Layday in Phuket

Ichi Ban unassailable going into the final races of the Phuket King's Cup

Thursday December 9th 2010, Author: Guy Nowell, Location: Thailand

Matt Allen's Ichi Ban in the IRC1 class and CPO Wiwat Poonpat's Thai Navy 1 in the IRC2 class have the chance to replicate what was last achieved by Bill Gasson when he won the keelboat class in 1989, 1990 and 1991 - a straight run of three trophies in the Phuket King's Cup.

While Ichi Ban's clean sweep of the IRC1 class in 2009 has not been repeated, he has already achieved an unassailable lead in the class with a 1-2-1-3-1-1-3 scorecard. The battle tomorrow for the remaining podium places will be between the Peter Wintle's Koull Baby, Ben Copley's Katsu and Rick Overton and Kenn Eyears's Kukukerchu.

In the IRC2 class, the results are not so clear cut for first place. Thai Navy 2 is up against an experienced King's Cup campaigner, Team Sea Bees' Peter Dyer. Both boats are on nine points after one discard. But, Dyer has previously tasted victory in the King's Cup and will drive the Thai Navy team hard on the course tomorrow. In third place is Cdr Pornprom Sakultern's Platu 25, Thai Navy 2. They are on 14 points, but if the fickle winds continue and tactical mistakes are made, anything could happen to the final placings.

The Multihull class are another group with the top three boats in contention for first place. David Liddell's Miss Saigon, Andy Pape's Da Vinci and Henry Kaye's Thor are comfortably at the top of the 12-boat fleet. Kaye is the class defending champion after a clean-sweep win last year. He will be desperate to defend his title even though he has missed out on a clean win after achieving a 5-1-2-10-1-4 scorecard.

'The difference between the three boats will be boat speed and going the right way. In terms of preparation for tomorrow, we have done everything we can. We worked for pretty much a week solid prior to the series to prepare the boat, but there is always a list you never get through. At the end of the day you have got to say this is the boat.

"It could be anyone between us. It will be really, really good racing which is what we want," Liddell said.

The Premier class is shaping up to be another great battle. Peter Forsythe's Xena is just one point ahead of Peter Sorenson's Baby Tonga. Sorenson competed in first King's Cup last year and said prior to this year he had learnt enough from that experience that by choosing a more competitive boat and filling his team with experienced sailors there wasn't much chance that he would be beaten this year. Well tomorrow's racing will prove whether he was right in his prediction.

The other boat to watch in this class will be Jon Wardill's Australian Maid. Wardill knows what it is like to win this series and will be up there with the big other boats.

They may be slow compared to the high-tech racing boats, but they are no less competitive in the Bareboat Charter class. Russia's Ilya Ermakov's Sarawadee leads the fleet after mixed results including a ninth place in Race 3. One point separates him from Novoderezhkin's Lychee and Mike Crisp's Venture. It is expected that the Sarawadee team will not repeat their Race 3 error of yesterday, ensuring that their radio is turned up loud to hear the start line call.

The Cruising class have their own close battle tomorrow. Richard Macfarlane's Aida is ahead by two points from Jack Woodrow's Linda and Barry Elsbury's Apsara. There has been a great tussle betwen the three boats throughout the previous three days of racing.

In the Firefly 850s sports boat class, Hans Rahmann's Voodoo is well ahead of his competition. With six points on the board, the battle will be for second and third place between John Newnham's Twin Sharks, Roger Kingdon's Moto Inzi and Andrew Marshall's Pink Lady with 15, 17 and 17 points respectively.

And then comes the big boys in the Racing class. Ray Roberts's Evolution Racing is back in form leading on eight points. Defending champion, Neil Pryde's HiFi is in second on 11 points. Pryde has won the King's Cup four times, Roberts's has won three times. Will Roberts's be able to match Pryde's record ? The spectators and fellow Racing class members are assured of a great race between these two.

HiFi's tactician, Emirates Team New Zealand veteran Tony Rae, is practical about the chances of HiFi winning the series. "You never know what tomorrow will bring. You just have to go into it and try and win like any other day, sail the best you can and let the rest of it pan out. The conditions are very tricky here and never know till you get out there if it is going to be heavy or light air. Our only strategy for the last race is to sail the very best we can."

Racing starts at about 0900 tomorrow.

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