Thank you to the teams from Canewdon Witch & Aelous for their recount on the Dragon World Championships from June 2017:
Seven teams from RFBYC went to the Dragon Worlds in Cascais running from the 9th to 17th June. Two skippers (Saphira and Wizzardry) shipped their dragons and the rest of us chartered at the venue. Club Naval de Cascais were well organised and had run big regattas for various classes before so coped with the entry of 70 very well. Two large hardstanding areas and 2 cranes with people to operate them made sure that all boats were in the water before the first race day. They even had a Lamborghini tractor!! Berthing was either in the marina (where we were scattered around) or on the moorings in front of the Club. Cascais is a great town with lots of accommodation choices and eating places and the Club put on drinks and nibbles every evening after the racing. The Hendrichs gin bar was particularly popular!
We had all heard various reports of the likely weather in Cascais and were prepared for wind. However the wind combined with the sea state can be summed up in two words – challenging and brutal! All of us had a chance to do some sailing before the regatta and take part in the warm up regatta which was held on the outer course. This prepared us for what was to come! Attached are some photos (courtesy of Elena Razina who took some great photos) which sum up the conditions. The wind was not less than 18 knots and by the top mark was gusting over 28k on some days. It was the sea state that was ‘challenging’ – a long swell with short chops in between some of the swells. We all found this very difficult to sail through. And 70 dragons on the start line in those conditions was interesting. There were several broken masts and other damage during the course of the regatta. So, personally, I feel pretty good about finishing all races with only a small hole in the spinnaker on the last race. No boat or body damage! Just very tired.
The results from the team were not what we might have hoped for but the real aim of going was to encourage the Europeans (and others) to come to the next Worlds here in Jan 2019. I think we succeeded in that. Scoundrel (sailing Dragonfly) had a stunning end to the regatta with a 6th in the last race and Aeolus (sailing Pinta) had a 14th and 21st in two of the races.
I encourage you to look at Elena Razina’s facebook page where she has posted photo albums of each days racing – they are amazing!
Canewdon Witch AUS 223
Team Aeolus, skippered by Pete Bowman and crewed by Jennie Fitzhardinge and Jeremy Shellabear was part of a seven-team contingent representing RFBYC and Australia at the 2017 Dragon Worlds.
After a number of months of training under the guidance of club coaches, Grant Alderson, Lachy Gilmour and Sam Gilmour, Team Aeolus set off for Portugal with a goal of finishing in the top 35, which would have represented a 17-boat improvement on the last worlds in La Rochelle, France in 2015.
Cascais is a well-respected international sailing venue some 20kms from Lisbon. Two sailing courses were available to race management, an inshore course that proved un-sailable due to the 35-degree wind shifts across the course, and an off-shore course around three miles out to sea from the yacht club.
All races were sailed on the off-shore course which placed us in waters that on most days experienced winds in the range of 20-30 knots with a 1.5-2 metre swell…quite different to the tranquil Swan River!!
Seventy boats entered the 2017 Worlds, with Australia the sixth most represented country. Countries that were represented included Turkey, Russia, UAE, Great Britain, Netherlands, Portugal, Monaco, Germany, Spain, France, Sweden, Hungary, Denmark, Ireland, Switzerland, Belgium, Estonia, and Japan.
What was quite apparent from the early days of preparation before racing began in earnest was the proliferation of professionals within the fleet – that is sailors that earn a living from sailing or are paid by the boat owner to race. The fleet was littered with World Champions and Olympic athletes, so as you’d expect the standard was high, and the competition intense.
By example at one top mark rounding 40 boats cleared this mark within a two-minute period, giving some indication to the closeness of the racing throughout the fleet.
The preparation of the Team Aeolus crew was hindered somewhat with the breaking of a mast on day two of the warm-up regatta. Sailing downwind in a rolling sea and 20+ knots of breeze, and not letting the mast ram off is a bad idea…so two days out from the start of the Worlds we are into a mast re-build!
Over the course of the 6 days of racing we achieved a mixture of results – the outcome for us as one of the lighter crews often being determined by the wind strength. When it blew 25+ we struggled, when it was in the 15-18 knot range we were competitive.
Our heat placings were – 42, 14, 35, 56, 54, 39, DNF, 21 for a point score of 261 and 41st overall.
Perhaps the only major disappointment was race 7. We were well placed inside the top 35 boats, it was gusting up to 30 knots, and after a gybe we rolled the boat somewhat and lost Jennie over the side. Fortunately, she was picked up from the water by one of the passing crews, and after being transferred to a rib was returned to our yacht. We were all pretty wiped out by the experience so headed home with a retirement rather than a possible top 30 finish in that race – but that’s yacht racing!
That said it was a magic 10-days in Cascais, a Dragon Worlds is always a great place to renew old acquaintances and partake in some of the hottest class racing.
The Australian Team aka Freshy members did a great job promoting the next Worlds to be sailed off Fremantle in January 2019. Early indications are that we ought to receive entries from 30-40 international teams.
Mission accomplished – I would like to thank RFBYC for its financial support through the Travel Grant. A campaign such as this is in the order of $25k so every $$ helps. Also, a big thanks to the sailing coaches who helped prepare the Freshy team for this event.
In closing, I think in planning for any future campaigns at overseas venues we ought to thoroughly review the expected wind and in particular wave conditions. I’m sure that all the Freshy sailors would have benefited greatly in training for a couple of months off Fremantle rather than as we did on the Swan River.
Skipper – Team Aeolus