Peter and I, together with Laura and Randy of Pollen Path, decided to volunteer for the Kings Cup. A week of fun tickets and the chance to be involved in a bit of racing seemed like a great idea. Cruising and racing alike: the real treasure is the people you get to spend time with.
To our delight we found that the PRO for the regatta was David, who is a fabulous guy to work with. Peter and I were to be on his team on the Navy Start boat, with Laura and Randy on Prapis Start Boat with chief intellect, cosmologist and scorer, Howard. (We had the pleasure of meeting both Howard and David in the Royal Langkawi Regatta early this year.)
As the weather had not settled into a NE pattern, we decided to leave our boats in Ao Chalong, which was only a 10 minute drive from Kata Beach. An 0600 breakfast dictated a wake up time of 0445 and a dinghy ride at 0530 to the beach. Unfortunately for us, LWS were upon us and our first two low tides happened to coincide with our early beach arrival. There was no escaping the doing of ‘mud’ (which I don't do!) in these early hours. At least we had one dinghy between the four of us. Laura and I tried playing the ‘Queens of Sheeba’ until the dinghy was well grounded, but not yet ashore.
Our returns were also in the dark (after parties) so Laura and I, torch in hand, guided our respective skippers back to the boats that were somewhere out there. (Laura and I are both Aquarians; our birthdays 1 day apart. Randy was noted saying that he couldn’t cope with both Laura and I in the dinghy ‘helping’ for too long!)
A Thai Navy patrol boat was to be our base for the regatta. On our first boarding we found the guns not only uncovered, but loaded with live ammunition! David requested that they be disarmed, which was lucky as he later used one of the guns as a resting place whilst he was on the phone and promptly swung it into action!! Having said this, we did think that the guns could have been of some use with a few of the racing fleet who were giving us a hard time! In actual fact, the said navy boat patrols the Thai/Burmese border shooting at the Burmese Navy. We were happy to see it arrive back every morning. The Burmese/Indonesian fishermen who come into Thai waters fishing are of no concern to the navy as they know the Thai fishermen have taken all the fish already. It appears that Australia is the only country in the region that gets upset with illegal fishermen wandering into her waters!
Once settled on board our ship, Peter and Michael handled the erections using bamboo poles. They were on flags for the week, with David on horn, Floretta recording, me on start timer and a young girl, (non sailor, not sure why she was there) who spent most of her time writing explicit details of her sexual exploits. Not that she was knowingly sharing, but Peter happened to just ‘glance’ over her shoulder for a brief moment. However the brevity gave him enough time to recount the details at length! Peter thought that she should be writing for Playboy! Lucky for Peter that he has such a good memory when it comes to trivia!
Our excellent PRO, David, kept us entertained before we settled into pre-start, as it appeared he had to do all the thinking for his charges – marks not being set and us not knowing, marks in the wrong place and a breeze that misbehaved in the early races. (Another Aquarian, a day or two from Laura and I!) David took to ‘pacing’ in preference to dummy spits! With limited space, his pacing became a bit of an obstacle course so we just ducked out of the way and were often busy tying up our shoe laces, which translates into ignorance is bliss! Someone commented to me that he has such a polite radio voice when people are obviously giving him a hard time. Of course I agreed – with a smile! David does have an amazing ability to be so polite to people who give him any agro.
A weather change soon delivered the boats to the start at a livelier pace. One poor sunsail found out the hard way what happens when you barge around the back of the start boat – impaling yourself on the start boat is not a good look. The racing cats ‘hit’ the start line at about 18 knots (in a 25 knot westerly squall) and later on, another collision at the back of the start boat. (At the same time a 60 foot yacht ended up beaching itself in Kata.)
Most starts were clear with only a few individual recalls. The egos of some of the racing people appears questionable. We were abused because we had to bring the course in closer as we could only anchor in 50m (about 2.5nm offshore). What was wrong with the Thai navy not being able to anchor in 70m? We would like to see racing yachts carry enough chain and rode to anchor in 70 metres!!! The only windlass on board were 7 crew!
Some of the racing fleet would seek redress from the Racing Committee if we abandoned the race due to a wind shift, if we did not abandon the race due to the wind shift, or if they thought a mark was in the wrong place. There appears to be little responsibility on the part of the racers that perhaps they made a mistake because they did not hear a broadcast or did not read their sailing instructions properly, or someone on board covering their butt because they made a mistake! One of THE racers even requested from David that we delay the second start (of 3 fleets) as they were having a media conference!!!!!!!!!! That is one that even Briggsy has not tried!!!!!!!!!! Of course David was very polite and said that he understood as they were very important people!
As we were the starters for most of the fleet most of the time, it was a little hectic in the mornings, but settled down for a relaxing day. However, on one of the windward return races, we had to move our position to find the breeze! David decided to send the racing fleet off, then start the others before they got back to us, which inevitably meant that the racers could then have an extra start before the rest of the fleet returned. This was a remarkable juggling act that stretched the 6 of us as we were starting, recording mark roundings and finishing at the same time! Of course we came through with flying colours.
It was fantastic to work with a great group of people. Having no alpha males on board was a definite advantage! We were boring enough for David one day as he found the shore more appealing, leaving us to finish the boats.
Some of the competing yachts we enjoyed seeing included Silver Tip (a 100 foot ‘Wally’ type cruiser racer), Boracay (ex Pyewacket) – the turbo sled owned by Frank Pong, Hi Fi (Neil Pryde) ex Holywood Boulevard and Drumstick, a Farr Dk46, well sailed and won the racing division. The bonus at the end of the day (and eventually in the mornings) was the 30 knot two mile ride at out to the navy start boat on their rib with just under 400 horses on the back. The scrabble from the rib up the side of the rolling start boat was a little character building at times. There was one dunking to be had when I literally rolled off the rib into the water, fully clothed! At least the water was warm as was the ambient temperature, and it was the end of the day.
Ah – and the party to follow, on David’s very large balcony with Bundy Rum made for another ‘shitty’ day in paradise. All we needed was a bit of Jimmy Buffett!
Being a volunteer is hard work and your task needs to be taken seriously as there is a lot invested in the racing by the respective skippers. This is their fun more than ours. However, what did we do most of all? We laughed! Our conversations were predominantly well below the navel. Lets face it, boats and sailing terminology are so phallic!! A good time was had by all. What more could you want than a week of excellent food, fabulous company and free flowing alcohol! (Oh, and a bit of racing thrown in!)