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Growth of Sailing in China Sees Wealth of Interest in Phuket King’s Cup

November 2, 2011

Recognised throughout the eastern hemisphere as one of the Asia’s premier sailing events, the Phuket King’s Cup Regatta will again present a spectacular display of Asia’s finest sailing talent, competing from December 3 to December 10. Sail World reports 

'Phuket King’s Cup 2010. Jelik 3 cruises through the fleet on an islands course.'    Guy Nowell ©

Regular Chinese competitor and sailing bellwether, Frank Pong, spoke of this year’s event, and also of the wave of interest that surrounds PKCR in China; ‘The Phuket King’s Cup is very well known in China. In 2005, a team from Shenzhen chartered a J/105 based in Thailand and joined the event for the first time. Since then, more and more people from China have taken part. Last year, the PKCR was announced ‘Asian Regatta of the Year’ at the inaugural Asia Marine & Boating Awards, held in Shanghai, China.’

Renowned Chinese Olympian dinghy sailor, Xiaqun Song, was skipper of Frank’s all-Chinese-crewed boat last year. Her Jelik V boat placed fifth, just behind Frank’s own Jelik III entry. China’s CCTV1 national television network covered the competitive progress of both of the boats, and was broadcast to a potential audience of several hundred million people in China.

Frank says, ‘The sport of sailing is definitely growing in China. There is a lot of keen interest; people have more leisure time, berthing facilities are improving and becoming more numerous, and personal resources are allowing for new competitors to explore the sport. All of the pieces are in place, and now all that’s needed are competent crew teams to take part. The Phuket King’s Cup Regatta is one of the highlights of the sailing season in Asia. Thailand, along with Malaysia and the Philippines in the South China Sea, are amongst the best sailing areas in the world, in every respect.’

Boats of all shapes and sizes are coming for 2011’s racing, but few are going to be as resplendent, or as regal, as the 82 ft (25m) Swan 82 named Chao Ren Plus One, who will be making her first appearance at a regatta outside of Chinese waters. With a mainsail area of over 2,000 square feet (188 square metres) and a total sail area of nearly 5,500 square feet (500 square metres) she is certainly going to make an impressive sight for fellow sailors and spectators, especially if the winds pick up and she is able to spread her wings and show her class. The boat’s owner, Mr. Wang Bin, competed in the regatta in 2005 with an all-Chinese crew.

‘It is not just the rapid growth of the economy that has spurred interest in sailing in China. You see the substantial increase in water sports across the income spectrum up and down the coast. From far north Qingdao all the way to Hainan, dozens of marinas are being built along the coast near most major cities. There are small boat fleets starting in inland lakes as well. The pleasure boat-building industry is gaining momentum with the encouragement from local governments, and it is natural for some of those products, both motor and sail, to enter the domestic market,’ said Frank.

He added, ‘Now, when it comes to racing sailboats, the only ingredient missing is the crew! Put simply, there aren’t any big boat racing crews available. There are a lot of ex-dinghy sailors in mainland China, but no big boat racing crews ready for competition, so now training is the top priority. Last year, I had a whole team of ex-dinghy sailors from the Mainland on a 52-footer for the whole Asian Circuit. Most of them went back to the mainland and have found good jobs with cruising and racing boats’.

The Phuket King’s Cup Regatta is now in its 25th anniversary, after first sailing in 1987 to celebrate His Majesty the King of Thailand’s 60th birthday. With the Royal Patronage of His Majesty the King, the Regatta is organised by the Phuket King’s Cup Regatta Organising Committee under the auspices of the Royal Varuna Yacht Club, in conjunction with the Yacht Racing Association of Thailand, the Royal Thai Navy and the Province of Phuket.

Sponsors of the 2011 Phuket King’s Cup Regatta include Kata Group Resorts Thailand, PTT Group, Siam Winery, AIA Thailand, Centara Grand Beach Resort Phuket, Boathouse and Sunsail. Media Partners include 91.5FM, Helm Superyacht Asia Pacific, The Nation, Phuket Best Group, Phuket Gazette, Phuket Magazine,, SEA Yachting and YachtStyle.

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