The Gazprom International Dragon Gold Cup has commenced with 77 participants on the start line for day one of racing in the bay of Douarnenez; the first of six days and six intense races, a particularly tense taster of what is to come.
For the fourth time the prestigious international event is being organized in Douarnenez by the city’s Société des Régates (lit. Regatta Society). Winner of the day is Annapurna (RUS 27) followed by Strange Little Girl (RUS 76) – Dmitry Samokhin and Lady Jane (FRA 386) – Luc Pillot.
From 16th to 24th August the Bay of Douarnenez is home to what can quite easily be compared to a World Championship event, with 77 teams from 17 countries and including 19 French participants.
Talk on the pontoons suggests that at least 20 of these teams may well be able to claim the title. Whilst it is also said that for victory they must be consistent, because at the Gazprom International Dragon Gold Cup, there is just one long race a day, with each race counting towards the final classification. With 77 boats on the start line, it is obviously not an easy affair.
Among the natural title nominees we can mention the current world champion Lawrie Smith, the current European champion, Jose SM Matoso, the leader of the IDA (International Dragon Association) classification, Markus Wieser, the triple winner of the Gold Cup (2003-2004-2005) Jörgen Schönherr, the last Gold Cup winner, Thomas Müller and the group leaders of the Russian fleet including Dmitry Samokhin, Anatoly Loginov, and Mikhaïl Senatorov.
There hasn’t been a French winner of the Gold Cup since it began in 1937.
But at Douarnenez this year there are at least three French teams who would like to throw a spanner in the works; current French champion Rémy Arnaud, Olympic medallist Luc Pillot, and the Grand Motte sailor Jean Bréger.
Markus Wiezer, leader of the IDA classification seems to think that Pillot’s team are among his main opponents, and whilst not being one to quote those who might make life difficult for him, he has also mentioned at least ten other possible claimants to the title, including British sailor Laurie Smith, his Ukrainian colleague, Yevgen Braslavets and nearly all the Russians!
It was a laborious start for Jean Coadou and the Race Committee who were not able to officially begin the Gazprom International Dragon Gold Cup until 16h43, when lack of wind and shifty conditions meant the Committee were forced to change the course start line on several occasions, not to mention the accompanying tension within the fleet of the competitors.
A first start was given according to plan at 15h with a westerly wind and steady eight to 10 knots. An early start for several so it was a general recall. The second procedure was once again laid down but frustrated when the wind shifted about 20º. The course therefore had to be changed before a third start could be undertaken, and was once again interrupted by the wind shifting back to the west.
Another start line, another procedure and another general recall! The fifth start showed the black flag with eight victims.
The sixth start finally saw the Gazprom International Dragon Gold Cup given the off, under a black flag and five boats disqualified.
This first restless day of racing was also a chance to get a good lead over the fellow competitors but without falling into the trap that such a temptation might represent. Markus Wiezer compares the race to downhill skiing, explaining this morning that it was vital on the first two days of racing not to mess up the first gate roundings, and that confidence would gradually come later.
'You have to make good choices straight away. We are usually quite an aggressive team but in the Gold Cup you have to find a good balance between this kind of aggressiveness and a more conservative way of sailing, not take any short-sighted risks and particularly not the event by saying that you are going to win!'
And the favourites were clearly protecting their future; there was not one team among the boats them to be disqualified.
Dutch sailor André Du Pon (NED 414) one of the disqualified teams of the day, admitted that the nerves and anxiety provoked by four start procedures and more than evident out on the water, were partly responsible for his mistake.
Dragon Gold Cup website
by Véronique Guillou Le Bivic
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7:21 PM Mon 19 Aug 2013GMT
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