Dragons at the Squadron

Fiona Brown previews the Aberdeen Dragon Europeans

Friday June 2nd 2006, Author: Fiona Brown, Location: United Kingdom
Hot on the heels of last week's successful Edinburgh Cup the festival of Dragon sailing continues on the Solent with the Aberdeen Dragon European Championship, to be hosted by the Royal Yacht Squadron from Monday 5 to Friday 9 June. Teams from 13 nations have qualified to compete in this regatta and representatives from Australia, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Japan, Monaco, Portugal, Russia, Sweden and the Ukraine will be vying with the British crews for the prestigious Virginie Heriot Cup, which was initiated by the Yacht Club de France in 1946 in memory of Madame Virginie Heriot and in accordance with her expressed wish to encourage yachting.

The International Dragon is one of the most highly regarded keelboat classes in the world. Originally designed in 1929 the class rapidly spread and was adopted as an IYRU (now ISAF) International Class in the late 1930s. In 1948 the Dragon became an Olympic Class, a status it retained until the Munich/Kiel Olympics in 1972. Since then the Dragon has gone from strength to strength and today there are some 1500 Dragons racing regularly on the national and international regatta circuits which incorporate some of the most glamorous events in the yachting calendar.

The depth of talent at this year's event is impressive. Denmark's double Olympic Gold medallist and 1989 Dragon World Champion Poul-Richard Hoj-Jensen, fresh from his fourth Edinburgh Cup win, is keen to add a sixth European Dragon title to his haul. Fellow Danes Valdemar Bandolowski, also a double Olympic Gold medallist and 1987 Dragon World Champion, and Lars Hendriksen, who won the Europeans in 1990, are also strong contenders. Other overseas teams to watch include Sweden's Tom Lofstedt, who won last year's amazing Dragon Jubilee Regatta in St Tropez, Germany's Tommy Muller, Ireland's Simon Brien, France's Louis Urvois and Japan's Bocci Aoyama. Although relatively new to Dragon sailing the Russians have also put forward a strong team which includes Alexey Krylov who represented Russia in the Olympic 470 class, won the 2002 Snipe Worlds and came second in last week's Edinburgh Cup. Of the British Teams Len Jones, Rob Campbell, David Palmer, Gavia Wilkinson-Cox, Eric Williams and Julia Bailey will all be worth keeping and eye on.

The Aberdeen Dragon European Championship is sponsored by Aberdeen Asset Management. Aberdeen's generous support will help to ensure that the competitors enjoy both outstanding racing and a varied programme of social events culminating in the Closing Reception and Prize Giving on Friday evening when His Majesty King Constantine of the Hellenes, President of the International Dragon Association, will present the awards alongside Aberdeen Chief Executive Martin Gilbert.

In addition to the overall Aberdeen Dragon European Championship prizes this year sees the introduction of the Dubarry Team of the Day award. A confidential committee will assess the day's contenders – was it for a spectacular slip up or a skilful manoeuvre, will a bad day on the water end up as a good day at the prize giving? The winning team will each walk away with a pair of Dubarry of Ireland's Ultima leather sailing boots.

Registration opens at Cowes Yacht Haven, where the majority of competitors will be berthed, today, Friday 2nd June, and continues over the weekend. The Aberdeen Dragon European Championship Press Office is located at Cowes Yacht Haven and will open at 4pm on Sunday 4th June then daily from 9am until Friday 9th June. There will be a practise race on Sunday 4th June and Championship racing runs from Monday 5th to Friday 9th June with seven races scheduled.

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