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Yanmar Dragon Gold Cup 2023 at the Royal Torbay Yacht Club - Day 1

by British Dragon Association 10 Sep 2023 13:19 PDT 10-15 September 2023

No matter how difficult the conditions, the cream always rises to the top in sailing, and today was an excellent example of that adage.

Despite extremely shifty conditions and tense competition at the front of the fleet, it was 2015 Gold Cup and 2011 Dragon World Champion Lawrie Smith, sailing for Glandore Yacht Club, who ultimately got the upper hand to win the Børge Børresen Memorial Trophy.

Smith had led at the first mark, but there we half a dozen in contention from the outset and the race lead changed at virtually every mark of the gruelling 10-mile-long windward leeward course. It was only on the final beat into the line that Smith fully regained control to cross ahead of Denmark's Bo Johansen, with Japan's Y-Red Yanmar Racing Team helmed by Peter Gilmour third and reigning Dragon World and European Champion Wolf Waschkuhn of Switzerland fourth. Belgium's Xavier Vanneste took fifth by a whisker from Australia's Peter Cooke with Austria's Christoph Skolaut seventh and first Corinthian.

After sailing Xavier Vanneste was very happy with their performance, saying, "We were very happy with the result. It was very tricky until the last beat. I think we beat the Australians by just a half meter, so very tight sailing, and we're very happy with the result. It's early to look forwards, but the Gold Cup is a very special format as we know and a good first race is always a good way to start. We're confident and we're happy so we'll see what the next few days bring.".

As day broke, the Royal Torbay Yacht Club Race Committee, under the direction of Race Officer Stuart Childerly, were faced with a forecast for mainly light airs with the possibility that the wind would build for a period during the afternoon and clock round to the right. Ultimately it did exactly that, going from five to fifteen knots and through almost ninety degrees as the race wore on. Stuart and his team did a superb job of keeping on top of the shifts and moving the marks to ensure each of the legs was as true as possible.

Racing was delayed by nearly two hours to allow the wind to build, and when they did go afloat the fleet went out to the far edge of Torbay to minimise any land effect. In a light but building five to six knots racing got under way at 13:45 on a two-mile first beat with the weather marks at 080 degrees.

The fleet got away at the first time of asking, but Britain's Mark Dicker, Gavia Wilkinson-Cox and Tom Hill were all called over the line and had to return. Dicker and Hill struggled to recover, but Wilkinson-Cox was a woman on a mission and fought her way back up to nineteenth, no mean feat in a fleet of this quality.

After sailing she commented, "We didn't quite start the regatta as we intended. Starting a no discard series OCS and having to return to the line with the spinnaker up is not the best approach. However, from having begun in the last three and significantly behind the fleet, to subsequently finish nineteenth out of forty-nine amongst such hot competition is rewarding and credit to my tactician and crew. We're well pleased with our boat speed, we just need not to start on the "ladies' tee", to using a golfing analogy!".

Off the line the fleet was clearly undecided on whether left or right would pay, and by the midpoint of the beat they were spread across the entire racecourse, an ethereal sight in the grey sea mist. As it transpired right was right as the wind began to clock big time, and those who'd gone left, including Andy Beadworth and Graham Bailey, lost out massively.

By the second lap the wind was approaching double figures and the visibility was lifting. The mark layers were kept busy shifting every mark of the course, but the work paid off as by the final beat the sun was out, the wind was up to fifteen knots, and the fleet made a spectacular sight streaming into the finish.

After racing the crews gathered in the Regatta Village to enjoy après sailing drinks and snacks, before repairing to the bar to keep up with the Rugby World Cup. Many also took advantage of the Royal Torbay's excellent restaurant, which is serving delicious suppers each evening.

The Race Committee has advised the competitors to be ready to start on time at 12:00 for day two's race two. Five races remain to be sailed between now and the conclusion of the regatta on Friday 15 September and the results of all races count. Further information is available at the event website.

Provisional Results after Day 1: (top five, 1 race)

1st - Lawrie Smith, GBR815, Alfie - 1 = 1pt
2nd - Bo Johansen, DEN423, Deja vu ver, 2.0 - 2 = 2pts
3rd - Peter Gilmour, JPN56, YRed - 3 = 3pts
4th - Wolf Waschkuhn, SUI318, 1quick1 - 4 = 4pts
5th - Xavier Vanneste, BEL82, Herbie - 5 = 5pts

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