Martin Byrne's Jaguar Sailing Team won the British South Coast Championship as the warm up event ahead of the Edinburgh Cup where racing starts today on the Solent just off Cowes, Isle of Wight.
Only three races were completed in varying conditions over the two day event. Byrne's Jaguar Sailing Team were most consistent with results of 6,2,5 to win the Championship ahead of an international fleet of 38 Dragons which included the World Champions, Andy Beadsworth's, Provezza Dragon.
Byrne told Afloat.ie - "We were using this event as a warm up before the Edinburgh Cup and to familiarise ourselves with the tricky and very tidal race course on the Solent. Also it was important to re-acquaint ourselves again as a crew which includes my son Conor and Portuguese professional Pedro Andrade. However, we are under no illusions, that many of the other top teams were in the same mode and the competition will be much hotter for the main event".
The International Dragon fleet has gathered at the Island Sailing Club in Cowes for the 2017 Dragon UK South Coast Championship and Edinburgh Cup sponsored by Oliver Morgan Architects and Stoneham Construction Ltd. Thirty-eight teams from as far afield as Turkey, Russia and Switzerland and across the UK and Ireland are taking part in six days of top flight competition from 9 to 14 July.
For added Irish interest in the Cup, Mark Mansfield from Royal Cork is sailing as middle man with UK helmsman Mike Budd.
The programme opened with two days of racing for the South Coast Championship. Sunday 9 July brought extremely light winds and despite the best efforts of Race Officer Gill Smith only one race was possible. The light and variable conditions gave the tacticians a few headaches, with a number of people being caught out by a right hander near the top of the first beat, which caused them to over-stand the windward mark. Igor Goikhberg, sailing RUS98 Murka with Dmitry Berezkin and Roman Sadchikov, avoided the pitfall and led the fleet off down the run. But Goikhberg wasn't to have it all his own way with Graham Bailey, crewed by Julia Bailey, Will Heritage and Will Bedford aboard GBR782 Aimee, soon putting him under pressure. It turned into a game of cat and mouse with the two boats eventually coming to the line neck and neck, where only the Race Officer was able to confirm that Bailey had claimed the race by just a single second. Owen Pay, Jon Mortimer and Mark Daly sailing GBR777 Furious followed them home for third.
Day two could not have been more different with a moderate south westerly already well established when the boats arrived in the starting area. The wind faltered slightly towards the end of the day's first race, race two of the series, and there was a short delay to allow it to settle before race three got underway. Once settled the wind built rapidly to over 20 knots, which combined with a building ebb to give some big waves at the top end of the course and plenty of thrills and spills for the watching spectators. Sadly, one of the casualties of the stronger wind was Igor Goikhberg whose rig came down on the final run.
Reigning Dragon World Champion Andy Beadsworth, sailing TUR1212 Provezza Dragon with Simon Fry and Ali Tezdiker, had been the wrong side of the race one shift and finished down in 19th place, but he wasn't about to make the same mistake twice. He led race two from start to finish and in race three was only briefly challenged by Martin Payne sailing GB585 Full Speed with Gillian Hamilton and Chris Britten. Whilst the two race wins were impressive the lack of a discard forced him to count his 19th which dragged him down the overall rankings into fourth.
Graham Bailey was unable to repeat his winning form of race one and having added a ninth and a sixth to his score card he took third place overall. Martin Payne and his team were on an upward trajectory and after an eighth in race one went on to finish fifth and then second, putting him one point ahead of Bailey and in second overall.
But ultimately it was consistency that paid and 2011 Edinburgh Cup Champion Martin Byrne, sailing this week, as Afloat.ie reported earlier, with his son and past Irish Laser National Champion Conor Byrne and top professional Dragon crew Pedro Andrade, took the South Coast Championship title with a 6, 2, 5 score line and a narrow two-point overall margin.
Following the South Coast Championship Prize Giving the crews came together on the terrace of the Island Sailing Club for the 2017 Edinburgh Cup Welcome Champagne Reception sponsored by Chris Bull, owner of GBR772 Jazz, being raced this week by his brother Adrian.
Event Organiser Gavia Wilkinson-Cox welcomed the teams and in particular thanked those who had travelled from overseas to join the British fleet for its prestigious National Championship regatta. Moored on the dock immediately below the club was Andy Beadsworth's World Championship winning Petticrow Dragon, and she thanked Andy and his team for making the effort to attend this event so soon after their Worlds victory in Cascais. Gavia also paid tribute to the dozens of volunteers who have made the regatta possible, to the race management team, to the generosity of the event sponsors and to regatta hosts the Island Sailing Club, who hosted the very first Edinburgh Cup some 69 years ago.
Gavia then handed the microphone to the Rev. Andrew Poppe, vicar of Holy Trinity Church Cowes to bless the event. Clearly a man who knows his sailing audience well, Rev. Poppe concluded his address by saying, "We pray for fine weather, fine winds and fine sailing, and for fine wines and a most excellent gathering at the end of the week to salute both the winning boats and all who come, to race, to sail and to rekindle the community and competition that is Dragon Class sailing. Tonight we pray for fine burgers, fine beer and fine banter. We ask, Lord, your blessing on this occasion in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen." And with the formalities complete the champagne corks popped, the BBQs were fired up, the band struck up and a fabulous time was had by all.
Racing for the Edinburgh Cup is scheduled to commence at 11.00 tomorrow with a south westerly breeze of 13 to 21 knots forecast. Sadly, the wind is to be accompanied by heavy rain so everyone's foul weather gear will no doubt get a good workout.