Lawrie Smith GBR 751 can add the Dragon World Championship to his magnificent sailing CV after squeezing over the finish line yesterday, by less than half a metre, to secure the 6th place required by him and his team aboard “Alfie”, which gave them the title over Markus Wieser UKR 7 on count-back!
As the boats lined up for the start of the final race of the Championship on a Black Flag, many interested onlookers were surprised not to see UKR 7 “all over GBR 751 like a rash” as by stopping Lawrie, Tim and Ossie from having a good start, Markus could have guaranteed victory…….. But such was the respect that the German Sailor has for his British counterpart, the predicted engagement never emerged. “He never came at us” Smith was later heard to say, so the start got away fairly at around noon, with the two boats quite close together towards the Pin end of the long line.
For the first time there seemed to be a strong current on the waters of Port Phillip, which assisted the leeward boats and a massive separation started to take affect as the fleet all got up to speed in the light wind with flat water race course. Boats that started right near the Pin could see that by holding onto their first starboard tack, they were making a considerable gain over the rest of the 70 odd boats. In fact it was the boats that started just below Smith and Wieser that were doing the best and so Smith was able to pull out an advantage over Wieser who was slightly to windward…….
This was first part of the winning strategy, now the Great Britain trio had to finish in 6th place or higher, as Wieser got swallowed up in this highly competitive fleet, and that was never going to be easy. With the Pin end boats easily able to cross the fleet RUS 98 Mikhail Mauratov lead DEN 266 Frank Berg around the top mark, closely followed by AUS 205 Nick Rogers. Smith rounded just inside the top ten so the experienced British team knew exactly what they had to do, PASS THREE MORE BOATS!
With the final race over three long up wind’s and two down wind’s it took every ounce of helming technique, crewing skills and sail trimming to slowly climb up to 6th place on the final run. But with the race leaders all having their own private battles which included some heavy “cover tacks”, GBR 751 had to brave the bad air caused by such antics and pray they could hold onto their essential position as the finish line beckoned…… On crossing the finish line with a last ditch roll tack that required every extra kilogram Petticrow owner and crew Tim Tavinor has painstakingly put on with countless visits to the “White Hart” public house in Burnham-on Crouch, GBR 751 took the 6th place by a whisker……….
Frank Berg DEN 266 again won the race and jumped up to take the final podium position overall. So GBR 751 finished on 30pts equal with UKR 7 Wieser, but on count-back because Smith had won a race and Wieser had not, the World Championship Title now belongs to three very happy and slightly drunk Englishmen……… Well done boys!
Although the 3rd placed boat was a 1998 Petticrow (which shows how competitive older boats can be if they are well looked after), the winner and runner up boats were “Brand New” out of the wrapper Petticrows that were just taken out of the containers, rigged, launched and sailed well. The best looking boat award went to a delighted Wouter Ten Wolde NED 372 whose wooden decked Doomernik Dragon stole the hearts of many onlookers during the two weeks here in Melbourne. Also the Australian Ridgeway Dragons are still going strong and were proud to show off some of their latest ideas in this fantastic “One Design Keel-boat Class”.
So my friends it’s the end of yet another World Championship, but just the start of another new year! As the Australians again must start licking their wounds, many of us lucky European sailors can look forward to a host of highly competitive and extremely friendly regatta’s back on our side of the world. The Ski Vol, the Primo Cup the Cannes International, the Italian Championship the………………..
Higher, Faster, Longer……………………. Stavros.