nd and final race the wind has strengthened. Jazz is fifty meters ahead due to our delayed start but we execute an excellent line to the windward Mark and gain. On the downwind, we choose to go with the head sail on a broad reach. We’re falling low to the mark but we keep her heading as close as possible versus a jibe which would slow Linda even more in the light wind. With the downwind Mark just high off the bow and 20 meters to go, we slowly flip the boom over allowing us to turn slightly to wind, rounding the mark wing-on-wing.
The wind picks up! Linda’s on a close haul to the windward Mark with wind freshening! We’re gaining on Jazz. Taking a risk, we delay the first tack until I think it’s possible to make the Mark with only one tack; difficult to judge from a few miles off. We wait, wait, wait and tack … we’re gaining on Jazz! Yaah Baby! Go Linda…we’re jammin’ – – -WTF!
AHOY! A Chinese catamaran is crossing in front of us on a port tack! IN THE MIDDLE OF THE RACE COURSE! We yell: ‘STARBOARD, STARBOARD’ while the crew looks at us and shrugs. Unable to pass higher into the wind, we veer off her stern missing by a meter while telling their helmsman what I think of his racing etiquette. Has this ruined our line to the Mark? It looks difficult but we have a half mile to go and the wind is rising. Heading up in the puffs, we make the Mark by inches while Jazz misses and must tack again. We pass Jazz at the Mark.
We’re now downwind on a broad reach with the 150 genoa out. Jazz slowly closes the gap under her spinnaker, gaining within meters of our stern as we head towards the Finish Line. OH, NO! With 50 meters to go, the wind dies and shifts forward! But Jazz’ bow is downwind off our stern, her wind confused by our larger sails. NO ONE MOVE! … DON’T BREATH! …. We … squeeze … pass … the Finish Line’s port marker with Jazz on our starboard stern. Cold beers on the beach!
Back to Day 1: After passing through the final Gate and heading for the Finish Line at the end of the 22nm Island Race, the wind has picked up to 15+ as we come abeam of Nai Harn Point. This slender peninsula sometimes twists the wind. On the final leg, we approached the Finish off Kata Beach with the crew perched on the high rail doing 9.2 kn SOG – BEAM REACH TO KATA.