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International Dragons – Golden Girl returns from 1956

by John Curnow on 14 Jan 2011
Racing back in 1956. - Dragon World Championships . ..
After 55 years, the 1956 Olympic Gold Medal winning International Dragon, now known as Galejan II, but still with her original S(WE) 194 Sail Number, has made a return to Melbourne.

Crewed now by Johan Palmquist, Christofer Edström (co-owners) and Margareta Palmquist-Carlsson, the story is as fantastic as it sounds. At the 1956 Summer Olympic Games, the Dragon Class was sailed out of the Royal Brighton Yacht Club, which is also home for the 2011 World Championships. Back then, Slaghoken II as she was known, was skippered by Folke Bohlin and crewed by Bengt Palmquist with Leif Wikström.


16 countries were represented at these Olympic Games and records from the day, say ‘The Dragon class was hotly contested in every event and the result was always very open. The Danish Boat, Tip, which was skippered by O.V.H Bersten, led throughout the series until the last race, when she finished sixth. This produced a tie with the Swedish boat, Slaghoken II, which ultimately won on count back. Bluebottle, owned by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second and HRH the Duke of Edinburgh, was sailed by G.H Mann and placed third. Its performance on the heavier days was outstanding.’

Palmquist would go on to skipper the same boat in the 1960 Tokyo Olympic Games, with the boat now known as Galejan. Success was not repeated, however. He continued to own the boat up until 1980, when it was sold to Norway. During those years, he introduced his son, Johan and daughter, Margareta, to sailing in the boat.

The CEO of Volvo bought the boat back after some time and donated the boat to the Royal Gothenburg Yacht Club as a youth training vessel. By 1994, she had ended up onshore in a barn with cows and without much love. Johan and Christofer bought her back in 1995 with a view to competing in her in the 1997 Dragon World Championships in Maarstrand. Both of them had been competing in fibreglass Dragons for some time and it was fitting that it all began in 1995, which was the year that Bengt passed away.


‘When we got there, we could see through the planks, as all the glue had gone. In the first year, we put a new, modern rig and running gear on her. In year two, we took care of all the glue and in the third, we took on the varnish of her wonderful Mahogany construction’, said Christofer. ‘There was a confused cat and a horse that had grown accustomed to their inanimate co-habitant and looked on somewhat bewildered when we took the boat out of the barn.’


‘She's still fast and all original construction, which is amazing. Galejan II is true to form and close to class minimum weight.’ On Day two and by way of example, Galejan II and her crew were first to the top mark of the course. She is made from one Honduras mahogany log in the carvel plank method. Back then, there were no issues with shipping her to Australia, but this time, her materials are on the endangered species list and it took four months to get the paperwork sorted between Stockholm and Canberra.

Galejan II came on her trailer on a Roll On/Roll Off ship on the bottom deck, where it is a more stable temperature. After five heats, the crew are sitting in sitting 37th position amongst the 75-boat fleet.

Galejan II is one well-travelled boat, having been in Melbourne, Tokyo, Lake Ontario in 1975 and Martinique in 1999. Two and half years ago, Johan, Cristofer and Margareta made their commitment to Melbourne and we’re delighted they did. Thank you for making the effort, so we could once again, see this most majestic of vessels. ‘The event has been well organised and everyone is very hospitable’, was Johan’s final comment.

The last day of racing for the 2011 Dragon World Championship gets underway from Brighton on the morning of Saturday, January 14. Lets hope there is enough wind to get an even race in.

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