Australasian Dragon Championships has exciting first day in Freo

Wow! What a start to the Australasian Dragon Championship for the Prince Philip Cup held off Fremantle. The regatta which also acts as the pre-Worlds, enjoyed a sensational first day of racing in Hendricks ‘Gin & Tonic’ conditions with bright blue skies, steady breezes building from 16 – 20 knots and the infamous Freo chop all serving up a challenging and testing first day of racing. 

Race 1 started bang on schedule at 1405 hrs in a steady 16 – 18 knots. The course set was a long upwind leg of some 2nm battling against the short sharp waves, which caused the failure of a number of bilge pumps throughout the day. This was followed by a fast surf downwind to the leeward gate and a shorter second upwind. Then a downwind sprint to the finish just off Fremantle Sailing Club. 

Only one Dragon got caught OCS, the remainder working the usually favoured inshore/left hand side of the race track. With differences in depths and sea states across the course it was a testing race course especially for the international visitors who had just arrived and unpacked their boats. 

After 29 minutes of racing the current world champions Andy Beadsworth, Ali Tezdiker and Simon Fry sailing Turkish flagged Provezza, turned in the lead followed by multiple Prince Philip Cup winner, Nick Rogers from Tasmania, sailing with Leogh Behrens and Simon Burrows in Karabos lX. Third to round was local ace Willy Packer sailing with Julian Harding and Jock Packer in Scoundrel. 26 boats rounded the top mark, the course already claiming a number of victims. 

The surf downwind was simply spectacular to watch, a colourful fleet of Dragons rocking and rolling reaching full speed down the waves. At the gate the Turkish Provezza team maintained a healthy lead but Willy Packer managed to get past Nick Rogers to challenge the leaders. Choosing different gates it was going to be a close call up the shorter next windward leg. However round the top for the second time, Provezza held a lead of a few boat lengths. The Scoundrels kept putting on the pressure in second but Anatoly Loginov sailing Annapurna with Vadim Stratsenko and Alexander Shalagin, closed down the gap to take third with Rogers slipping to fourth. Places stayed the same until the finish. Local Royal Freshwater Bay Yacht Club sailor Simon Prosser sailing Linnea with Mark Glew and Stephen Wray, finished an excellent fifth. 

With some of the race one retirements returning to the race course after early breakages, the fleet reassembled for race 2 without delay. Race 2 of the day was a good clear start at 1605hrs in similar conditions. The afternoon sea-breeze just notching up to the 20 knot mark and the irregular chop kept the bilge pumps almost permanently spouting water out of the decks of the Dragons. 

A slightly shorter 1.8nm course to the top was again a steady slog upwind with the majority of the fleet favouring the inshore side of the course. This time Provezza and Scoundrel starting at the committee boat end and Annapurna and Karabos 1X going for the pin. 

As the fleet converged on the top mark it was Wolf Waschkuhn, Tim Tavinor and Philip Catmur representing Switzerland, who rounded in the lead followed by Willy Packers, Scoundrels and Anatoly Loginov in Annapurna. More retirements from gear failure back in the pack but lots of place changes in the run back down the course. 

At the gate Willy Packer had started to show some awesome downwind boat speed opening out a lead from TUR1212, Provezza and JPN 56, Yanmar Racing Team sailed by WA sailing guru Peter Gilmour with Sam Gilmour and Yasuhiro Yaji. Both these boats gybed early to run down the offshore side of the race track. 

At the gate Willy Packer stayed cool to keep a comfortable lead from the chasing pack. RUS27, Annapurna and SUI318 1Quick1 waiting to pounce on any mistakes. Second round the top the Scoundrels lead from Yanmar Racing Team and the Swiss 1Quick1 back up to third. 

Willy Packer even managed to extend downwind to surf across the finish line and top the leaderboard with a win and a second. Peter Gilmour’s Yanmar Racing Team crossed second with Andy Beadsworth’s Provezza team pulling back to third. A very sound fourth for Wolf Waschkuhn’s 1Quick1 and Anatoly Loginov grounding out a fifth. 

Local Corinthian RFBYC sailor Simon Prosser sailing Linnea finished an excellent days racing scoring a fifth and sixth to end the day in fifth overall. 

Simon Prosser, skipper of  Linnea:

“It was actually very nice out there today, the boys have put some time in, we decided back in February to join the Dragon class, I bought a boat, did a lot of training and we had our ups and downs but today it all came together.

“I have done a lot of dinghy sailing (Sharpies, Cherubs and Lasers) out of Fremantle and sailed a number of national titles in different classes but we actually put this boat in the water a couple of months ago to do a fair bit of training.

“We sat down during the week to discuss our strategy in a bigger fleet. We started today in the middle of the line and clear with no boats around us. We were quite impressed with the speed, we had a couple of the Europeans below us and we were pacing them. After about 10 minutes we could look over our shoulder and say, we can actually tack and cross a lot of the fleet.” 

A good performance also by Ron Packer, John Longley and Matt Maxted sailing French Connection into seventh place overall. Some teams were not quite so lucky, the youngest skipper in the fleet Ethan Prierto-Low sailing with his dad John and Brad Stout in one of the older boats in the fleet, Hotspur, finished a credible 7th in race 1 but a DNF in race 2 due to pump issues set him back overall. Also the popular Dutch team of Charlotte and Juliette ten Wolde, Janka Holan and middle man Pedro Andrade suffered a breakage in race 1, recovering to score a solid 8th in race 2. 

One competitor singled out for comment after racing was Amazing Grace sailed by Andrew Moss, Charles Stanton and Jeremy Nolan who had to retire from race 1, sailing ashore to make repairs. In the second race the team came to grief at the second gate rounding with a prolonged session of prawn trawling. However not to be deterred they resumed racing to finish around 15 minutes after the last boat to a round of applause dished out by the committee boat. 

One guest onboard the committee boat was the legendary Dragon sailor Gordon Ingate otherwise know as ‘Wingnut’ who at the tender age of 92 years, has decided to sit out this Prince Philip Cup and offer his great advice from his retirement seat.  

Willy Packer and Julian Harding in conversation with Gordon Ingate in the bar after racing: 

Julian: “I bet you would have liked to be out there racing today Gordon?”

Gordon: “Yes and I would be right up Willy’s backside!”

Julian: “Willy I think you have got a problem, I think Gordon thinks we would be in front of you!”

Willy: “The fact is It was a bit like ocean racing out there today. There was a lot of separation, a lot of big waves, but basically it was just out there sailing a big ocean race. It was as simple as that, We just got two good starts and went straight and went ocean racing.” 

Gordon cutting in to offer his summary of Willys performance today: “Some great chutes, top class.” 

Willy continued: “We had some great runs, my son Jock is a surfer and we just surfed and glided down the runs, Jock is a top surfer, he loves it”. 

Racing resumes on day two (Sunday) with a slightly earlier start time of 1230hrs and two more races with a similar glamorous forecast. 

Results: http://www.sportspage.com.au/yacht_clubs/rfbyc/DragonAusChamps/progresultspage.htm

by Jonny Fullerton on behalf of Dragon Worlds Fremantle 2019

 
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