This weekend, Plymouth is being invaded by Dragons from across the UK, France, Ireland, Hong Kong and the USA as they converge on the Royal Western Yacht Club in preparation for their South Coast Championship and the Dragon Edinburgh Cup - the Open British Championship of the class. 2008 will be the 60th time the Dragon class has raced for the Edinburgh Cup and the Royal Western YC is pulling out all the stops to make it a memorable event.
This festival of Dragon sailing opens with the South Coast Championship which runs from 5-8 July and is immediately followed by the Edinburgh Cup from 9-12 July. Some 25 teams are expected to compete and a closely fought regatta is anticipated.
British Dragon Association Chairman Owen Pay comments, 'The Dragon Class is looking forward to competing in the first Edinburgh to be held in the historic city of Plymouth. We have heard great reports about the sailing waters and look forward to the PRO, Mike Pearson, giving us a great series. I would also like to thank event sponsor Knight Frank and supporting sponsors Aberdeen Asset Management, Petticrows and Pantaenius Yacht Insurance for their generous support without which events such as this would be almost impossible to run.'
Mike Pearson and his race management team will also be part of the team running the racing for the sailing regatta of the 2012 Olympic Games so we can expect a very high standard of race management. Racing will take place on windward leeward courses located in Plymouth Sound south of Plymouth Breakwater. Five races are scheduled for the South Coast Championship, and six races for the Edinburgh Cup. Looking at the entry roster there are a number of crews who will be hoping to claim podium places and go home with the Edinburgh Cup.
Leading the charge is Medway's Len Jones, with crew Jamie Lea and Henry Bagnel, whose recent success on the national and international circuit make them obvious contenders. Dragon Class stalwart Eric Williams has also been performing extremely well of late and with Duncan Grindley and Rory Paton in his crew will expect to be in the chocolates again at Plymouth.
Always determined to give the boys a run for their money Gavia Wilkinson-Cox from Cowes has brought her boat back from the European circuit specially to compete and with John Mortimer and Charlie Cruise as crew is certainly in with a chance of becoming the first woman to win the Edinburgh Cup. Former Olympic Finn sailor and Dragon builder Tim Tavinor of Petticrows will be racing with Thomas and Nicola Wilton and together they make a formidable team with plenty of championship winning potential.
From France comes Louis Urvois who is no stranger to the front of a Dragon fleet and clearly thinks that it's about time the Edinburgh Cup spent a year in France. For American Edward Sawyer this is a poignant return to the Edinburgh Cup as when he last competed, at Cowes in 2006, he suffered a serious injury that ultimately kept him out of sailing for a considerable time. The British Dragon Fleet is delighted to welcome Edward back to the Edinburgh Cup and with Martin 'Stavros' Payne and Pedro Rebelo de Andrade crewing for him he clearly intends to make storming comeback.
Fleet newcomers taking part in their first Edinburgh Cup include the team aboard Bailisk, which is being sailed by four Lark sailors and yet will still be below the 285 Kg class weight limit. Alan Krailing will helm the boat with Helen Krailing, Michael Gifford and Harry Pynn crewing.
Another fleet newcomer could also prove to be the dark horse of this regatta as Christopher 'Buddha' Hunt, Mike Relling and Tim Cunliffe come together to race their first serious Dragon event. Hunt, a Falmouth native who has spent much of his adult life based in Hong Kong, has won regattas in a wide range of classes across Europe and Asia.
Whilst Kiwi Relling was for many years one of the UK's leading sail makers and professional sailors before he returned to New Zealand to set up a project management company specialising in large racing and cruising yacht projects. Cunliffe is another Falmouth boy and those who have raced down in the West Country will know the name as one to be reckoned with.
Aside from the racing there will be daily prize givings and a variety of après sailing social events throughout both regattas. A special Edinburgh Cup 60th Anniversary Gala Dinner will take place on Friday 11 July at historic Drake Barracks within Plymouth Naval Base.