Russia takes the lead
Day four of the Brewin Dolphin Dragon Gold Cup threw the regatta wide open as overnight leader Tommy Mueller of Germany suffered his worst result of the series with a 27th and Isle of Wight based Graham Bailey won a second race with a crew that includes 11 year old Will Heritage - the youngest competitor ever to race at the Gold Cup. It was champagne sailing all the way with good winds, bright sunshine and extremely close competition as the sixty-strong fleet enjoyed race four of the six race, no discard series.
Once again the fleet was too eager on the first attempt to start and PRO Alan Crosbie and his team from Kinsale Yacht Club had to recall them. He brought out the Z-flag for the second attempt, which carries a 20% penalty for any boat over the line within the final minute, and this persuaded the teams to start cleanly. With winds from the west and ranging from 10-13 knots on the first beat right up to 18-20 knots on the final leg, lots of tricky shifts plus a considerable difference in the sea state across the course as the wind built there were dozens of variables for the crews to keep track of and lots of place changes on every leg.
For the second day running Bailey got a great start and then worked the shifts perfectly to lead at mark one from Dublin's Martin Byrne with Sweden's Jacob Wallenberg third followed by Denmark's Joergen Schoenherr, Brits Gavia Wilkinson-Cox and Lawrie Smith, Russia's Dmitry Samokhin, Simon Brien of Belfast, and Evgeny Braslavetz of the Ukraine. Overnight leader Tommy Mueller wasn't having a good day and rounded the first mark down in the mid 20s putting his overall lead in serious jeopardy.
Despite numerous challenges Bailey successfully defended his lead from this point forward but behind him it was anyone's game. At the first gate Wallenberg had moved up into second with Byrne third, Schoenherr fourth, Samokhin up to fifth and Smith sixth. The wind increased on the second beat and this time it was Samokhin who trailed Bailey around the top mark with Smith third, Schoenherr still fourth and Wallenberg now fifth.
On the final run the breeze dropped off to sub 10 knots and Smith managed to sneak past Samokin to round the gate just behind the Baileys, Samokin was a close third followed by Schoenherr, Wallenberg, Braslavetz , Matoso and Wilkinson-Cox. As they set up off the final beat the breeze began to pick up again increasing rapidly up to around 20 knots.
For the final beat the race committee signalled a change of course to the right and there was another big righty still to come. As the wind increased the waves on the more exposed left side of the course built rapidly leaving those on the right in flatter water, with a slight tidal advantage, some benefit from the wind bend off the cliffs and in the right place to take advantage of the incoming right-hander. Bailey gave a master class in covering a large fleet while everyone else vied for the remaining podium positions. On the line Bailey had a significant margin, Samokhin crossed in second with Matoso third, Braslavetz fourth and Smith fifth. Falmouth's Chris Hunt sailed an impressive final beat to pull up from twelfth to sixth. Despite trying pretty much every trick in the book Mueller was never able to recover from his disastrous start and he finished the race in 27th.
In the overall rankings Dmitry Samokhin's second place today takes him into a six-point lead with 23 points. Lawrie Smith, whose needs crutches to get around ashore thanks to the knee injury he sustained on day one but fortunately is still able to cope in the boat, now lies in second place with 29 points. Ferenc Kis-Szölgyémi, who came to Kinsale fresh from victory at the Hungarian Dragon National Championship on Lake Balaton, is three points behind Smith on 32 points and Tommy Mueller is now lying fourth on 35 points. Bailey's second win moved him up the board from 16th to tenth place and into contention for a podium finish. The entire top ten are only separated by 27 points and in a fleet of this size and exceptional quality, with no discards and two more races still to be sailed there is still plenty of room for suprises.
The Corinthian Division, for the all-amateur crews, is calculated as an entirely separate series and whilst Bailey is now the top ranked Corinthian in the overall standings, in the Corinthian Division he lies in second place, four points behind Kinsale's Cameron Good and six points ahead of Germany's Reemt Reemtsma.
Another features of the Dragon Gold Cup is the Nations Cup competition, a team competition open to any nation fielding three or more competitors. Each national team is decided following the first day of racing with their top three finishers of that day being eligible. Great Britain, represented by Lawrie Smith, Poul-Richard Hoj-Jensen and Chris Hunt, now lead the Nations Cup with 145 points. In second place is the Russian team comprising Dmitry Samokhin, Anatoly Loginov and Alexander Ezhkov, on 149 points. The German team of Tommy Mueller, Stephan Link and Philip Dohse is third on 191 points, and Ireland, represented by Martin Byrne, Cameron Good and Gary Treacy, are in fourth with 262 points.
The weather forecast is for strong winds again tomorrow so we can expect another exciting day off the Old Head of Kinsale. The competition continues until Friday 14 September.