Victory for Danish legend
Despite sailing with a brand new crew in a borrowed boat, Danish sailing legend Joergen Schonher, crewed by Tim Tavinor and Katie Cole, put in a stunningly consistent performance over three days of windy racing to win the 2010 UK East Coast Dragon Championship, hosted by the Medway Yacht Club in Kent from 29-31 May.
"Medway is a great place.... It's really a nice environment, its beautiful here, the people are really kind, so I've enjoyed it and we've had a lot of good wind here.....we are happy!" commented Schonher after racing.
The Dragon Class has been experiencing a steady revival in its UK fortunes over the past year, and the 26 strong fleet challenging for this year's East Coast Dragon Championship was further evidence that you really can't keep a good class down.
Giving Schonher a good run for his money throughout the regatta was British Dragon Association Chairman Patrick Gifford from Aldeburgh, crewed by Harry Pym and Andrew 'Balou' Pritchard-Bennett, who won three of the seven races and was hard on Schonher's heels throughout the regatta. After two days and six races in winds that were constantly force four to five the fleet went into the final day with Gifford trailing Schohner by just two points and Mark Wade, sailing with his wife Mandy Wade and Duncan Grindley seven points behind in third place.
Fortunately for the exhausted crews Monday brought more moderate winds of around 12-15 knots from the NNW and the Race Committee, led by PRO Richard Kingsnorth set a nine leg windward leeward course for the final showdown. Gifford and Schohner both got excellent starts with Gifford hard on the pin and Schonher just above mid line. Initially Gifford looked favoured but when the boats came together mid beat Schonher just had the advantage. As the race progressed Gifford struggled to get in phase with both the shifts and the complex current and while Schoner took on Medway's Rob Sheppard, sailing Esoteric with Simon Cash and Medway Class Captian Don McMillan, in an exciting battle for final race victory Gifford found himself fighting for ground among a very strong chasing pack. Ultimately Schonher took the race with Sheppard second and Len Jones, also from the Medway and crewed by Ian McMillan and Steve Hall, in third place. Wade crossed the line in fourth and immediately looked back over his shoulder to see how Gifford and his team were doing. Fortunately for Gifford he was only four boats behind, finishing the race in eighth place and just hanging onto second overall.Gifford's disappointment at missing out on the overall title was tempered by the news that he and his crew were to be the first ever recipients of the new East Coast Dragon Championship 'Corinthian' Trophy, a handsome Dragon half model kindly donated by Petticrows to be awarded annually to the top amateur helm and crew in this championship.
As always there was stiff competition throughout the fleet and one of the biggest battles of the weekend was between Burnham fleet members Mike Holmes, crewed by Alex Burnett and fifteen year old Matt Young, the youngest competitor in the regatta, and David Hall, crewed by Geoff Butcher and Julie Thomas-Page who led after the first days racing. Holmes got the regatta off to a great start winning the first race whilst Hall won the second. The two boats were rarely more than a few places apart throughout the regatta and going into the final day Hall led Holmes by just one point. The two boats were constantly trading places throughout the final race and crossed the line only seconds apart with Hall taking fifth and Holmes sixth. This left them tied on 29 points and it was only after some careful mathematics that Holmes emerged as the leader claiming fourth place on count-back with Hall fifth.
Full results here