Many Dragon owners will have experienced the joys of sailing on the River Crouch when visiting Petticrows and trying out your new or not so new Dragon. It’s tight, quirky, muddy and unpredictable. You can do as many tacks in a single race as in a whole open water championship to try to cheat the tide and gain tactical advantage. But it’s very good training, and handling skills can be much more important than just how new or fast your boat is. It’s also a great place to bring your older sails into use, all that tacking certainly tests the quality provided by your sailmaker!
Dragons have been raced on the River Crouch at the Corinthian since the late Thirties; it’s quite remarkable how the class has survived on this river estuary when so much has changed in the world of sailing. One can only surmise that it has found its ecological niche in the conditions enjoyed in this corner of England and that the Darwinian pressures of sailing evolution have strengthened the Dragon!
The RCYC knows how to lay on a superb regatta, local members are as keen on having a great social time as the tough competitive racing. Jørgen Schönherr who came over from Denmark to defend his title of East Coast Champion, so admirably won last year across the Thames in the River Medway (another fantastic event organised by the Medway YC Dragon Fleet), said that he was mightily impressed with the quality of racing provided by the local fleet. It is, he said, an inspiration and example to Dragon owners of how to organise good, fun local fleet racing and provides a new perspective on sailing between major international events.
Our racing over the long weekend was run by Edwin Buckley and Kim Allen and their extremely efficient team of helpers. Three tight races were knocked out on the Saturday in a blustery south westerly. The course took us around or over (for the more adventurous) Branklet Spit. Visitors coped with the shallows very well – possibly the only grounding in the mouth of the Roach was a local sailor who had to get out and push.
After three races, we were grateful that the race team sent us back to the club for a welcome drink and snack. That evening, one of the funniest singing acts in East Anglia, Plein de Haricot, was invited to entertain us all. The duo, Craig Paice and Penny Clarke, who sung and played various instruments including the guitar and ukulele (plus the less conventional saw, bucket and comb), demanded serious audience participation and by the end of the evening all inhibitions were gone!
So on to Sunday morning - blowing the proverbial old boots! We got one race in but when the anemometer showed a steady 30 knots we were sent home for Sunday lunch and brisk walks along the sea wall. The RCYC Dragon Fleet enjoys a bit of formality so that evening, it was on with best bib and tucker for dinner in the glorious dining room.
Entertainment was provided with sailing facts and stories from Tim Wilkes, the BDA Secretary, BDA chairman Patrick Gifford (who has been sailing Dragons for over 50 years even though he’s only 48ish) and Gordon Ingate who came from Sydney Australia with Whimsey for this event (and a few others).
Gordon, whose age I won’t reveal in deference, has sailed in the America’s Cup and the Admiral’s Cup. He also had a great story about the original Endeavour as sailed by Captain Cook; Gordon identified the actual location where she was build in Whitby, Yorkshire and also advised NASA that the piece of wood that was taken into space by the shuttle Endeavour, allegedly from Cook’s ship was in fact from another old ship. Never mind, it was a nice idea. Gordon had met Sir Thomas Sopwith who challenged for the America’s Cup with the J class Endeavour in 1934, and it was his finding out that most of the crew were members of the Royal Corinthian, that reminded him of the story.
Back to the event - four races were packed into the final day, race management thus achieving their objective of a complete series. Jørgen, sailing Biff with Tim Tavinor and, wonderfully, Katie Cole in her come back from illness debut, won four races overall and got the championship on a rather decisive 12 points.
Other races were won by second placed Medway visitor Len Jones in Rumours, 3rd placed local Ian Gray in Scorpio, Rob Campbell in Beauty and the Beast and Martin Makey in Ganador. The Aberdeen Asset Management East Coast Championship was a great event for the 17 entries and many thanks to all the sponsors, the RCYC and organisers Mark and Mandy Wade and their team of helpers.
Full results are available here...
Continue with Michael Holmes' Racing Report here...