Two bullets for the Baileys
The Edinburgh Cup, awarded to the winner of the Open British Dragon Championship, is one of the most prestigious and historic trophies in British yachting having been presented to the class by HRH The Duke of Edinburgh in 1949 and sailed for annually since. It is also notoriously difficult to win and the 45 strong fleet assembled in Cultra on Belfast Lough for this year's Edinburgh Cup, sponsored by Belfast Harbour, is considered to be one of the most competitive ever.
All the more remarkable then that today's opening two races were both won by the same boat in a bravura sailing performance which produced one relatively comfortable win followed by a last moment seat of the pants victory. Pundits in the class have been scratching their heads to remember the last time one boat won both opening Edinburgh Cup races and so far a comparable situation cannot be recalled. As if the achievement wasn't already impressive enough it should also be noted that the winning crew includes the youngest sailor in the fleet at just 11 years old. The boat that claimed those victories is Aimee of Cowes helmed by Julia Bailey with husband Graham Bailey, Dylan Potter and youngster Will Heritage crewing.
No one else came close to matching Julia Bailey's consistency and tonight its Monaco's Jens Rathsack, sailing Jeanie with Stefan Waak and Mario Wagner, who claims second overall with a 2, 6 score to count eight points, six behind Bailey. With an 8 in race one followed by a 3 in race two defending Edinburgh Cup Champion Martin Byrne sailing Jaguar with Pedro Andrade and Adam Winkleman lies third overall on 11 points and reigning Dragon World Champion Lawrie Smith, sailing Alfie with Ossie Stewart and Tim Tavinor is fourth on 13 points thanks to an 11, 2 score line.
Julia Bailey also leads the Corinthian Division for the all amateur crews with Owen Pay, sailing Seabird with Steve Richardson and Jon Mortimer, second and Patrick Gifford, sailing Nereid with Paul Springett and Andrew Vaughn, third.
Alongside the formal daily prizes awarded each evening there is also a very special draw to win a set of Sebago sailing shoes for your crew. Today's very popular Sebago prizewinners were Sunderland's Dave Atkinson, Michael Matthews and John Outhwaite of Blue Movie, who were delighted recipients of this fun award.
Two further races are scheduled for tomorrow and the six race series continues until Saturday with a single discard being applied after the fifth race has been sailed.
Race by Race
The fleet, whose crews represent some 11 different nations including Japan, Australia, Monaco, Portugal, Germany, Denmark, the UK and Ireland faced some extremely difficult conditions with light and shifty winds in both races. Race Officer Nigel Kerney and his team faced a tough day in the office as they shifted start lines and marks almost constantly trying to keep the courses fair. Initially the day was overcast with showers, but during the second race the sun came out and the North Down countryside was revealed proving that this truly is a stunningly beautiful place to sail and visit.
In race one Patrick Gifford led the fleet at the first mark with Bailey a reasonable distance back in second and the pack some lengths back again. By the leeward mark Bailey and the pack had closed the gap although Gifford still rounded a few seconds ahead with the two boats choosing opposite sides of the beat. Gifford did his best to hold everyone at bay for as long as he could but the onslaught eventually overwhelmed him and he finished the race in sixth. Meanwhile Bailey took the lead and despite various challenges defended confidently to the finish taking victory from Rathsack. Third place went to Kinsale's Cameron Good sailing Little Fella with Prof O'Connell and Henry Kingston while Simon Brien took fourth
The second race was an altogether different affair and initially things looked far from good for Bailey as she rounded the weather mark in 18th place. They'd had a reasonable start at the pin end and then got a nice left shift but couldn't tack on it as they couldn't cross the fleet. By the time they could tack they had over stood the mark and were forced to take a lot of sterns as they tried to find space in the packed starboard layline. They immediately gybe set whilst the rest of fleet headed right, taking each other up in the process, and with the benefit of the tide Bailey managed to lay the leeward mark in one gybe gaining a lot of places. Two more good legs saw them pull up into second behind race leader Smith.
Julia takes up the story of the final beat. "We went just behind Lawrie at the last bottom mark with one beat to go. We were quite happy second to Lawrie. We could see they were moving the finish line boat to the right and we weren't quite sure how far they would go so we went quite a long way. When it obviously became time that we should be tacking [for the line] we said to Lawrie 'Don't worry Lawrie, we'll follow you in if you want to go, but if we go now don't tack on us please.' but I'm not sure he heard that so we tacked and he tacked on us. We then tacked immediately off and just as we were going through the tack we got a 5 degree lift and by the time Lawrie came back at us he couldn't cross us and got stuck underneath and we just managed to hold him out." Crossing the line behind Bailey and Smith were Byrne, and Owen Pay.
Top Five After Two Races
1. GBR720 - Aimee - Julia Bailey - 1, 1 = 2
2. MON2 - Jeanie - Jens Rathsack - 2, 6 = 8
3. IRL210 - Jaguar - Martin Byrne - 8, 3 = 11
4. GBR763 - Alfie - Lawrie Smith - 11, 2 = 13
5. IRL204 - Seabird - Owen Pay - 10, 4 = 14