The last time anyone saw rain as heavy as what fell on the waters of Port Phillip yesterday, Noah was preparing his “Ark”…. At times before the start of the 4th & 5th races of the Dragon World Championship’s, visibility was down to 100 metres and most crews were huddled together under the decks of their fine vessels.. But eventually the rain stopped and the racing could begin in a brisk easterly breeze, which oscillated between 80 to 130 degree’s… sometimes even more. With flat water and big shifts the Dragons perform at their very best as crews battle to predict which shift to tack on or when to continue to a favoured side of the course.
Frank Berg DEN 266 did it “his way” in race 4 by starting near to the PIN end and hitting the left hand corner before crossing the entire fleet to lead at the first mark by a comfortable margin. RUS 90 Igor Goihberg could also thank his top tactician Dimitry Berezkin, for taking him back to the left at the top of the beat, so they could protect their 2nd place position which they held onto over the two up wind and two down wind leg’s, This allowed the PRO Kevin Wilson, the opportunity to start a second race (race 5) which was much needed to get the championship back on track after a recent lack of wind. In 3rd place was AUS 205 Nick Rogers who as one of the pre regatta favourites, must have at last been relieved to finish with a podium place in this extremely high standard World Championship fleet….
Meanwhile just behind the leaders UKR 7 Markus Wieser and GBR 751 Lawrie Smith were making some great tactical decisions to give them both a single figure finishing position to keep them 1st and 2nd overall. In fact they both did exactly the same in race 5 so now they are beginning to pull away from the rest of the fleet. Although Markus leads the event with 30 pts and Lawrie on 45 pts, once the discard kicks in today, the lead will be reduced to just 3 pts. So with a scheduled three races to go the World Title is really up for grabs.
In the second race of the day, (race 5) Franky Berg DEN 266 once again had a great race, only this time he was up against former World Champion GER 996 Tommy Muller. With Frank starting again towards the pin end, Tommy chose the middle of the line and looked good all the way up the first beat. DEN 401 Joergen Schoenherr, probably the bookmakers favourite for the Championship after winning the Prince Pillip Cup so convincingly last week, was also in the mix at the top mark and so these three boats set their spinnakers first whilst the remaining pack followed in their wake. There was much shouting and protesting as the fleet bunched up at the winward mark, but with excellent “on the water” umpiring boats that make mistakes are soon taking their penalty turns and getting back into the race.
On the second beat DEN 401 held GER 996 a little further to the left hand side than they had wished, which allowed Berg DEN 266 and SWE 345 Jacob Wellenberg, the oportunity to close in on the lead. Vincent Hoesch the tactician on Tommy Mullers GER 996 boat, said “we wanted to cross back over to the right hand side of the course to protect our lead, but for some reason Joergen DEN 401 kept them pinned over to the left”. This proved to be a crucial time of the race as it allowed Berg DEN 266 to climb back into 2nd place which he held onto at the finish. Tommy Muller 996 just squeezed in ahead of Berg to deservedly take the winning gun and SWE 345 helmed brilliantly by Jacob slipped into 3rd…
Back in the Club House where once again the Royal Brighton Yacht Club were putting on food and drink for the wet and weary sailors, Berg, Hoesch, Smith and yours truly were discusing the huge shifts and highs and lows on the compass. Lawrie told us all that at one time on staboard tack he had seen the bearing climb as high as 105 degrees, to which Vincent said they had seen 90 degree’s on Port Tack! So when we all turned towards Franky Berg (the winner of the day with a 1st & 2nd place), and asked him what readings he had seen ?? He said in his usual loud gruff voice ” Compass, Compass, we don’t have a Compass !!! ” Ha Ha Ha, ” True Story”….
Higher, Faster, Longer, even Wetter………….. Stavros. (NED 372).