WORDS: ANDY PIDDEN | IMAGE: TAKUMI IMAGES PANDA MAN
If the past year hasn’t been crazy weird enough here is a recap of the second Dragon Class Champs of 2020, held from 20 to 22 November. (The first one was actually 2019’s which delayed to January 2020.)
Based out of Middle Island, the Dragon fleet was about to experience the best of NE monsoon sailing with a very light day, a heavy wind day and a perfect breeze day. The night before saw a weigh in (lots of heels on the ground and tip toes going on in the corner) and a briefing from Inge Strompf-Jepsen, our legendary Race Officer, “Lamma channel, L2, don’t be late!)
Day 1 saw a decent fleet setting out from the dock. 15 boats; most with their regular and battle hardened crews.
Straight off in Race 1, D1 scored a win and was sending a message to second place D55 that they were going to have to fight for it with D47 in third place – a combination that would change position but, as a three, remaining very consistent for the next couple of days.
Race 2 and 3 however saw D55 assert themselves with two firsts. D1 and D3 kept up the challenge and so there was a very French atmosphere about the leaderboard. Elfie, helmed by the irascible Joe Roels, otherwise known as ‘Scrooge’ for never giving any space at the start, was the more consistent though, settling into third place after Day 1. There was more action down the fleet with some ‘coming togethers’ and even a rafting up of three boats after the leeward gate as skippers compared tactics before realising there was still another circuit to do in the race.
End of Day 1 was Middle Island at its best with a peaceful beer on the dock… at least that was until a grumpy D41 arrived and started telling every one for miles around about his (now mashed) genoa. The naughty children huddled round the beer box on the pontoon trying not to notice the ‘polite’ reminder about floatation aids and life jackets left by the headmistress.
Day 2 arrived with cloud, rain and some better wind and it was foul weather gear and lots and lots of floatation aids for all.
Sailing out was exciting and the races were quickly underway in choppy seas and some surfing under spinnaker. D33 and D25 bravely appeared having been unable to sail on the Friday whilst a couple of others returned to base early. There are Dragon sailors who aren’t believers in helming from the rail, after all if God had meant for that to happen then Johan Anker wouldn’t have put a seat in the back!!
Up at the front there was no stopping D55 who put the series to bed with three bullets. At one point in Race 4 they were rounding marks that were being moved by the Cheoy Lee and ended up doing circles and 360s until they were dizzy. They were so dominant, they still won and went on to win the next two races as as well.
Individually, D47 with two seconds and D46 with one, kept some pressure. D12 was getting better and better with two third places and was going well until a snagged kite resulted in a MOB and a retirement. Other action was D51 who lost a spinnaker pole and D25 that had made such an effort to get to Middle Island for the champs. Taking on water in biblical amounts, both the pumps failed and the boat was getting lower by the minute. The buckets cracked but, given they are part of the cultured European Dragon Armada who are never knowingly caught at sea without Champagne, and fortunately had finished the bottle, they press ganged the Champagne bucket into action and saved the boat and the day.
In the stormy action, D50 and our beloved D8 showed masterful consistency in reeling off some great finishes whilst D37 was up four places, obviously enjoying the breeze.
It was a bedraggled, some-what bent, battered but unbowed fleet that retuned to Middle Island with many stories to be shared over the dock beer. Dragons are tough boats and their sailors are tough too. Note D50 happily raced with a mast sheered below deck.
The final day dawned gloriously with Hong Kong monsoon conditions at their finest. Blue skies, blue seas and a light to medium breeze. In fact it turned out to be a perfect day for larvae to hatch into Dragonflies as D59 starting reeling off podium finishes. In fact D58 and D1 joined in pushing D55 to an unusual 4th in Race 7. Some of the prior days’ casualties reappeared and D33 and D38 and D26 all making very welcome reappearances and enjoying some Champagne sailing. Whereas poor D37, having survived the strong winds previously, broke the mainsail halyard and had to retire and return mid way through the first race of the day.
When the spray settled D55 had waltzed the competition but D1 and D47 had traded places until the very end. D12, D59 and D58 were all in touching distance of each other. We were so grateful to Inge and the race team, the safety RIB crews for making us feel that we were not alone in the Southern ocean on Saturday and the Dragon class officials for organising everything. Plus the amazing sponsorship from CIGP (D40) , STC Pacific (D25) Aztron (D33) , Chiliconcept (D40) and personally from Nick Bilcliffe.
So there was a danger that the 2019 Class Champ would have a much-shortened year in the Champions jersey but it didn’t turn out to be much of a risk. Tam Nguyen and his crew have the Class Champs stitched up at the moment. Nevertheless motivation is very high to provide more competition at the front of the fleet and there are rumours that the third Class Champs is scheduled for 25 and 26 of December.