Carlo Falcone and Poul-Richard Hoj-Jensen mastermind new Dragon fleet in Antigua. Sue Pelling reports 17/10/07

Carlo Falcone was in Burnham-on-Crouch yesterday to oversee the loading of 10 brand-new Petticrow Dragons which are being shipped out to Antigua at the end of the week.

Falcone, who represented Antigua at the Barcelona Olympics in the Star class and who racesMariella, an 80ft Alfred Milne design built by Fife in 1939, is providing the financial backing for a new initiative that will hopefully see the creation of a highly successful Dragon class in Antigua.

The initial fleet of 10 brand-new, identically branded Petticrow Dragons (named after some of 365 beaches on Antigua) will leave from Portsmouth on Sunday and arrive at the port of St John’s about 10 days later. From here they’ll be transported round to the east of the island to their base at Harmony Hall’s newly-formed yacht club.

Harmony Hall – a relatively small exclusive hotel and acclaimed restaurant – recently purchased by Falcone – is situated in a fairly remote but stunningly beautiful, unsoilt part of the island on the east side at Nonsuch Bay. The new yacht club which was formed recently by a group of Falcone’s great friends including Dennis Conner, Russell Coutts, Poul-Richard 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.

Poul-Richard Hoj-Jensen – Petticrow’s CEO, HHYC founder member and owner of one of the 10 boats going to Antigua this week – is however, very keen to ensure that the Dragon club is opened up further to encourage not only racing on a regular basis but training events throughout the year. Commenting, Hoj-Jensen said: “To be honest this whole ‘Dragons in Antigua’ idea has happened so quickly. There is so much potential but first of all we need to organise this season. After Antigua Classic Week and Antigua Sailing Week next spring we’ll have an opening race at Harmony Hall YC, then we’ll have a race for all the captains from the Antigua Mega Yacht Challenge.

“We are hoping we’ll have 20 boats out there soon so that the idea is that all the other Caribbean islands can have a connecting championship where we can invite their best sailors – a bit like the Endeavour Trophy dinghy champion of champions race. Each island will have to have selection races and appoint the best sailors.

“But one of the biggest Harmony Hall YC’s events we’re working on right now is an 80-boat Dragon regatta in 2010. Chris Dicker who successfully organised the St Tropez Dragon 75th anniversary regatta is already working on it. I’ve already had many telephone calls from sailors who would like to come out for a week’s training but I need to get that side of things organised. The charter side of things is also something we’ll be working on in the future.”

One of the most attractive aspects about being the owner of the yacht club and owing all the boats admit Falcone and Hoj-Jensen is being in total control. Hoj-Jensen commented: “It’s wonderful we can run the event exactly how we want to run it and there are no committees or anyone to stop us doing anything.”

Interestingly, despite Falcone’s long association with racing including a regular competitor and winner at Antigua Sailing Week aboard his own yacht a Carlos Vallicelli 44Caccia alla VolpeFalcone says he’s never sailed a Dragon. He now owns eight of them so says he’s looking forward to giving it a go soon. “I was originally thinking about creating a modern day design such as a sportsboat fleet at the club but I can now see the Dragon will totally befit the sort of image we hope to portray at Harmony Hall Yacht Club? I can’t think of a better class.”