Two bullets for Poul Richard Hoj-Jensen
The 33 strong fleet at the 2010 Dragon Edinburgh Cup, supported by Aberdeen Asset Management and hosted by the Royal Corinthian Yacht Club, Cowes, put on a fabulous show in stunning conditions as they completed the first two of their six race series for the British Open Dragon Championship. With hot sunshine, a good south westerly breeze of 10-17 knots and what Andrew 'Noddy' Norden, bowman for reigning Dragon World Champion Poul Richard Hoj-Jensen, described as "without doubt the strongest Edinburgh Cup fleet I've ever seen", it was unquestionably some of the best racing the Solent has witnessed in a long time.
It was cut and thrust at every single mark rounding but, although he had to fight very hard for it, ultimately it was five time Dragon Gold Cup and European Champion Poul Richard Hoj-Jensen, sailing GBR745 Danish Blue with Theis Palm and Andrew Norden, who rose to the top of the heap to claim the winner's laurels in both races. Hoj-Jensen's biggest challenger all day was Norway's Klaus Diederichs, sailing NOR282 Fever with Andy Beadsworth and Simon Fry, who lie second overall, four points behind Hoj-Jensen thanks to a second in race one and a fourth in race two.
British Olympians Lawrie Smith and Ossie Stewart, sailing this week with 505 World Champion Bill Masterman aboard GBR751 Alfie, proved that they still have what it takes and now lie in third place overall on 10 points with an eighth in race one and an impressive and hard won second in race two. Russia's Olga White, sailing RUS69 Murka 7 with Martin Leifelt and Vladimir Krutskikh, made sure the boys didn't have it all their own way and her 4, 7 score line puts her into fourth overall, one point behind Smith and two points ahead of fifth placed Jamie Lea, sailing GBR723 Gorgeous Worgeous with owner Quentin Strauss and Lars Wegener.
In the Corinthian Division for the all-amateur crews the Solent's Eric Williams, sailing GBR682 Ecstatic with Rory Paton and Joanna Richardson, is leading overall from Solent Fleet Captain Richard Cullen aboard GBR669 Supremacy, crewed by Alex Dobson and Matthew Hill, with Falmouth's Chris Hunt, crewed by Mark Dailey and Simon James sailing GBR741 Flawless, third.
One team who's day looked pretty good until they got ashore and checked the results was that of French National Champion Louis Urvois, sailing FRA365 Ar Prim with Gwen Chapalain and Jean S Ponce. Always a consistent performer Louis got his regatta off to a good start with a sixth in race one. In race two he looked great off the line and at the weather mark he led the fleet from Simon Brien, sailing IRL212 Kin with Stephen Milne and David Gomes; Owen Pay, sailing GBR653 Nijord with Dave Ross and John Mortimer; and Klaus Diederichs. Although Hoj-Jensen managed to sneak past him on the first run Urvois held off the rest of the fleet despite many challenges and crossed the finish line in second place to an ominous silence. Back ashore the results confirmed that they had been OCS so instead of lying in fifth place they now find themselves down in 20th and very much looking forward to the discard coming into play in after race four.
The Dragon fleet attracts lots of family sailors, many of who sail together such as husband and wife Graham and Julia Bailey and Mike and Monique Hayles and father and daughter Chris and Selina Dicker. Today's great family story however, was about rivalry not teamwork. Dave Ross, one of the top Solent Dragon crews, is sailing with Owen Pay aboard Nijord and his wife Sarah, a relative newcomer to the fleet, is crewing for Australian Olympian and America's Cup veteran Gordon Ingate aboard Whimsey. Until recently Dave has been pretty confident of having the upper hand when it comes to Dragon sailing, but today the tables were turned and Dave looked just a little bit dismayed to find himself chasing the missus round the course in the second race. Perhaps fortunately for marital harmony tonight Nijord lies in 16th overall and Whimsey lies in 19th, but with just six points separating them Dave and the Nijord crew will need to look to their laurels if they want to keep the upper hand.
Although the racing was thrilling to watch the day wasn't without its dramas. Prior to the start of Race 2 PRO Robert Lamb had warned the competitors that, in order to compensate for a strengthening tide, he intended to considerably increase the length of the spreader leg to ensure that the run would be square. With a beat of almost two miles it is difficult to see the windward mark from the start line and it wasn't until the boats were some way up the beat that many of them got a visual fix on it. Unfortunately for a number of boats on the left side of the course it turned out that their fix on was the spreader mark and the windward mark was in fact some 400m to the right. As a result they over stood and found them selves broad reaching in, loosing considerable ground in the process.
Not everyone made the same mistake and Hoj-Jensen was one of those who definitely knew where he was going, however, as he approached the port lay line he was pinned to leeward of Mike Hayles, sailing GBR717 Nereid with Monique Hayles and Richard Bailey. His attempts to persuade Hayles that they should tack sadly fell on deaf ears and so Hoj-Jensen was eventually forced to bear away to create space so that he could tack behind him. After racing Hayles must have been ruing his decision to ignore the advice as it he'd only tacked as Hoj-Jensen suggested he would very likely have been first round the windward mark.
With the forecast offering more sunshine and good winds, this time from the south, we look all set for another great day of racing tomorrow. The regatta continues until Saturday with a total of six races scheduled. In addition Friday afternoon will see the lunatics taking over the asylum in the Edinburgh Cup Crews Race, a traditional highlight of the regatta.
Overall Top Five After Two Races
1. GBR745 - Danish Blue - Poul Richard Hoj-Jensen
2. NOR272 - Fever - Klaus Diederichs
3. GBR751 - Alfie - Lawrie Smith
4. RUS69 - Murka 7 - Olga White
5. GBR723 - Gorgeous Worgeous - Jamie Lea
Full results here