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Dragons: Hong Kong Dragon Championship winners

Racing in the Dragon class Hong Kong Championship 2014. (Credit RHKYC)

Racing in the Dragon class Hong Kong Championship 2014. (Credit RHKYC)

Tam Nguyen (HKG55) wins the Hong Kong Championship and the Hong Kong Helm title; Marc Castagnet (HKG1) takes the Corinthian Trophy.

The 2013-14 Hong Kong Dragon Championship took place over three days from 10 to 12 January off Lamma Island where the competitors enjoyed a variety of waves and wind conditions with 18kts NE wind on Friday decreasing to 13-15kts on Saturday and no wind on Sunday!

Out of the 17 boats registered, 12 boats were Corinthian i.e. with no professional (as defined by ISAF) on board. A number of those were new or recent owners reflecting the momentum of the Hong Kong Dragon class. Guillaume Douin (HKG47) added: “While we recently joined the class and were not fully prepared, participating in the Championship was a must for us; it is a unique opportunity to sail with the best and learn from them. You can count on us to be more competitive next year!” As per last year, the fleet also had an all-women team on HKG26 with helm Karina Trebbien, Christiane Hugelman and Nikki Claringbold.

The remaining 5 boats included two top teams from Russia with RUS76 (2nd in the 2013 World Championship and winner in Cannes just before their trip to Hong Kong) helmed by Dmitry Samokhin and crewed by Alexey Bushuev and one of the best tacticians in the World, triple Olympian and current Russian Yachting Federation Sailor of the Year Andrey Kirilyuk. The other Russian boat, RUS 34 was helmed by International Dragon Association (IDA) Vice-Chairman Vasily Senatorov with 470 gold medalists Igor Iwashintcow and Slava Varnachkin as crew. Theis Palm, North Sails Dragon expert re-joined HKG55 after a successful campaign with Tam Nguyen in Europe last year when they won the Coupe de Bretagne together. In addition to his regular crew Greg Jarzabkowski, Karl Grebstad (HKG51) had as third crew Jamie McWilliam, co-owner of Ker 40 Signal 8 and a top Hong Kong Etchells sailor.

Interestingly, this year a number of teams tried to have crew as close as possible to the maximum weight of 285 kg: HKG40, HKG46, HKG50 and HKG55 sailed with four crew. Simon Pickering crewing for Phyllis Chang (HKG50) elaborated; ”To sail close to maximum crew weight we needed to find an extremely heavy crew or sail four up. With the team of experienced sailors we assembled for HKG50 it worked quite well as Nagisa Sakai was able to focus on the tactical role while Nigel Reeves and myself focused on trim and maneuvers. Phyllis is always a very focused helmswoman.”

Overall Hong Kong Dragon Class 2014 Championship winner Tam Nguyen (HKG55). (Credit RHKYC)

Overall Hong Kong Dragon Class 2014 Championship winner Tam Nguyen (HKG55). (Credit RHKYC)

Race officer Sofia Mascia set perfect courses a long way from shore to avoid the left bias of Lamma Island and the commercial traffic and anchorages. They consisted of 1.1 to 1.4 mile windward / leeward courses with an offset mark and a leeward gate.

Friday conditions were perfect for a Dragon with strong wind (18-25kts) and waves (1-2 metres). The wind was oscillating around the 75 degree mark and the successful teams were the ones who managed to get the sync right. In terms of boat speed, the key was to find the right balance in the boat by sailing high while keeping enough speed to go through the waves. It was also a perfect opportunity to have exhilarating downwind legs. Come Jeanjarry, spinnaker trimmer on HKG55 added: “We usually sail in light wind in Port Shelter. I discovered today that a Dragon can surf the waves and that was very exciting!” However, the heavy weather put some strain on a number of boats with 3 of them sailing back early to repair or avoid damage (Joseph Chu HKG12, Bram van Olphen HKG31, Peter Baer HKG551). Peter Baer (HKG551) added: “We borrowed an old Dragon and we did not want to break it apart in those conditions”. The current was strong particularly around the windward mark and the offset mark. On the very first race of the Championship, Tam Nguyen (HKG55), the first at the windward mark was caught by surprise with a current much stronger than expected: “We knew there was current. We rounded the windward mark and only slightly bore away. But you had to remain on a close-hauled course to be able to make the offset mark! That is the issue with being the first one out there! We then had to duck 5 or 6 boats.” Vasily Senatorov (RUS34) won the first race closely followed by Dmitry (RUS76), Tam Nguyen (HKG55) – who managed to gradually climb back after the first mark incident – and Phyllis Chang (HKG50). Karl Grebstad and his team (HKG51) had their spinnaker halyard torn off the spinnaker head in the first race and was not able to retrieve it on the water, so had to sail with the Genoa goose winged for the rest of the runs in the first three races – which ruined his chance to re-claim the title he won 3 years ago. Karl added: “I suppose we were inadequately prepared for the strong winds on the first day”. On the Corinthian front, Marc Castagnet came 5th and Lowell Chang 6th and therefore took the first two positions of the Corinthian ranking.

