SUE PELLING'S DOCKSIDE STORIES DAY 5
03 May, 2008
New Dragon fleet proves great success in Antigua
The introduction of the International Dragon Class at Stanford Antigua Sailing Week is proving a great success thanks to Carlo Falcone and Poul-Richard Hoj-Jensen who are responsible for making it all happen. There are eight boats on the water this week and racing has been exceptionally close.
Falcone, who represented Antigua at the Barcelona Olympics in the Star class and who races Mariella, an 80ft Alfred Milne design built by Fife in 1939, provided the financial backing for this new initiative by purchasing nine of the initial 10-boat fleet.
Interestingly, despite Falcone's long association with racing including a regular competitor and winner at Antigua Sailing Week aboard his other yacht – a Carlos Vallicelli 44 Caccia alla Volpe – Falcone said he’d never sailed a Dragon before he a bought a fleet of them. “ The initial fleet of brand-new, identically branded Petticrow Dragons (named after some of 365 beaches on Antigua) were shipped out from the UK to Antigua last Autumn arriving at their base at Harmony Hall's newly-formed yacht club a few weeks later.
Harmony Hall - a relatively small exclusive hotel and acclaimed restaurant - purchased by Falcone last year - is situated in a fairly remote but stunningly beautiful, unspoilt part of the island on the east side at Nonsuch Bay. The new yacht club which was formed last year by a group of Falcone's great friends including Dennis Conner, Russell Coutts, Hoj-Jensen, Shannon Falcone (Carlo's son), Torben Grael and Mike Toppa will, not surprisingly be highly exclusive, but Falcone's aim is to raise the level of racing in Antigua and to make the boats available by running regattas for the founder members and invited guests.
The sailing area at the home base is spectacular with racing able to take place just off the club in Nonsuch Bay. The bay, sheltered by a reef, provides all year round racing in flat, crystal blue water with enough space for at least a mile beat.
Hoj-Jensen - Petticrow's CEO, HHYC founder member is however, very keen to ensure that the Dragon club is opened up further to encourage not only racing on a regular basis but to offer the boats for charter for events such as this week’s Antigua Sailing Week. Commenting, Hoj-Jensen said:
"It has been so successful and those who’ve chartered the boats have really enjoyed it. This time next year we should 20 boats out here. The other idea is to have a Caribbean championship where we invite their best sailors from each Caribbean island and run a champion of champions race. But one of the biggest Harmony Hall YC's events we're working on right now is an 80-boat Dragon regatta in 2010.
Local dentist jumps ship
Visitors to Stanford Antigua Sailing Week may remember Bernie Evan Wong and his local Antiguan team for their many great class wins aboard Huey Too a 40-year-old-Cal 40. Last year they even won their class at the Heineken Regatta and took an overall event win.
This year they’re back racing at Stanford Antigua Sailing Week but have jumped ship – to a Mumm 36. Wong, who owns and skippers High Tension says he’s raced all but one Sailing Weeks for the last 20 years but this week was one of the most difficult he’s ever competed in. “The Mumm is a fantastic boat but this is only our seventh regatta and she’s on a different level to Huey Too. Although we didn’t get a brilliant result this time we are very pleased with the progress this week. It’s a very complex boat and has lots of adjustments and lots of things to play with which makes a big difference to the performance.”
Wong is a member of Jolly Harbour Yacht Club where he races on a fairly regular basis or when he finds time away from his busy dental career. Wong, who trained in Manchester in England, is one of only 20 dentists on the island and says sometimes it’s difficult to get away: “My surgery is just on the outskirts of St Johns, but because of the small population we do everything including implants and orthodontics. I Work five days so generally race at the weekends.”
Racing this week in Division A Racing IV Team High Tension have suffered a little in the light airs. Today was a little better than yesterday reaching a maximum of 14kts: “We tend to go better in heavier winds, when it drops we struggle. Today started off really light but the wind filled in quite nicely by the time we reached English Harbour area – about 10-12kts. Maximum was 13-14kts. We finished sixth in class today but he best we’ve done this week is a third. I do however, really love the boat and feel there are definitely good things to come.”
Swanning around in Antigua
According to British competitor Barry Sampson, who’s only recently taken delivery of his brand-new Swan Club Swan 42, competing at Stanford Antigua Sailing was a must. Sampson and his crew of friends from the UK took delivery of Long Echo just before Key West where she was raced her fresh from her wrappers. She was then sailed down to Antigua and considering she’s only been sailed for about 10 days, she faired exceptionally well this week with two firsts, two seconds and a fifth.
They haven’t, however, escaped a few teething problems with the new boat including a fairly unfortunate problem with the steering on the second day of the regatta. Sampson explained what happened: “We’d started the race and were rounding a mark when suddenly one of the fittings or the ferrols on the end of the steering cable wires blew up, luckily no one was hurt and we didn’t bump into anyone. We totally lost all steering and had to fit the emergency tiller. But I have to say, to give Mr Swan credit he got us back going again the next day, at no cost.”
Nick Wood who’s a member of the core crew added: “It’s not what you expect from Swan and yes we were not happy when lost a race here, particularly as there are no discards, but generally we absolutely love the boat and once we’re up to pace I’m sure we’ll give the other a good run for their money.”
As a previous Swan owner Sampson decided to buy this new design to enjoy with his family and friends. He wanted a one-design racing boat, but something he could handle with his family and friends. “Basically I wanted a boat that was small enough for us old fools on board to handle and which didn’t overpower us, plus I really enjoy one-design racing. We have no kites, no poles just an asymmetric gennaker, swept-back spreaders and no running backstay.”
Sampson and team will now have the boat delivered to Newport Rhode Island and in late July will take part in the national championship where over 20 boats are expected to compete.
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