Palmer clear ahead

Fiona Brown reports from day one of the Dragon Edinburgh Cup

Wednesday July 4th 2007, Author: Fiona Brown, Location: United Kingdom
The 2007 International Dragon Edinburgh Cup, the class's British National Championship, hosted by Yacht Clubs of Weymouth, got underway today with 24 boats from the UK, Ireland and Belgium competing. Last night the competitors were welcomed to the town by the Mayor of Weymouth & Portland, David Harris, and Melita Biggs, Commodore of Weymouth Sailing Club, and enjoyed a lively welcome drinks reception and BBQ hosted by Weymouth Sailing Club. Today, despite blustery conditions which saw the wind shifting from 250 to 285 degrees and ranging from 15 to over 30 knots they completed two great windward leeward races out in Weymouth Bay.

Knowing that stronger winds were forecast for later in the day PRO Derek Abbott got proceedings underway promptly at 1030 and the fleet played their part with a nice clear start in around 17 knots. Simon Wynn, the oldest and perhaps the wiliest of the helmsmen out on the race course, got by far the best start of the day and was highly commended by the committee boat team.

A big shift on the first beat meant that those who'd hit the left corner over stood and at the weather mark Mike Holmes, sailing GBR684 with Adam Cowley and Alex Burnett, led the fleet from Eric Williams, sailing GBR682 with Duncan Grindley and Rory Patton. Andrew Craig, sailing IRL192 with Don O'Dowd and Aidan O'Connell, rounded third while inside them Quentin Strauss, sailing GBR723 with Nigel Young and Rachael Rhodes, tried to barge in from the port layline. Unfortunately there just wasn't room for them and by the time their done their penalty they'd dropped three places. David Palmer, sailing GBR700 with Mark Pettit and Kasper Harsberg, rounded fifth.

As the breeze built and the swell came up Michael Holmes just wasn't quite able to hang onto his lead and at the second weather mark it was Eric Williams from David Palmer with Holmes third. Neil Hegarty sailing IRL176 with Peter Bowring and David Williams had moved into fourth and Andrew Craig dropped to fifth. By now Palmer and his team had the bit between their teeth and they sailed a stunning final lap to take the race with Williams second, Holmes third and Hegarty fourth.

A couple of line squalls with gusts over 30 knots came through between races causing a short delay and the Race Committee was forced to abandon it's first attempt to start race two when the wind went left some 15 degrees during the pre-start sequence.

Fortunately within a few minutes it had settled again and the race was underway with another clean start. Again left of centre paid and David Palmer rounded the weather mark neck and neck with Paul Woodman, sailing GBR719 with Malcolm Ford and Barry Dunning, closely followed by Neil Hegarty then Len Jones, sailing GBR708 with Jamie Lea and Philip Catmur, Michael Holmes round fifth and Eric Williams sixth.

The wind strength and direction changed constantly as the squalls came through and the seas became quite confused with a short chop on top of a rolling swell making it a tough race with lots of place changing. The wind dropped off briefly on the run but as the boats came up the second beat it began to build again and as they approached the second weather mark it was gusting towards 30 knots again. The Race Committee wisely decided to shorten course and just had time to set up the finish line where Len Jones took the gun followed in by David Palmer. Owen Pay, sailing GBR653 with Nick Wood and Mike Gagg, sailed a lovely final lap to move up into third with Eric Williams fourth and Paul Woodman fifth.

In the overall standings David Palmer now leads on three points with Len Jones and Neil Hegarty sharing 10 points in second and Eric Williams fourth on 11 points. There is also a tie for fifth place with Tim Tavinor, sailing GBR729 with Paul Manning and Tom Harrison, and Ireland's Andrew Craig both on 13 points.

Each day during the Edinburgh Cup the Dubarry Daily award will be presented to a crew for 'special achievement' and today Gitaine's crew were felt to be very worthy winners. This is a family crew led by parents Peter and Helen Stokes who originally planned to sail four up with their daughter Victoria and son Nick. Unfortunately Victoria broke a RIB in the run up to the regatta and they are now sailing three up making them the lightest crew in the regatta. Despite this and the fact that their's is the oldest boat in the competition they coped admirably in today's strong weather. Sadly luck was not on their side and in the middle of the second race their mainsheet system broke and they were forced to retire. Back ashore Peter was sporting a lovely bruise on his cheek which Helen insists was caused by the breaking mainsheet and not a result of a mid-race marital dispute!

Tomorrow one more championship race is planned together with the traditional

Edinburgh Cup Crew's Race where the lunatics get to take over the asylum for an afternoon! The forecast is for more strong winds so tonight the crews are enjoying a well deserved evening off to prepare them for the next battle. The regatta runs until Saturday 7 July with six championship races scheduled.

Top Ten Provisional Results After Two Races

1. David Palmer 1, 2 - 3 points
2. Len Jones 9, 1 - 10 points
3. Neil Hegarty 4, 6 - 10 points
4. Eric Williams 2, 9 - 11 points
5. Tim Tavinor 5, 8 - 13 points
6. Andrew Craig 6, 7 - 13 points
7. Michael Holmes 3, 11 - 14 points
8. Owen Pay 12, 3 - 15 points
9. Ivan Bradbury 14, 4 - 18 points
10. Paul Woodman 13, 5 - 18 points

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