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International Dragon Class Prince Philip Cup at Metung Yacht Club - Day 1

by Jeanette Severs 25 Jan 14:13 GMT 23-28 January 2024
Xanthos leads some of the pack around the windward gates - 2024 International Dragon Class Prince Philip Cup day 1 © Jeanette Severs

Tasmanian sailor, current Victorian Champion in the class, and multiple winner of the Prince Philip Cup, Nick Rogers and his team of Leigh Behrens and Lucas Upton, sailing Karabos IX, have established an early lead in the 2024 PPC.

Rogers finished second and first respectively in races one and two on day one, January 24. The Prince Philip Cup, also known as the Australasian Championship for the International Dragon class, is being contested on the waters of Lake King and hosted by Metung Yacht Club, in rural Victoria, Australia.

The Gippsland Lakes system was described as very akin to European waterways where Dragons race, by Matty Whitnall who has helmed two boats to a Prince Philip Cup and is contesting this regatta at the helm of Trio, the fastest wooden Dragon in the 2023 PPC.

It is the first time her owner Michael (Wally) Bartley has taken Trio out of the waters of Sydney Harbour to contest a championship, much less any race.

After a rough start to racing with the one-day invitational Ted Albert trophy three-race series on January 23 - see separate report - day one of the championship looked set to challenge with a strong northerly wind.

A fleet of 17 yachts set sail from the Metung marina for the racing course, to be held in Lake King, Metung. See the full list of competitors.

By the time the race course was set, the wind had switched around to a southerly, 150 degrees, running at 12 knots, and the course was set east-west at 1.1 nautical mile.

It was a good opportunity to stretch spinnakers on the windward-leeward leg. However, the wind dropped significantly in the first leg to the windward mark, and this made for a slow journey leeward.

The race officer, John Spencer, made the decision to shorten the course to 0.8 nm between the gates, to take effect after the last competitor turned at the leeward mark.

"If we didn't shorten the course length, the race day would've been unacceptably long," Spencer said after the day's racing ended.

"I made that decision because the wind had died."

However, the fickle wind increased in briskness, and the second leg windward-leeward was a little faster, benefiting the sails of British sailor, David Tabb, who's boat, Fascination, crossed the finish line first.

Tabb hired a local Dragon but brought his own sails from the United Kingdom. He also brought one of his competition crew with him, Laerke Norgaard, from Denmark. Jeremy Nolan, another British racing sailor, rounds out their crew.

Tabb dominated this race with a strong start and led the way, being first around each mark and first across the finish line, well clear of his opposition.

Places changed on each of the two legs windward-leeward. On the first windward turn, Fascination was followed by Wicked II, Liquidity, Imagination then Karabos IX.

There was a bit of shaking down on the leeward leg, with yachts strung along the course.

Western Australian yacht, Pennyfarthing, helmed by Stephen Locke and crewed by Brad Stout, Mark Cubitt and Wendy Thompson, caught a gust of wind on the leeward leg and moved up a few boat positions, from 12th to ninth. The retained this position for the remainder of the race.

The yacht Gordon, transported from Western Australia for this regatta, and sailed by Richard Lynn, Adam Brenz-Verca and Ethan Prieto-Low, used wind gusts to move from 11th to seventh position as she came around the windward mark the second time.

Rogers, Behrens and Upton on Karabos IX also used wind gusts to move from fifth position to second position on the second time around the windward gates. They held on strongly to this position for the remainder of the race.

Across the finish line, Fascination was followed by Karabos IX, also well clear of their opposition. Into third place sailed NSW boat Liquidity, helmed by Richard Franklin, with Clive Jones and Geoffrey Findlay as crew.

Two local boats followed them, in a bunch. Wicked II, helmed by Fred Haes, with Adrian France and Will Crooke as crew, was fourth. Imagination, with skipper Damien Daniel and crew of Dean Robson and Dean Smith, sailed into fifth place.

Gordon finished in sixth place. Bartley's wooden boat, Trio, sailed into seventh place, with Whitnall on the helm, and Peter Bevis as the third crew member.

The course for race two was retained at 150 degrees, set at 1nm, and with wind 10-12 knots. It made for fast sailing.

Karabos IX was first across the start line, clear of the remaining fleet huddled behind. It was a brisk leg to the windward mark, with yachts taking a broad reach to starboard or port.

At the windward gates, 20 minutes after the start, Gordon was first through the gates, closely followed by Karabos IX, then another Tasmanian yacht, Riga, sailed by Hugh Wardrop and crewed by Max Gluskie and Tim Vincent.

Approaching the leeward gates, it was neck and neck between Gordon and Karabos IX, with both going around their marks almost in time.

Karabos IX had the edge and retained it across the course to the windward mark for the second time. Karabos IX took the turn with Gordon hot on their stern.

After the pair was clear of the pack, there was a bit of rusty air between them, Karabos IX leading the way often by less than a half-boat length, with Riga only a few boat lengths behind.

When Gordon gybed, it was obvious the crew of Karabos IX was looking for and expecting it. A second gybe saw Karabos IX pull clear of Gordon.

Across the finish line, Karabos IX was first, followed a couple of boat lengths back by Gordon, with Riga sailing into third place. Trio was fourth.

At the end of day two, on the series table, Karabos IX is in first place on three points, ahead of Gordon on eight points, followed by Riga, on 11 points, then Trio, also on 11 points. Local boats, Wicked II and Imagination are respectively in fifth and sixth place, both also on 11 points.

Tabb, in Fascination which finished in 12th place in race two but is in seventh position on 13 points on the series table, said he would drop the race two result.

This in effect opens up the competition for day two. Race Officer John Spencer was optimistic the results of the championship would be known by the end of day two.

"The first three boats in the races today will be the first three boats at the end of the regatta," he said.

"I expect the result will be clear by the end of Friday [race day two]." He said the day of racing was exemplary. "The top level of Dragon competitors is in this competition," Spencer said.

"They all demonstrated good, clean racing today. If a rule infringement occurred, the competitor redeemed themselves, correcting it on the course."

Day two racing begins on Friday, January 26 (Australian Eastern Daylight Savings Time), with two races planned.

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