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2019 Yanmar Dragon Gold Cup in Medemblik - Teams ready to race

by Fiona Brown 8 Jun 22:41 BST 8-14 June 2019
Teams ready to race for Yanmar Dragon Gold Cup © Fiona Brown

Gale force winds meant that the practise race for the Yanmar Dragon Gold Cup 2019 in Medemblik had to be cancelled and craning of the arriving boats suspended for a period. With winds regularly gusting to 40 knots and frequent heavy rain there was little the teams could do but complete their shoreside administration, secure their boats and head out to do some sightseeing or take advantage of the many wonderful restaurants the area has to offer.

With 96 Dragon teams to register, check measure, crew weigh, launch and moor up it's just as well that the superbly organised volunteers of the Royal Netherlands Yacht Club, the Royal Yacht Club Hollandia and the Dutch Dragon Fleet have so much experience of major regattas. From arrival at the registration desk until they received their registration completion gifts of Code | Zero crew polo shirts and hats and a crate of Dragon Gold Cup Special Ale courtesy of Lakeview Consultancy, the volunteers did a superb job.

Fortunately, the strong winds are expected to blow through overnight and the sun is due to return for the first race of the championship. The Race Committee has announced that it will delay the start of that first race from noon until 13.00 to allow extra time for the remaining boats to be launched.

The entire fleet will start as one throughout the week, there is no discard in the series and the windward leeward race courses are particularly long, meaning that conservative and consistent sailing are essential to success. Experience will clearly count for a lot and this Dragon fleet is certainly not short of that.

At 75 years young Poul Richard Hoj-Jensen is without doubt one of the world's most accomplished keelboat sailors. His Dragon experience takes him back to the class's Olympic years winning a Silver Medal for Denmark at the 1968 Mexico City games. After the Dragon was dropped from the Olympics he moved into the Soling and won Gold at both Montreal in 1976 and Moscow in 1980. He continued to race the Dragon though and is one of the most successful helms in the class's history. With five wins (1990, 1992, 1994, 1997 and 2008) he certainly has the most Dragon Gold Cup victories to his name. In his professional life Poul played a huge role in ensuring the Dragon Class retained its extraordinary heritage whilst encompassing leading edge technical development. He is now retired and sails purely for pleasure and would suggest to you that he is no longer competing at the top level. But no one in this fleet would ever discount the sailor they call simply "The Man", especially when racing at one of his favourite venues, where he won the 2009 Dragon World Championship.

Defending Gold Cup Champion Jørgen Schönherr, another Danish sailing legend, has won the trophy four times (2018, 2005, 2004 and 2003) and must surely have hopes of equaling Hoj-Jensen's record with another victory this year. A master of multiple classes including World Champion in the 505 (1990) and the Flying Dutchman (1999), he returns with his winning crew of Christian Videbeak and Theis Palm.

Also helming this week are three further Gold Cup Champions, Hugo Stenbeck of Switzerland (2016), Stephan Link of Germany (2017) and Russia's Anatoly Loginov (2010) who is also the reigning Dragon European Champion. And of course, there are plenty of sailors hungry to claim their first Gold Cup. Local hero Pieter Heerema has made the Gold Cup podium on three previous occasions, with silver medals last year and in 2014 and a bronze in 2013, so must surely feel it could be his turn this year. Scotsman Grant Gordon is relatively new to the fleet and has yet to win one of the big three trophies (the Gold Cup, World and European Championships), but he's fresh from victory at the Dragon European Cup event in Cascais and currently heads the International Ranking list so definitely counts among the favourites. 2017 Dragon European Champion Pedro Rebelo de Andrade of Portugal was runner up at the Gold Cup of the same year and is also currently in blistering form so is also hoping for a podium finish this week.

Tomorrow's first race has special significance as the winner receives the prestigious Börge Börresen Trophy. Börresen was himself a two-time Gold Cup winning helm in 1967 and 1985 and raced in the competition on no less than 51 consecutive occasions. He was also one of the class's most influential boat builders, building his first Dragon at the age of 16 in 1936 with his brother Albert. Over the ensuing 65 years he created some of the most successful Dragons ever launched. He also lead the Dragon into the fibreglass age, achieving what many thought impossible by creating GRP boats that raced on a level playing field with their wooden counterparts. He continued to race Dragons successfully for almost six decades, winning the 1993 World Championship crewing for Jesper Bank at the age of 74. Britain's Gavia Wilkinson-Cox won the Börge Börresen Trophy in 2008 and went on to finish second overall that year. "Winning any race at the Gold Cup is special, but to win race one and the Börge Börresen Trophy is a particular honour. It's always accompanied by a bottle of Scotch Whisky from the Clyde Yacht Clubs Association, who presented the Gold Cup in 1937!"

The forecast for the opening day of racing promises sunny skies and a south-westerly wind of 10 to 15 knots. The schedule calls for one race per day for the six days of the competition, although the race committee does have the option to race two races in a day if required.

Further information will be available at the event website.

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