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A natural fit: Henri-Lloyd's support of the Dragon Gold Cup

by Mark Jardine 21 Jul 16:00 BST
Hans Eckerström and his team training ahead of the Dragon Gold Cup © Mikael Britschgi

The Dragon Gold Cup is an event steeped in history, presented by members of the Clyde Yacht's Conference in 1937 and won by Sweden's Rolf Billner that same year. It is one of the most prestigious trophies in yachting and this year is being hosted at the stunning location of Marstrand, Sweden in August.

Henri-Lloyd's association and sponsorship of the event and class is a natural fit. Marstrand is the home port of Chairman Hans Eckerström, and the Dragon's timeless, elegant design, coupled with the latest technology, mirrors that of the marine clothing brand.

A regular sailor in many small keelboat classes, Hans wasn't going to let an opportunity such as the Gold Cup being hosted in Sweden pass him by, and as with so many of his projects, he has immersed himself fully in the class, buying a Dragon and naturally calling her Maverick, as all his yachts are named.

I spoke to Hans to find out more about the event, the sponsorship, and his sailing so far in the class:

"I'm a rookie in the class, having bought a second-hand boat last summer as I saw that the interest here in Marstrand was picking up and I thought it would be a fun complement to the other boats that I sail. The Gold Cup is a special event with only one race per day, with quite long races. It's going to be exciting!"

Hans is used to the J70s, with short, sharp races on much tighter courses, but is relishing the challenge:

"I am sailing both the J70 and Dragon in parallel, and while they are quite different, they are equally challenging in different ways and I'm quite surprised as to how physical the Dragon is. If you really want to push it, you need to be quite fit and work hard. Also, with no toe-straps you need to hike out in quite an exciting way."

Hans is very aware of the history of the class and believes this is an important part of the Dragon's enduring appeal:

"The Dragon was designed by a Norwegian yacht designer Johan Anker in a competition run by the Royal Gothenburg Yacht Club in 1927 which had the aim of producing a less expensive boat for younger people than the metre classes which were predominantly raced at the time. With this heritage I'm hoping there will be some Swedish sailors who are competing at the very top of the fleet in Marstrand; as there are some crews practicing hard it will be interesting to see how well they perform at the event."

Naturally, Hans is excited on both a personal and professional level as the event date comes closer on the horizon:

"Having the Dragon Gold Cup here in Marstrand resonates with the ambition we have with Henri-Lloyd, to promote sailing in different shapes and forms. It is going to be fun to show the world Marstrand at its best; our fingers are crossed for sunshine and good winds! Normally in August it is very nice weather so I'm looking forward to it. We also have the Swedish Championship just two weeks beforehand, so we're hoping for a big line-up of international boats competing as well as a tune-up regatta ahead of the main event. We will give every competitor the warmest Swedish welcome."

Recently Henri-Lloyd have released items from their range in exclusive new colour combinations, which has appealed to those teams looks for a particular style. Henri-Lloyd's sponsorship of the Dragon Gold Cup gives teams the opportunity to purchase event clothing for both on and off the water:

"Henri-Lloyd have produced a line of branded clothing specifically for the event, including the iconic Consort and Consort 2 jackets. We've had a number of teams buying kit, in the Dragon class as well as many other classes, and I think it's picking up nicely. The new colourways are a great way of providing a distinct look for your crew."

Sustainability is at the core of everything that Henri-Lloyd does, from sourcing sustainable and environmentally-friendly materials, using recycled materials and, new for 2021, the REPAIR-REWEAR service, bringing the philosophy of never throwing away a quality product to technical marine clothing. The Dragon Gold Cup organisers are also embracing this philosophy, with the approach of minimising the impact the event.

Marstrand is a natural amphitheatre for sailing with beautiful open sea conditions just outside the harbour, providing the perfect setting to show the Dragon class and Henri-Lloyd technical clothing in their natural element:

"It is a genuinely nice environment here with the old, historic town from the 17th century and then the long, rolling waves just outside the harbour. I think it will be very interesting with the long courses out to sea; judging the current as well will be important."

The Swedes are renowned for their hospitality, and Marstrand will be welcoming to all the visiting sailors from around the world:

"I think there will be a lot of energy at the event with so many people coming out of Covid lockdowns, hungry to get back out on the water in top-level competition. Hopefully, we will see more than 100 boats on the start line which will be an impressive sight. Also, in the harbour seeing these stunning boats next to each other on the docks will be spectacular. Marstrand is fantastic town for social activities, and I know that the organising committee has a lot of plans in place. I'm very much looking forward to showing Sweden at its best!"

You can find out more about the event at goldcup21.com and view the Henri-Lloyd Dragon Gold Cup 2021 Collection at www.henrilloyd.com/dragongoldcup2021

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