Dragon 90th Anniversary Regatta - Day 1
The weather gods provided wonderful warm sunshine for the 162 strong fleet from 26 nations on the opening day of the Dragon 90th Anniversary Regatta powered by Paul & Shark at the Yacht Club Sanremo, but unfortunately it was accompanied by strong and very shifty winds which created a nasty chop. Principal Race Officer Nino Shmueli held the fleets ashore and sent his teams out regularly to assess the situation, but by mid-afternoon it became clear that the wind would not settle sufficiently to lay a course and racing was abandoned for the day.
Whilst naturally frustrated not to race, the International Dragon teams, who have travelled from around the world to be here, took the opportunity to enjoy the Yacht Club Sanremo’s wonderful hospitality and each other’s company, to make new friends and to share their passion for the incredible Dragon.
One team which was formed specially for the 90th Anniversary Regatta and has travelled from across North America to be here is that of USA325 Mars, helmed by Clint Webb from Tennesse and crewed by Paul Laos from Pennsylvania and Gordon Stephens from Florida. Gordon Stephens explained how the crew came together saying; "I’ve raced with Paul’s father for over forty years in the Dragons, unfortunately he passed away a few years ago and we decided to carry on the tradition. Paul called me in January and said Dad would want us to do this regatta and we pulled it all together and here we are." Paul picks up the story saying; "I remember sailing the 75th, I’ve sailed numerous times in the Med, we always had a spectacular time, but we never sailed in Sanremo so we wanted to give it a try, especially as the 90th Anniversary is a great excuse to do so. I’ve been sailing Dragons for over thirty years, what’s really amazing is all the different ages of the crews and skippers… the boats are so spectacular, they can endure quite a bit of breeze very easily. The class has been very successful over the years."
All the way from Asia comes Lowell Chang who has been hugely influential in the success of the Hong Kong Dragon Class. Lowell and his wife Phyllis moved to Hong Kong as newlyweds in 1971 and began sailing in one of the old pre-war Dragons that formed the fleet at the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club. In 1983 Lowell went to the Worlds in Vancouver and saw modern GRP Dragons for the first time. He came home and set up his old Dragon with as many of the new ideas as he could and as a result won the 150 boat Hong Kong Round the Island Race overall. Suddenly all the Hong Kong Dragon sailors wanted better boats. One thing led to another and before long Lowell was shipping a set of Dragon moulds to Hong Kong to commence production. The new boats were an immediate success and the Hong Kong fleet has gone from strength to strength ever since. For Lowell and Phyllis, their love affair with the Dragon continues to this day. "The reason why we are here is because I won’t miss it! I want to support the Dragon Class. I’ve been sailing the Dragon since the early 70’s and we love the camaraderie of the class. The Hong Kong class is still growing with new boats coming in, so we love being here. There’s a lot of competition of course and a lot of sportsmanship being shown." Explained Lowell.
Vilmos Naray heads up a four-boat team who have driven over 1000km from Hungary’s Lake Balaton to be here. "We have just completed the Hungarian Championship last week and four of us decided to come to Sanremo. We came to enjoy racing with a lot of Dragons at this one-time occasion. It’s wonderful to sail in such an elite fleet with sailors from all around the World. We very much enjoy being here and what we’ve seen until now is a very nice organisation and programme, and even though we’ve had no sailing yet we’re enjoying it very much."
Andy Beadsworth, British Olympian, America’s Cup veteran and reigning Dragon World Champion, was disappointed not to race but understood the race committee’s decision and was loving the shoreside ambiance. "It’s fantastic to be here in Sanremo at this time of year. It’s one of my favourite venues of the past couple of years, and with 160+ boats it’s an amazing spectacle. It’s a bit like an old school reunion to see everybody. The social has been good fun in the evenings and it’s just a great event for the class. There are some great sailors here and we’re really looking forward to a great regatta."
The daytime socialising slid neatly into a wonderful sunset party hosted by the St Petersburg Yacht Club and Friends. Vodka, caviar and blinis were served to some 600 Dragonists and their gusts as a live jazz band entertained. Speaking on behalf of the St Petersburg Yacht Club, Tatiana Kurbitova explained; "Hospitality for one’s friends is hugely important in Russian culture. There is great friendship between the members of the St Petersburg Yacht Club, the Yacht Club Sanremo and all the Dragon sailors of the world, so we are delighted to host this wonderful party to help celebrate our beloved Dragon’s 90th Birthday."
Fortunately, the forecast for day two of the regatta is looking much more promising with light to moderate southerly winds and clear blue skies and a planned first start time of 11.30am. Every effort will be made to sail as many of the four planned qualifying races as possible in preparation of the fleet splits to Gold and Silver at the end of tomorrow’s races.