Racing today took place in a shifty northerly wind that ranged from 12-18 knots giving the teams plenty to think about and lots of gears to change. With two of the six scheduled races now complete the top five places are separated by just five points with Ireland's Andrew Craig, sailing IRL192 Chimaera with Pedro Andrade and Brian Matthews, leading the regatta. At the day's prize giving the Aberdeen Asset Management spinnaker - the yellow jersey of the Edinburgh Cup - was ceremoniously handed over to Andrew and his crew to fly in tomorrow's races. IDA Chairman Rob Campbell, sailing GBR743 Quicksilver IV with John Torrance and Matt Walker lies in second place, with Len Jones, sailing GBR708 Rumours with Jamie Lea and Jeremy Jordan third. American Bill Hardesty, sailing GBR743 Gorgeous Worgeous with owner Quentin Strauss and Nigel Young, is lying fourth with fellow American Ted Sawyer, sailing USA310 Clairvoyant with Martin Payne and Will Willett, fifth.
Having won the South Western Championship warm up event held over the past three days, it was no surprise to see Dragon new boy Bill Hardesty shine in race one. An impressive start was followed by an equally impressive first beat and from there on in Hardesty simply stretched his lead demonstrating the skills that have helped him win numerous championships including the Etchells and Melges 24 Worlds. Although Hardesty broke free, behind him there was a battle royal at the front of the pack with Len Jones eventually taking second place from Julia Bailey, sailing GRB708 Aimee with Graham Bailey and David Heritage. Tim Tavinor, sailing GBR744 Biff with Nicola and Thomas Wilton crossed the line in fourth, Rob Campbell took fifth and Andrew Craig sixth.
Conditions for race two were the most challenging of the day as race winner Andrew Craig explained: "The second race was one of those very tricky races where the wind was moving a great deal. We started very well, got an early shift to cross the fleet and doubled back across the fleet and from then on played the left hand side. There was a lot of place changing on that first beat and we were fortunate enough just to stay ahead at the first mark of an enormous pack. In fact there was a bit of a pile up on the mark, which gave us a little bit more breathing space for down the run.
"The run was a good run, very square with plenty of gybing - the race officer set a magnificent course. The second beat again had a lot of wind shifts and different pressure across the race course and predominantly the left was paying, but some boats picked up wind on the right about a third of the way up and came back very close to us so we had some very tight crosses. Once we'd made those important crosses we were able to get into a control position and managed the fleet on the left hand side to give us a nice lead from Rob Campbell who we were sailing very close to all day.
"We had a very good run and then it was a matter of just playing the fleet and shepherding them home. It was a very tricky last beat as the race officer had laid the finish line nearer the harbour so it was probably 500m longer than the previous beat which made it interesting. Bill Hardesty had got into a nice position at the bottom of the last run but lost out on the right hand side of the racecourse. Gavia Wilkinson-Cox [sailing GBR716 Jerboa with Mark Hart and Mark Daly] went to the left and while Rob Campbell was covering another boat Gavia moved through into second and Rob had to double back to protect third. There was a lot of potential for place changing in the last 500m and a lot of place changing was going on. We were fortunate enough to be sufficiently far ahead to watch the interesting end to the race."
Today's testing conditions generated interesting battles throughout the fleet. Two of the top female Dragon helms are going head to head as of tonight with Julia Bailey currently sitting in 6th place just one point ahead of Gavia Wilkinson-Cox in 7th. The ladies sit 9 and 10 points behind the leader respectively and with both counting a top three result they will be hoping to move up the leader board tomorrow. Even the battle for last place was closely contested with Tim Bowles, crewed by Harry Martin and Tom Redgrave in GBR498 Tana, giving Falmouth Dragon Fleet Captain Peter Flutter, sailing GBR543 Quicksilver with Robert Hughes and Tom Crockard, a great run for their money and proving that you don't have to be at the front of the fleet to enjoy great racing.
International Dragon Association Chairman Rob Campbell is delighted with the way the event is going so far, commenting: "I think that the formula they have developed for this year is fantastic. Having two events one after the other with different formats - the first less formal with short course racing and the second a championship event with full length courses has worked really well. The race management has been superb and I must compliment PRO Jonathan Money and his outstanding team as everyone is really enjoying the racing. I'm also very pleased to see that the BDA is trialling an all-amateur division at this regatta for crews that meet ISAF Sailor Classification 1. This is something I'm very keen on and I will be interested to see how the class feels the trial works."
Racing continues tomorrow with two further races scheduled. Friday's schedule is for one championship race plus the traditional Edinburgh Cup crews' race followed on Friday evening by a gala dinner celebrating both the 2009 Edinburgh Cup, sponsored by Aberdeen Asset Management, and the 80th anniversary of the International Dragon Class. The regatta concludes on Saturday 11 July.
More photos on the following pages...
Full results here