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Classic Result for Howth's Laura Dillon at Dragon 90th Anniversary in Sanremo

10th October 2019
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Dragon 90th Anniversary Regatta racing in Sanremo Dragon 90th Anniversary Regatta racing in Sanremo

The Irish team are still celebrating on Day three of the Dragon 90th Anniversary Regatta in Sanremo, Italy this week. After opening success from Kinsale team Daniel Murphy and Brian Goggin on Tuesday, Howth Yacht Club's Laura Dillon helming GBR770 ‘Storm’ picked up the first prize in the classic division yesterday. 

The oldest boat racing in the 150-boat fleet is the Glandore based, IRL15 Gypsy which was built in 1933 and the newest is but a few months old. Gypsy also perfectly demonstrates the wide age range of the crews, with her Skipper Don Street being the oldest competitor at 89 years and his crew Kieran O’Donoghue being the youngest at 16.

The Dragon is widely regarded as one of the most beautiful one-design keelboats in the world, and the spectacle of 150 Dragons coming together on a single start line to celebrate the class’s 90th Anniversary was truly a visual delight. For the 150 crews who have flown in from all corners of the globe to compete in the Dragon 90th Anniversary Regatta powered by Paul and Shark, the 90th Anniversary Race was the experience of a lifetime. For race winners Benedikt Gach, Johannes Schmohl and Florian Abele from Germany, it was quite simply a day that exceeded all possible expectation.

The Yacht Club Sanremo’s Race Committee had set a special course with a 3-mile beat to ensure fleet separation prior to the first mark. This was followed by a down-wind leg featuring two reaches and then a run into the finish. The fleet came close to getting underway at the first attempt, but a wind shift in the closing moments of the sequence forcing the committee to hoist the postponement flag and abandon. Within a few minutes, the breeze had stabilised again, and the second attempt was stunningly successful with the huge fleet all hitting the line together.

With a north-easterly breeze of around 12-15 knots Benedikt Gach sailing GER1216 got a good start, hit the left side of the beat and sailed superbly well to head the fleet at the first mark. Jens Rathsack in MON2 ‘Jeanie’ rounded the first mark 100 yards behind him with Ron James helming GBR633 ‘Fei Lin’s-Flirtation’ at the head of the chasing pack. From this point onward the leading three held position and were never seriously challenged, but the battle behind them for fourth place went down to the wire. Ultimately, Frank Berg helming DEN408 ‘Flawless’ took fourth, with Gerard Blanc helming FRA409 ‘Tsuica’ fifth and Gavia Wilkinson-Cox helming GBR761 ‘Jerboa’ sixth. As the rest of the fleet streamed over the line it was all the recorders could do to keep up as they came through thick and fast.

A former Laser sailor, Benedikt Gach is no stranger to big fleet starting but this was his biggest Dragon race by some way. His fortunes on the first day of racing had been mixed, leaving him in the lower half of the fleet, but today Gach and his team made a plan, executed it perfectly and kept their cool, as he explained after racing. “We decided basically to go for the left side and that it was more important for us to go left than get a good start. We had quite a nice spot there with free wind and we got some nice shifts on the left side and it worked out pretty well. Being a lake sailor, I’m not too used to sailing downwind in waves, so we expected that we would lose some of the lead, but amazingly we managed to hold everyone off! We are really enjoying the regatta, it has great organisation, great hospitality and the race organisation is great, so it’s just perfect.”

The fleet assembled truly represents the diversity of the Dragons. The Dragon is sailed in over 40 countries, there are 31 official National Class Associations and 26 of those nations from four continents are represented this week. The oldest boat racing is IRL15 Gypsy which was built in 1933 and the newest is but a few months old. Gypsy also perfectly demonstrates the wide age range of the crews, with her Skipper Don Street being the oldest competitor at 89 years and his crew Kieran O’Donoghue being the youngest at 16. Dragon sailing gets into the blood and it’s no surprise to see many family crews here, with two and even three generations of the same family often racing together. With the option to sail three or four up, mixed, youth and ladies’ crews are common too. The longevity of the Dragon is also extraordinary with the classics (wooden Dragons built before 1972) regularly featuring among the top performers this week.

With the big Anniversary Race completed the fleet was divided for one off races, designed to highlight that diversity and quality. These included races for lady helms, juniors, masters, crews, classics and to decide the Champion of Champions. Results from the special group races can be found at www.dragon90.com.

The Classics race went to Aleksei Zigadlo’s beautiful RUS12 ‘Drug’. First lady was Laura Dillon helming GBR770 ‘Storm’. The first junior was Charlotte Ten Wolde in NED435 ‘Olinghi’. The crew’s race went to Caspar Dohse sailing with his family on GER1151 ‘Puck’ and the first family crew was SUI306 ‘Ozio’ owned by Fabio Trotta. After his third place in the Anniversary Race, Ron James was clearly on a role and also claimed victory in the master’s division.

It says something about the quality of the Dragon Class that the Champion of Champions fleet, for which you needed to be an Olympic, World or Continental Championship medallist from any class or from the Dragon Gold Cup, was the largest of the special fleets with 49 entries. The shifty winds made for a tough race and the leading four boats slugged it out all the way round the course, but on the line current Dragon European Cup Series leader Dmitry Samokin, sailing RUS76 ‘Rocknrolla’, took victory by a narrow margin from multi class dinghy champion Mike Budd in GBR818 ‘Harry’, with Alexander Ezhkov in RUS2 ‘Alisa’ third and Dragon Gold Cup and two time Dragon European Champion Anatoly Loginov sailing RUS27 ‘Annapurna’ fourth.

The crews returned ashore on a natural high and the fun continued into the evening with the spectacular Dragon 90th Anniversary Regatta Gala Dinner, held at the elegant waterside Victory Morgana night club, a superbly preserved example of Italian Rationalism architecture. Alongside the prizes for the days special races there were also a number of special presentations.

The splits for the Gold and Silver fleets have now been decided and tomorrow the fleet will return to series racing. Two Finals races are planned with the scores from the two race qualifying series being carried forward. The regatta will conclude on Friday 11th October.

Published in Dragon, Howth YC
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The Dragon was designed by Johan Anker in 1929 as an entry for a competition run by the Royal Yacht Club of Gothenburg, to find a small keel-boat that could be used for simple weekend cruising among the islands and fjords of the Scandinavian seaboard. The original design had two berths and was ideally suited for cruising in his home waters of Norway. The boat quickly attracted owners and within ten years it had spread all over Europe.

The Dragon's long keel and elegant metre-boat lines remain unchanged, but today Dragons are constructed using the latest technology to make the boat durable and easy to maintain. GRP is the most popular material, but both new and old wooden boats regularly win major competitions while looking as beautiful as any craft afloat. Exotic materials are banned throughout the boat, and strict rules are applied to all areas of construction to avoid sacrificing value for a fractional increase in speed.

The key to the Dragon's enduring appeal lies in the careful development of its rig. Its well-balanced sail plan makes boat handling easy for lightweights, while a controlled process of development has produced one of the most flexible and controllable rigs of any racing boat.

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