Daring and Dragon Bootcamp
The objective of the weekend was to introduce as many 'wannabe new keelboat helms and crews' as possible to the joys of the Cowes keelboat scene and the organisers were delighted with the interest the event generated. The participants ranged in age from 15 to over 50 and included five wonderfully enthusiastic sea cadets as well as several potential new owners. Most had some previous keelboat or dinghy racing experience, a couple had raced Dragons in the past but wanted a "refresher course" to reintroduce them to the fleet and a few were keen beginners with only limited racing experience.
Eight Dragons and six Darings took part, each manned by their owner and at east one experienced crew who were able to take newcomers out on the Solent. The Darings offered the visitors an opportunity to race with them in the standard weekend Cowes keelboat races and eight of the participants took up this invitation. Meanwhile the Dragons set up a series of informal training exercises on Saturday followed by three short course races on Sunday allowing 22 'boatcampers' the chance to try different roles in the boat, sail with different crews and generally have fun while learning all about Dragon sailing. Thanks to the generous support of Marlin RIBs quick transfers between the boat and dock were possible and everyone spent the maximum possible time sailing.
Despite the blustery conditions both the regulars and the newcomers all had a whale of a time and one lucky 'boatcamper' was delighted to find himself on the winning Daring which certainly made his experience all the more exciting.
In addition to the boats out sailing there was also a Dragon and a Daring moored on the Trinity Landing giving those awaiting their turn afloat a chance to look over the boats in detail and speak with the Cowes keelboat regulars about how to get further involved. The moored boats were dressed overall and attracted a lot of attention from other passers by keen to find out more about these beautiful boats.
To ensure that the participants got a truly comprehensive picture of the Cowes keelboat scene all were invited to join the Cowes Keelboat Fleets' Nearly Midsummer Night's party which was hosted by the Solent Dragon Fleet at the Royal Corinthian Yacht Club on Saturday night. Here the Daring and Dragon sailors were joined by the Etchells crews, fresh back from competing in their British National Championship, and a great time was had by all. Everyone agreed that this new social initiative was a fantastic way of drawing the classes together and plans are now afoot for this to become a regular event.
By Sunday afternoon 30 happy but exhausted 'boatcampers' had been put to the test in a range of conditions and all came home with big grins on their faces and vying to come back and sail with the fleets again as soon as possible.
"We're delighted with how the weekend went. It's introduced a whole new group of sailors to the Dragon and Daring fleets and there were some excellent crews amongst the participants who I know will be quickly snatched up. It was also heartening to find several potential new owners taking part and we'll be working with them in the coming weeks to find them boats and get them out racing. On behalf of both the Dragon and Daring fleets I'd like to thank the Royal London Yacht Club, Marlin RIBs, Race Officer Richard Palmer, the Royal Corinthian Yacht Club, the boat owners and their crews and all the volunteers who helped make the event possible. We'll certainly be looking to repeat the event again next year." commented International Dragon Solent Fleet Captain Gavia Wilkinson-Cox.