- Opening race of the Finals series completed in light airs and big seas following Gold and Silver Fleet splits on fourth day of the Dragon 90th Anniversary Regatta powered by Paul and Shark
- Denmark’s Jens Christensen wins Gold Fleet race to take three point overall regatta lead
- Yanmar host delightful aftersail party as Dragon sailors continue to enjoy the perfect combination of great racing and warm hospitality at Yacht Club Sanremo
10 October 2019 – Sanremo, Italy – Day four of the Dragon 90th Anniversary Regatta powered by Paul & Shark saw the fleet divided into Gold and Silver groups following the initial qualifying rounds, with the boats carrying their overall ranking position from the qualifiers into the final series. Going into the day the forecast looked super light and there was a big question over whether sailing would even be possible. Luckily, just as the sailors were settling in for a morning of coffee drinking and chat, a light easterly sprang up and everyone was called afloat.
In the race area the teams found a nice 8-10 knot breeze from the north east accompanied by a large swell from the west and a strong west to east current which was pushing them over the line. Aware that the breeze may not stay long the race committee moved quickly and after a couple of false starts both fleets were underway. The wind held up the beat, but on the run, it began to drop. With the boats fighting against the current and big seas the effect was to compress the fleet, who found themselves gybing at acute angles to try and retain boat speed. As the wind began to die completely the committee wisely decided to stop both fleets after a single lap. It soon became clear that the breeze would not be returning, and further hopes of racing were abandoned for the day.
The Gold Fleet took two attempts to start, the second being under U Flag with only Britain’s Mike Budd being called over the line. The quality of the fleet is exceptional and despite the difficult conditions the boats remained closely bunched around the course. Jens Christensen in DEN410 ‘Out of Bounce’ took a narrow early lead from Germany’s Christof Wieland aboard GER69 ‘Ingrid’, and he then spent the rest of the race fighting off Wieland’s endless advances. On the line the two were separated by less than a boat length with Pedro Mendes Leal in POR87 ‘Uranus’ third, Nicola Friesen’s GER1207 ‘Kahleesi’ fourth and Pieter Heerema in NED412 ‘Troika’ fifth.
In the Gold Fleet overall standings Jens Christensen now counts three points, giving him a five-point lead over Pieter Heerema. Britain’s Mike Hayles aboard GBR764 ‘Naiad’ finished tenth in the race, which combines with his first place from the qualifiers to put him into third overall. American Mike Breivik in USA88 ‘Jupiter’ finished eighth and now counts fourteen points, putting him fourth overall with a two-point delta on fifth placed Christof Wieland.
In the Silver fleet the race winner was Ole Christian Gahr Vordahl sailing NOR300 ‘Still Crazy’, who now has a seven-point overall lead from Walter J Zuercher in SUI322 ‘Gitane Eight’. Per Arne Nilsen sailing NOR275 ‘The Knucker’ finished third in the race and is third overall, a single point behind Zuercher and a single point ahead of Richard Franklin in AUS216 ‘Liquidity’. The Silver Fleet top five is rounded out by Philipp Skafte-Holm’s DEN394 ‘Blue Lady’.
Back ashore the sailors were in complete agreement with the committee’s decision to shorten the race as Soling and 5.5 Metre World Champion Ron Rosenberg, sailing this week as tactician for Mike Breivik, explained. “The Race Committee has been doing an outstanding job here, managing two racecourses of nearly 80 boats each, it’s been really quite remarkable, they achieve such a high level of race management.”
For Rosenberg, a thirty-year veteran of the Dragon fleet, racing with Mike Breivik is turning out to be not only a personal pleasure, but also an unexpectedly competitive experience too, as Mike only started sailing just over two years ago. A mutual friend introduced the pair, explaining that Mike, a competitive skier in slalom and giant slalom and marathon runner, was interested in learning to sail better. Mike and his wife had previous powerboating experience but had only recently decided to learn to sail. He’d caught the bug and now wanted to improve quickly.
Rosenburg knew that the European Dragon class was the perfect fit for Breivik and last year they chartered a boat and did two regattas together. Breivik took to it like a duck to water and when Ron suggested they attend the Dragon 90th Anniversary Regatta he jumped at the chance. Asked about his experience of racing against multiple Olympians, World Champions and America’s Cup veterans and of taking on yesterday’s 150 boat Anniversary Race start line he said. “It’s been an unbelievable experience, a little bit nerve wracking out there today and with the big race yesterday, but a lot of fun and I really enjoy it. I’ll definitely be back for more!”
Whilst competitive racing lies at the heart of the Dragon fleet, camaraderie and fun are also an important part of class life. Back ashore the participants ensured they kept up that carefully nurtured balance by enjoying a delightful dockside aftersail party hosted by event sponsor Yanmar.
Racing for tomorrow’s final day of competition is scheduled to start at 11.00, there is a latest start cut off time of 16.00 and a maximum of three races remain to be sailed to decide the overall winner of the Dragon 90th Anniversary Regatta. This extraordinary week-long celebration of the International Dragon’s 90th Birthday will conclude with a spectacular final Gala Prize Giving party.