If this was a gardening event, after 11 years it might be called a ‘hardy annual’. What was once called the Phuket Invitational is now the Asia Superyacht Rendezvous, and seems to have survived the financial shenanigans of the last few years. Ten yachts – motor and sail – turned out for three days of camaraderie, parties, sailing, cruising and dinner, all based at the recently-renovated The Surin.
Here’s the roll call:
s/y Silandra V, Swan 76 Custom
s/y Ciliam, Lago 92 catamaran
m/y Andara, Baglietto 28m
m/y Celebrity, Ses Yachts 30m
m/y Onyx, San Lorenzo 40
m/y Maverick, Stirling 42m
m/y Aveline, Maiora 32m
m/y Cavallino, Pershing 80 (24m)
m/y Hye Seas 2, Azimut 35m
m/y Samax, Feadship 55m
Opening Night featured a skippers’ briefing from Race Officers Andy Dowden and Simon James, who explained the intricacies of the infinitely flexible race course to the Captains of the two sailing vessels participating. A few words from organisers Gordon Fernandes and Capt Charlie Dwyer, and then it was off for cocktails on board m/y Celebrity, with side trips to visit m/y Andara and m/y Onyx. It was a hugely convivial evening as guests, crew and members of the media soaked up the on-board atmosphere. There’s no doubt that the top deck of a 30m motor yacht is a great place to be on a balmy tropical night in December. Another glass of white wine? Thank you.
And for those who went on to the ‘after party’ at Surin Heights, there was the added treat of a view of the fleet at anchor in Surin Bay in front of Pansea Beach.
It was all action on Saturday morning as the effortlessly elegant Swan 76, Silandra V, took on the 92’ cat, Cilliam, on a course of variable geometry designed to ‘give both boats a chance.’ Anyone who thought 76’ vs 92’ was a mismatch was correct - but it was the smaller Silandra V that romped away to an easy win in a fresh breeze that had the experienced sailors on board yippin’ and hollerin’ as boat speed topped 11kts and the lee rail went under. Sterling stuff. On board the biggest Committee Boat in Asia (Maverick II’s stately 42m) Race Officers Dowden and James reported themselves 'very comfortable.'
The evening’s entertainment at The Surin (dressed in her best party frock and looking absolutely the picture) was a perennial favourite, the Feadship Challenge. Each superyacht crew was provided with a ‘bag of bits’ – balsa wood, pins, card, sellotape etc – with which to build a boat inside the allotted hour. 60 minutes later, and the results of a good deal of head-scratching were varied, to say the least. Now the boat builders had to race their vessels down two troughs, one-on-one, in a knockout competition to determine the ‘best design’ which of course had nothing to do with who could blow the hardest! But it did have a good deal to do with which boats stayed upright, which fell over, and which ones could be persuaded to move in a straight line. There were even some floating creations which Feadship might have preferred not to have their name on! Anyway, after a great deal of huffing and puffing, it was the captain of m/y Andara who blew home a winner in grand style. Just watching was hard work.
Sunday morning provided bright sunshine and fresh breeze for another day out on the water. In another face-off between Silandra and Ciliam it was the Swan that came home the winner again, by a handsome margin and two 360° turns. Spectators on board m/y Onyx enjoyed a grandstand view (and the very best strudel ever). This writer has decided that anything smaller than a 40m San Lorenzo just doesn’t have the requisite style as a camera boat.
And then it was the turn of the motor yachts to show off a little, as the whole fleet – all 337m of polished teak, varnished cap rails and metallic paintwork – paraded in echelon formation for the benefit of the cameras. It really did look fabulous. Arthur Tay, owner of Hye Seas II as well as One° 15 Marina in Singapore, said, 'This collection of beautiful boats is just a sign of things to come in Asia.' Capt Ed Shields of m/y Aveline added, 'It’s a real pleasure to be here. Asians are developing a liking for boating and yachting, and I am sure that the Asia Superyacht Rendezvous is going to grow into something bigger. The number of superyachts heading east has been steadily growing in recent years, and it’s only going to get bigger…'
After the review of the fleet, it was ‘all ashore’ for more fun and games, the search for the Rendezvous Booty. It was a treasure hunt – for grown-ups and kids alike, and it involved clues underwater, messages in bottles, charts inside coconuts, exotic beverages, navigational skills, and a great deal of enthusiasm. Nobody is quite sure when so many pirates were last seen on Pansea Beach, ‘loitering with intent to have fun.’ And is a RIB equipped with a cannon automatically a Bombardier? After a great deal of rushing about, digging holes in the sand and translating ‘Phi Phi (island)’ into ‘toilet’ and then into ‘hong nam’ (which is Thai for toilet) it was the crew and juniors of m/y Samax who won the race to the treasure. We‘re guessing that it was the juniors who ate the chocolate, and the crew who stashed away the spa coupons!
Closing Night at the Asia Superyacht Rendezvous was a Gala Dinner at The Surin hosted by Boat International Media. ‘Fabulous’ is an understatement, and ‘glittering’, ‘sumptuous’ and ‘magnificent’ have to be in there somewhere. Under a marquee beside the beach, and to the accompaniment of traditional Thai dancing and live music, guests enjoyed a truly magnificent occasion. There were a few words from Dick van Lent, Director of Feadship, and a few more from Victoria Lister, Commercial Director for BI Media. Then as the evening wound down it was time to light the Chiang Mai lanterns on the beach, make a wish and watch it float away into the starry night. (We heard one Captain wish 'that it doesn’t come down on my
boat.') And another Asia Superyacht Rendezvous was over.
There are a great many more superyachts passing through Phuket and heading south and east that there were a decade ago. Phuket is a logical stopping place for boats transiting from Europe towards Singapore and then Indonesia, as well as a cruising base in its own right. Awareness of the Asian cruising grounds is gradually increasing, and chartering in Asia is waxing. For sure, further growth in this sort of trade is always going to be limited as long as the Somali pirates have a stranglehold on the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean approaches to the Red Sea, but still, why has the Rendezvous not attracted even more boats over the last few years? Some Captains – and some owners we have spoken to – say that just a few days before Christmas is a timetabling problem – boats are being got ready for Christmas-period charters, or the owners themselves are arriving with guests, for Christmas. A couple of years ago PIMEX (the Phuket International Boat Show) moved itself from December to January, and reported an increase in attendance figures.
Perhaps the Asia Superyacht Rendezvous should consider a new date in order to boost what is already a first class event, but one that really deserves to see bigger numbers of boats in attendance.
Meanwhile, still floating several decks above sea level – or at least, feeling that way! – congratulations to Capt Charlie Dwyer and Gordon Fernandes, Antonio Saponara (General Manager, The Surin), and all the myriad support staff that make an event look as good as this one did. Bas Nederpelt, Marketing & Sales Director, Feadship, said 'we came on board this event when it started 11 years ago… instead of opening offices here we decided it would be more fun to be involved in an event. We certainly intend to continue supporting the Asia Superyacht Rendezvous in the future.' Now that’s a real vote of confidence: roll on, ASR 2012.