2009 August eNewsletter
So far all the races I have sailed this year, (with the exception
of Antigua), have been in light to very light conditions.
I cannot remember a year with such lack of winds; is it climate
change or the recession causing this phenomenon I wonder!
Even stranger, the minute the boats are back on the trailer
and on the way back home, the wind arrives!
Having sailed the French Championships in La Baule, the Grand
Prix in Kiel and the Gold Cup in Skagen, I can report that
organization both afloat and ashore have been outstanding.
More or less maximum level of participation in all the races,
which is great news in these times. Christian Boillot won
in La Baule, Markus Wieser in Kiel and Ruslana Taran in Skagen.
Very well sailed and well done to you all; my results were
nothing to write home about; 3, 5 and 11. Another race with
cancellation of some races due to lack of wind, was the Marblehead
Trophy sailed last weekend. Tommy Mueller, the host and defending
champion, suffered a black flag. With all races counting,
this put him out of the frame. The Danes put up a strong challenge
and took four out of the first five places; Jens Christensen/Kim
Andersen won. They will be deciding the venue of next years'
Marblehead. According to my snout (Gavia) it was a very well
organized event and Tommy did a brillant job hosting the teams.
I am now looking forward to Medemblik, and hope for a bit
of wind so at least two of the crew can sit on the weather
rail instead of to leeward.
In Skagen we had also to contend with a strong and unpredictable
stream/tide; Tommy Mueller reported one day 20 meters in one
minute. This caused "up and down" results for quite
a few people including myself. An innovation at the Gold Cup
was the use of Track Track devices. We were all supplied with
this tracking device; collected before leaving and returned
after racing for charging. Three large screens were set up
in the tent, and the Dragon followers could "see"
the race live. After racing, the Dragon sailors could replay
their own race or others; all this caused a great deal of
amusement. What was not so funny, were the questions of our
loved ones when coming ashore. "Why did you go to the
right where you could only do 3.7 knots while on the left
they were clocking 4.5 knots?" "Could you not see
that windshift"? In my long life of racing, I was always
able to "camouflage" my mistakes and come up with
a good story for home consumption or in the bar after a bad
race. However, I can now see that the good times are over.
Anybody, anywhere in the World, can follow the race and see
our mistakes being made. Sorry guys, we are all in the same
boat and there will be no place to hide. Can you imagine a
situation in the future with the wife or girlfriend calling
from home or office during the race and tell you; "you
have just gone from No. 5 to No. 65; why don't you tack now".
One solution could be to introduce a ban on mobiles on board,
so at least we would not have this problem to contend with
Joking aside, it was fun to have the Track Tracks and I can
see this is what we all will have in future races. Another
plus would be if a Dragon went down; the salvage people would
have no problem finding it. Which brings me to the next story:
You will all remember in Cannes during the Regatta Royale
in 2007 two Dragons went down; a third sunk a couple of weeks
later. You may also recall that Tommy Mueller and Mike Hayles
immediately arranged a meeting with the boat builders and
IDA officers present at the time in Cannes. This resulted
in substantial rule changes effective almost immediately;
and increase in buoyancy from 1800L to 2500L; we decided to
go for a bit extra and ours is 2700L. Peter Boyd was the middle
man and co-owner of BBC, one of the unfortunate trio. After
Cannes, he joined forces with Stewart and Catriona Coltart
and carried on Dragon sailing on the Medway. In April this
year, they took delivery of a new Dragon and Stewart reports
"I have had a few exciting downwind moments in my
time in Dragons but this particular incident was a bit special.
We were battling for the lead with our erstwhile competitors,
Julian and Clare Sowry (Scimitar GBR 730) on a Saturday race
on the Medway. The course on this particular leg was directly
downwind with gusty force 5 winds oscillating unpredictably.
It was an exciting spinnaker run and we went deeper than 730.
The boat behind us had elected to stay with white sails and
was not losing any ground to us. I was about to drop the spinnaker
when an abrupt and violent gust arrived which put us 20o by
the lee. The boat sheered violently to leeward exacerbating
the situation along with a rapid windward roll. Rudder authority
was lost as the mast tip went under water (the rudder in effect
became an elevator instead). The three of us were left staring
at the sky with water pouring into the boat. My wife's head
went underwater along with her boots filling up with water.
We seemed to lie there for about 15-20 seconds and she slowly
righted. Curiously, there was no involuntary gibe despite
being so markedly by the lee. I was particularly worried that
the boom would crash over and hit one of us on the head knocking
us overboard completely. When upright, we wiped the salt out
of our eyes and rapidly dumped the spinnaker. The pole had
snapped with the roll to windward. We had a considerable amount
of water in the boat, about 30- 50cm above the floorboards
and I was concerned that she might wallow and go down so a
course was set for some shallow water. However, it became
apparent that she had plenty of buoyancy and importantly,
there was no fore and aft instability with risk of submarining.
The electric pump proved highly effective and within 3 minutes
or so (time becomes very approximate in these situations)
she was dry helped with some bucketing from us. In the end
we only lost two places from this escapade. Like fishing stories,
it is easy to exaggerate on such a tale but our crew Peter
Booth was aboard BBC GBR683 when she sank off Cannes in Oct
2007. Yes, that was in open water with waves but the depth
of water in the boats was similar if not more. What was different
was the better buoyancy of the new hull to a Jubilee Dragon.
In some respects, the new Valkyrie felt like a dinghy rather
than a heavy displacement keel boat with the feeling that
she was lying higher in the water than an older boat thereby
reducing the ingress of water. Very reassuring particularly
when sailing in waves in deep water."
We were told at the time that in theory the additional buoyancy
would work; however, there is nothing like putting theory
to the test. All Petticrow Dragons from March 2008 have this
extra buoyancy. It looks like it works; thank you Tommy, thank
you Mike for all your efforts.
I told you I am testing the new mast. In general, I am very
happy with the new Aero profile, but will need more time.
It has only been used in light conditions so far; I will do
an extensive report in my next newsletter.
I have to take my hat off to the French Dragon Association,
AFSID with their continued efforts to promote the Dragon Class.
They have again arranged to have Dragon on the Paris Boat
show in December, which is great news. This is not the first
time AFSID is giving a good example in marketing the Dragon
Class. It is not surprising, I think, that the French Dragon
Fleets continue to grow. Many French Dragon sailors are involved;
Eric, Xavier, Jean-Pierre just to name a few. Great job!
The Irish on the other hand have not been coming out to play
so much this season. Could Mick Cotter be to blame for this?
He is racing his big Whisper quite a lot (I spotted him on
a CNN programme on the Fastnet) and a big boat like his needs
a lot of crews; or walk-on Tools as they are referred to on
that great ship. Is he using all the Irish Dragon sailors
as Tools, so they have no time left to sail their own Dragons
I wonder? I would like to know please Mick
The Aussie Fleets are building too, which is great news. Robert
Alpe has done a fantastic job promoting Dragons down under.
Richard Lynn from Perth is the first to come out and play
with us in the Gold Cup this year. A few more are expected
in Medemblik, including Wolf Breit (another mover and shaker
in Oz) and St. Tropez. We will all need to get in shape for
the Worlds in Melbourne in 2011; the Aussies are good sailors,
and not to be under estimated.
After Medemblik I will be at the Regatta Royale and St. Tropez.
Hope to see you around.
All the best,