Tam Nguyen (HKG55) won Race 2 and Race 3 ahead of Dmitry Samokhin (RUS76) who came 2nd on those two races. After the first day, Tam (HKG55) was one point ahead of Dmitry (RUS76) in the overall ranking while Marc Castagnet was 1 point ahead of Lowell in the Corinthian.

The conditions on the 2nd day softened with wind of 15kts and still from the same direction. With medium wind, balance was less of an issue and the key was to get the speed to punch through the waves. However with the bodies starting to get the impact of 6 races over 3 days, the fleet recorded a number of men over board, butt over board, head over boom etc. and thankfully without serious consequences. Tam Nguyen (HKG55) won the first and last race of the day while Dmitry won Race 5. Tam commented: “Once in the lead in Race 6, we covered Dmitry. It was a loose cover, as we just wanted to make sure we keep our position and had no interest to try to bury him – it would have been bad for both of us given the strong competition behind”. Marc (D1) did a great performance on Race 6 with an outstanding 3rd position. It was also a great day for Karl Grebstad with two 2nd positions (Race 4 and 5). With one discard, Tam had now a 2 points lead over Dmitry. Lowell Chang (HKG46) was leading the Corinthian after Race 5 but significantly overstood the first windward layline on race 6 and ended up 8th in that race behind Corinthian Simon Chan (HK8), 7th. This gave Marc a one point lead over Lowell in the Corinthian after the 2nd day. Lowell added: “We had a good start and everyone tacked behind us. The RO announced earlier for a longer course. Our mistake was not to look at the compass and by the time we tacked, we were close to half a leg behind the leader. Our own stupidity”

There were also some strong battles in the middle of the fleet. Frederic Roumier who became the new owner of HKG40 only 18 months ago managed to defend his 4th position in the Corinthian very well throughout the championship. Frederic commented: “It was a very close racing with HKG26 and HKG37 on the Friday and also with HKG12, HKG31, HKG33 and HKG551 on the Saturday. We concentrated on the wind shifts while not taking any extreme options which resulted in relatively stable rankings between 9 and 12 during the competition”

The third day was expected to be a fight among the leaders of each category as so few points were separating them. Unfortunately, after a two hour wait for the wind to fill in, the Race Officer had to call it a day and abandoned the last 3 races. The ranking therefore remained unchanged with the following top three in each category:

Overall Hong Kong Championship:
1. Tam Nguyen (HKG55),
2. Dmitry Samokhin (RUS76),
3. Vasily Senatorov (RUS34)

Hong Kong Helm:
1. Tam Nguyen (HKG55),
2. Karl Grebstad (HKG51),
3. Phyllis Chang (HKG50)

1. Mac Castagnet (HKG1),
2. Lowell Chang (HKG46),
3. Simon Chan (HKG8)

The participants, families and sponsors enjoyed a casual hamburger dinner on Middle Island terrace before the Prize Giving ceremony where sponsor Central Oceans presented the first three winners of each category with prizes provided by L’Occitane and North Sails.

Dmitry Samokhin (RUS76) concluded: “Thank you for a wonderful event. On the water the competition was strong and it was good to see a mix of international sailors, Hong Kong sailors sailing in Europe and local weekend club sailors. The level of hospitality in this fleet is amazing with friendly dinners and parties every night. We will give this great feedback to other Russian sailors and we will come back again!”

The success of the event was made possible by the strong support of the sponsors, Central Oceans, and Northrop & Johnson and was covered by photographer Eileen Sze and cameraman Oliver Merz, both of whom were driven around the course on the Northrop & Johnson rib. The fleet is also grateful to all the volunteers of the race management team who spent the time on and off the water to make this event a success.

For more information, please go here or contact us on dragon@rhkyc.org.hk

By Koko Mueller, RHKYC

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