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International Dragons – Australians get on the podium

by John Curnow on 10 Jan 2011
It certainly was a close finish John Curnow ©
International Dragons – This is an important feature for a country currently licking its cricketing wounds. For those non-cricket playing countries, I’m sorry, but you’ll just have to indulge us for this first paragraph or two. The West Australians have salvaged some of the country’s pride with a win on the day and also to be leading the running tally.

Getting up for the gun today was Scoundrel, crewed by William Packer, Denis Cullity and Randall Harding. After crossing the line, the crew were standing around the cockpit, somewhat bemused. 'We have no idea how that happened. We did not even know we were a light weather crew - haven’t sailed a Dragon for 15 years (but at least some of them got a third in the World Championships back then) and we’ve been in Couta boats since.'

Leading the progressive results after the two races conducted thus far, is Richard Lynn and crew of Ian Olsen and Ron Rosenberg aboard, Puff-eu. They are on ten points and four clears of the second placed Ukrainian crew, Markus Wieser, Sergey Pugachev and Matti Paschen on Bunker Queen. Russia’s Anatoly Loginov, driving Annapurna, is in third.

If it was a hard day in the office yesterday for the crews, then today was to be Race Management’s turn. Last night, it was felt that the Answering Pennant might have been displayed at the beginning of racing today, so as to let the breeze die down from the forecast 30 knots. That certainly arrived, but it was much earlier in the day, from around 5am, in fact. The result that there was not a lot around at lunchtime, some 2 to 4 knots only, from the East Sou’east. Some rain was also present and it returned once all the crews were tied up at the end of the day, as well. Out at the marina, as crews prepared to depart, one unnamed crewmember was very disappointed to see the rain fall, 'I just hung out all my gear on the boom to try and let it dry. Guess I’ll have to wear it inside-out.'

A relieved Principal Race Officer, Kevin Wilson, once back on dry land said, 'It was a tough one for us today. We’re really thrilled to have got a race in. Racing will be on again from 11am, tomorrow.' No doubt they’ll be keen to pick up today’s lost, second race.

Racing was meant to get underway at 1pm, but a wall of boats over the line meant it was a general recall and so the fleet got away, happily, at 1.15. In the light breezes, the fleet stretched out massively across Melbourne’s Port Phillip from virtually Altona to Brighton Beach. Not many had chosen the middle of the course, but these were the boats to do best. It was quiet on both sides, but those out past the shipping channel to the West, fared worst. Coming in from the beach meant you were on Port tack and this set up many a cross with those coming in from the right, on Starboard.

The delightful Swedish Dragon, Galejan II, lead the fleet to the top mark for the first time and set the tone for the order of the day with the gybe set. The all-timber vessel came in a respectable 25th by the time the race was done. Back down at the bottom of the course a change in direction was set to 170 degrees and the idea was definitely to head for the beach to return to the top, as the wind had gassed out on the right side of the course. The fleet had well and truly spread out by now and as they rounded at the top again and there were far less gybe sets of spinnakers.
As you would expect with a day where the maximum wind would have been barely 8 knots, the top ten positions changed somewhat dramatically. Indeed the winner, Scoundrel, was in tenth place at the top the first time, third at the bottom and then second once they got back to the top. It was a narrow win, but the resounding cries of happiness at the end, indicated they were pretty happy about it all. Also of interest was that current leader, Puff-eu, was not even in the top ten for the first rounding, but showed up thereafter at each mark and finished with a sixth place to grab the lead.

Also consistently in the top ten were Russia’s Olga White and crew, the Ukraine’s Bunker Boys, along with Juli, also from Russia. Another Australian crew to feature well on the day were the Tasmanians Nick Rogers, Leigh Behrens and Simon Burrows aboard, Karabos IX.

A shortened course finish at 3.30 had people considering the likelihood of a second race in the day. Indeed a lot of competitors had already started the slow journey back to the hosts at Royal Brighton Yacht Club. Whilst the Committee Boat went looking for wind, even they had to accept fate ultimately and the hoots from the horn were not far off.

Back at the daily presentations, apart from bringing up the winners, a big feature was made of Martin ‘Stavros’ Payne’s birthday. He is one of yachting’s most jovial characters and writes very good articles for various publications, too. He is crewing aboard Wouter ten Wolde’s wonderful looking vessel, Wolly, with Wouter’s daughter, Juliette. Yesterday they may have been absolute last, but today, they led the fleet down to the bottom mark on the first run and finished with an ultra narrow gap, to get a fourth.

You can watch the International Dragon action from the Middle Brighton pier, the Royal Brighton Yacht Club café and upstairs balcony. All visitors welcome. Website

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