The Dragon Edinburgh Cup 2016 came to a spectacular conclusion off Abersoch as the 35 strong fleet enjoyed one finalrace in glorious sunshine, big waves and a brisk west-south-westerly of 18-22 knots. Going into the day the only way that second placed Grant Gordon, Kasper Harsberg and Ruihrihd Scott sailing GBR780 Louise could overtake leader Lawrie Smith sailing GBR801 Alfie with Joost Houweling and Adam Bowers was to finish first and hope that Smith finished seventh or worse. Meanwhile Mike Budd, Jeremy Entwistle and Mark Greeves in GBR793 Harry needed to win the race and have Gordon finish seventh or worse to enable them to move up into second.
Two Royal St. George boats were in the top five, Martin Byrne, a previous winner, finished fourth and Neil Hegarty was fifth.
Smith, Houweling and Bowers are three of the most skilled and experienced sailors you could hope to see in a Dragon and if you ever wanted a lesson in how to win a championship this was the day to be spectating. As soon as Race Officer Malcolm Blackburn had the fleet under starters orders is was clear that Smith had no intention of letting his rival out of his sights. "We knew what we had to do and that's what we focused on. Starting in the right place or going the right way up the first beat weren't important, just that we kept Grant under control." Explained Joost Houweling after racing. And keep him under control they did with masterful poise through the prestart and up the first beat. At the first mark Neil Hegarty sailing IRL176 Phantom with David Williams and Peter Bowring led Mike Budd off down the run, whilst Smith and Gordon were buried well down into the pack.
Smith kept Gordon right where he wanted him on the first run and having ensured he had neutralised the threat Smith let loose and began to make places up through the fleet, leaving Gordon trailing in his wake. It's a sheer joy to watch a great sailors put Dragons through their paces upwind and as the breeze built on the final leg the spectators got to enjoy some textbook big wave sailing. Smith continued to pick off boats all the way up the leg, while Budd, conscious that Gordon was well down the fleet, put all his energies into getting past Hegarty to win the race. On the line Hegarty just managed to hold off Budd for line honours, James Peters, David Cummings and James Dawson aboard GBR662 Yeah Baby took third and Smith snuck in for fourth, a gnat's whisker ahead of Mark Dicker, Selina Dicker and James Campbell in GBR610 Rackham and Gavia Wilkinson-Cox, Mark Hart and Tim Tavinor in GBR761 Jerboa.
With the final points calculated Lawrie Smith, Joost Houweling and Adam Bowers were declared the Edinburgh Cup 2016 Champions by an eight-point margin - the second time that Lawrie has won this historic trophy. The fight for second went to countback with Gordon and Budd counting 17 points apiece and Gordon just pipping Budd for the second step on the podium.
Whilst Mike Budd, Jeremy Entwistle and Mark Greeves were disappointed not to have taken second overall, they were none the less delighted to have won the Corinthian Dragon Edinburgh Cup Trophy by five points from Mark Dicker. Third place in the Corinthians came down to another tie breaker with Neil Hegarty and Rob Campbell both on 16 points, a single point behind Dicker, and Hegarty taking third on countback.
As well as second Corinthian, Mark Dicker, sister Selina Dicker and cousin James Campbell also won the Vintage Division Trophy for boats built at least 20 years ago. The Dragons have always had a reputation for outstanding build quality and this can be clearly seen in the number of older boats that have performed well this week. Second place in the Vintage Division went to GBR746 Beauty & The Beast, helmed by Peter Marchant with Katie Cole and Andy Biddle, while GBR655 Phormerly Phantom helmed by Chris Thomas and crewed by Selina Thomas and George Bird-Jones came third.
Despite the occasional lack of sunshine, the Dragons have enjoyed both outstanding racing and truly exceptional hospitality this week in Abersoch. Special thanks must go to Race Officer Malcolm Blackburn and his team who did an excellent job of completing all six championship races in what were often very tricky conditions. The Abersoch Dragon Fleet and the team at South Caernarvonshire Yacht Club have pulled out all the stops to make the fleet welcome and to organise an outstanding championship. At the Prize Giving Gala Dinner British Dragon Association Chairman Tim Wilkes paid tribute to the dozens of volunteers who have given up so much of their time to make this event possible and particularly thanked Abersoch Dragon Fleet Captain Rob Riddell for his work not only on this regatta, but in creating a 21 strong club fleet at Abersoch from scratch in less than 10 years. He also thanked the club's administrative and hospitality staff for keeping the fleet organised, fed and watered in incomparable style.
In his Edinburgh Cup acceptance speech Lawrie Smith, a man not normally known for his verbosity at prize givings, not only thanked the organisers, but confirmed that the support and assistance extended to the competitors at this event and the standard of race management he had seen during the week were some of the best he has ever seen and that he would be delighted to compete in any regatta organised by the club. He also thanked his crew and his fellow competitors, particularly Grant Gordon and the Louise team, for the outstanding racing.
Full results here
The 2017 Dragon Edinburgh Cup will be raced from Cowes and will run concurrently with Panerai British Classic Week from 8 to 15 July 2017.