Come from behind victory for Tommy Mueller
The 2012 Brewin Dolphin Dragon Gold Cup was brought to a close with a final race as dramatic as any Shakespearean play. Going into the day Britain's Lawrie Smith led the fleet on 31 points, Russia's Dmitry Samokhin was second on 43 points and Germany's Tommy Mueller lay third on 51 points. With no discard allowed Smith's lead was far from unassailable and Samokhin clearly had him in his sights. Mueller knew that realistically his chances of victory were slim as not only would he have to sail his socks off, but the other two boats would both need to have bad races if he was to overtake them.
The tension and excitement as the sixty strong fleet, from sixteen nations and four continents, left the dock was palpable and the boats were accompanied down to the race area by a host of spectator boats crammed with supporters keen to watch the final battle. A sudden wind shift forced Alan Crosbie to abandon his first start attempt just a few seconds before the gun. Having adjusted the course the second start was a general recall and so Crosbie went to the Z-flag for his third attempt. This time the fleet got away, but with 8 boats identified as over the line; two of these went back and were given a 20% scoring penalty, but the other six failed to return and were scored OCS.
On the line Mueller had opted for the committee boat end while Smith and Samokhin came off the centre of the line together with Smith to weather. Up the first beat Mueller struck out for the favoured right side while Smith and Samokhin traded tacks up the centre left. The two boats were clearly locked in a battle for supremacy to the exclusion of all else and meanwhile Mueller was sailing a textbook beat to round the first mark in the lead with Hoj-Jensen second, Germany's Tanja Jacobsohn third and Cameron Good from Kinsale fourth.
As the leaders streamed off down the run all eyes turned to the middle of the fleet where Samokhin had got the better of Smith. They rounded the first mark in a bunch of boats in twenty-eighth and thirty-fifth respectively putting Mueller into the overall lead with Smith second and Samokhin third. The breeze dropped off in the second half of the first run making for some tricky sailing. As Mueller stretched out his lead Smith and Samokhin continued to battle it out and as a result they lost more places and rounded the first leeward mark overlapped with Smith thirty-fourth and Samokhin thirty-fifth.
On the second beat there was a massive 20 degree right shift and at the weather mark Mueller and Hoj-Jensen continued to lead with Russia's Evgeny Braslavetz now up into third and Chris Hunt of Cornwall fourth. Smith and Samokhin had made big gains and Samokhin came through in twenty-second with Smith alongside in twenty-third. Now all Smith needed was to gain another three places and the championship would be his.
The second run was to be the deciding point of the race. The race committee had signaled a change of course and the new leeward mark was a single port rounding buoy instead of the more usual gate. Smith and Samokhin were still trading gybes and both boats lost some ground on the leg. They came into the mark together with a big gaggle of boats with Smith leading but on the outside and Samokin in the middle of the bunch. As they rounded Samokhin got a slight advantage but they were only up to twenty-seventh and twenty-ninth places. Smith now needed to make up nine places on the last beat if he was to claim the title and with the breeze going even further right it didn't look hopeful as he kept to the centre of the course while Mueller, Hoj-Jensen, Braslavetz and the main pack went right.
Yet again Smith sailed a brilliant beat and made up an impressive number of places. On the line Mueller crossed with a huge lead, Hoj-Jensen took second, Braslavetz third and Good fourth. Mueller clearly felt that Smith had done enough to win and he peeled off back to harbour apparently happy with his race but resigned to second place. However, the race was far from over and everyone was carefully counting off boats as they came to the finish. Smith did his very best and claimed a number of places, but ultimately he just ran out of runway and finished in twenty-second place giving Mueller the Brewin Dolphin Dragon Gold Cup 2012 by a single point. Mueller was blissfully unaware of his victory until the media team motored up and confirmed that he had taken the trophy for the second time.
In the overall standings Tommy Mueller, Vicent Hoesch and Michael Lipp claimed the title with 52 points. Lawrie Smith, crewed by Tim Tavinor and Joost Houweling finished second with 53 points. Russia's Dimitry Samokhin, crewed by Andrey Kirilyuk and Aleksey Bushuev finished third on 62 points. Fourth place went to Portugal's Jose Matoso sailing with Gustavo Lima and Stephen Hellriegel and in fifth was London based Klaus Diederichs crewed by Andy Beadsworth and Jamie Lea.
At the prize giving Tommy Mueller paid tribute to his crew, known in the Dragon fleet as the Bavarian Dream Team, and to his wife for her wonderful support of their campaigning. For Tommy this was a second Gold Cup win, his first being in 2002, but for Hoesch it was an incredible sixth win, two of which had been as a helmsman.
In the Corinthian all-amateur division first prize went to Kinsale Yacht Club Commodore Cameron Good sailing with Simon Furney and Henry Kingston. Remy Arnaud and his crew of Herald Arnaud and Pascal Civel from France came second and in third was Graham Bailey of the Isle of Wight crewed by Julia Bailey, Dylan Potter and Will Heritage.
The Nations Cup, for the top performing three-boat national team went to Britain, represented by Poul Richard Hoj-Jensen, Lawrie Smith and Chris Hunt. The actual trophy was awarded to Hoj-Jensen as the leading British boat in the final race.
Also concluded today was the Irish Dragon Grand Slam competition incorporating the Northern Area Championship, the Edinburgh Cup, the Irish Nationals, the Irish South Coasts and this regatta. The winner of the 2012 Irish Grand Slam was Poul Richard Hoj-Jensen with Klaus Diederichs second, Martin Byrne third, Lawrie Smith fourth and Cameron Good fifth.
The 2013 Dragon Gold Cup will be held in Douarnenez, Brittany, France from 16-24 August.