by John Curnow
Lawrie Smith and crew just after finishing in the final race of the 2011 Dragon World Championships
Against most weather predictions, the final day of racing in the 2011 International Dragon World Championship started with glorious sunshine and by mid-morning, a consistent, if gentle Southerly breeze began to make it’s way up Melbourne’s Port Phillip Bay.
By 11.30am Race Management indicated they were on station, having set a course of 160 degrees for the last heat. At 11.50 the race was away, but naturally you could have guessed after this week’s close and competitive racing that it was going to be a general recall. It was. A great proportion of the fleet was over, with the ones in the middle pushing out around 50 metres. This was exceptionally favourable for Linnea of Australia, who was still coming down to the line under spinnaker.
Downhill run - Final race 2011 Dragon World Championshp, Melbourne, Australia
At 12.05 racing was underway, with the now mandatory Black Flag keeping everybody tidy. The left got the best of it, but by halfway, the massive separation we have become used to meant there were vessels near Brighton beach and out near the main shipping channel. Left of centre was the place to be as they got to the top.
The gybe set became very popular at the top mark, as there were large numbers of Dragons coming in from the beach. Some did not do so well out of it, the wonderful crew from the Dutch entry, Wolly, certainly faired the worst in this exchange. First at the top mark was the Russian entry of Mikhail Mouratov, with the now-always-there Danish crew on My Way taking second. Nick Rogers and crew on Karabos IX were third and the first of the Australian crews aiming to make a final charge at the scoreboard. In fourth place was the first of the Trans Bunker team in Bunker Prince.
Returning the bottom mark, a new course of 185 degrees was set, in a very civilised rounding. Most chose the left, with a few making a late decision to go in to that mark and came in under shy spinnakers, making them very quick, relative to the others. There were some spinnaker issues as a result, but nothing of major consequence. First was still Murka 12 from Russia with My Way in second and Bunker Prince taking over third place.
Winners on the day and also of the Corinthian trophy, My Way from Denmark - Dragon World Championship
At the top for the second time, the breeze may have softened to around five knots, but My Way had managed to get a handy lead. One they would hold on to for yet another win in this regatta. Bunker Prince cemented second place, Murka 12, third and then Quicksilver III from Denmark started to climb up the board. As a result of a slightly lighter breeze, those heading inshore ran a little but shyer to keep the vessels moving.
At the bottom mark for the last time in the regatta, My Way had done more than enough to secure a good lead and eventual overall winner, Alfie, was in seventh and looking to get home well ahead of rival Bunker Queen, who had not been having a great day out on the track. Not many of the fleet pushed out to sea, with most choosing the inshore path and only the Bunker Boys decide to come back through the fleet after choosing the left hand side originally.
Downhill run - Final race 2011 Dragon World Championship, Melbourne, Australia
At the top for the final time, the race winner was Denmark’s My Way, who commented immediately after that it was, ‘Even better than our win the other day. It was very sweet, indeed.’ Skippered by Frank Berg, My Way also took out the coveted Corinthian trophy for the first all-amateur crew on the scoreboard. Frank said, ‘It’s our best result in the Worlds, ever.’ They had a Bronze previously. ‘Our boat is from 1989 and the oldest fibreglass vessel in the fleet. I thought we had good speed in the last three races. We didn’t do the Prince Philip Cup last week, but we would like to do the lead-in event in the future to get some improvements.’
Taking out the overall win, by the narrowest of margins at around just a few metres, was the British crew aboard Alfie.
1992 Olympic Bronze medalist in the Soling keelboat class, Lawrie Smith, who has not been sailing since his last Volvo Ocean Race campaign in 1999, was pretty happy to get a win in his comeback regatta. Speaking up at the clubhouse after the great win, Lawrie said, ‘Four young kids took care of sailing for a while. The twins are now 13 years old, so it makes doing something like this possible. It really is such a joyous way to come back. I honestly did not think we’d get the win. Then again, I also thought it was going to blow 25 knots each day!’
Championship was nearly theirs - Bunker Queen. - Dragon World Championship
Crewmember, Tim Tavinor and owner of the boat builder, Petticrows, was also on board Alfie. ‘I’m exhausted is all I can say. It is my first Dragon Worlds win, too. Also, first and second overall were brand new boats delivered directly to the regatta. We had a really great time here and the on-water team were very, very professional.’ The third member of the team is Ossie Stewart, who said, ‘Tim’s boat is fantastic. We put a few new ideas into it and they really seemed to work.’
There were a very dedicated bunch of Race Officials and Volunteers who made this regatta at Royal Brighton Yacht Club possible and earned significant praise from all the competitors for turning on what they considered to be an excellent event.
Lawrie Smith and crew approach the line, with Melbourne's CBD in the background - Dragon World Championship
Principal Race Officer, Kevin Wilson, had this to say at the conclusion of racing. ‘There was 7 to 9 knots for the day and we did the course change to square it up. I believe the left hand track may have been favoured and the current was pretty huge today with the all the rain. It was certainly good to have to look for the sunshade today, not the wet weather gear. Finishing in sunshine a good breeze is a great way to round it off. One thing we don’t look at is who’s winning. We’re focussing on running a good track, but happy for Smith and the crew. We have four International Race Officers and two National ones in the team, so it’s great that everyone is delighted with the regatta.’
Tonight it is the gala reception for the awarding of trophies and the auction of the six regatta flags to benefit the recent Queensland flood victims. For further information, please go to http://www.dragonworlds2011.com.au/