Exciting racing yesterday for day two of the Aberdeen Dragon European Championship 7/6/06

The second day of racing at the Aberdeen Dragon European Championship in Cowes brought near perfect conditions as the 42 teams from 11 nations enjoyed two more spectacular races.

The competition is close as Germany’s Thomas Muller and Denmark’s Lars Hendriksen are currently tied for the lead on 16 points. Just one point separates third and fourth place with Frank Berg of Denmark on 25 points and Maksim Semerkanov of Russia on 26 points, while Bo Selko, also of Denmark is fifth on 32 points. Just to keep the excitement levels up Georgy Shayduko of Russia, Louis Urvois of France and Portugals’s Antonio Correia have a three way tie on 38 points for sixth. With four more races scheduled between now and the close of the regatta on Friday there’s everything to play for.

This morning race two of the series got underway in 5-6 knots from 150 degrees on a course paralleling the Lee on Solent shore. Unsurprisingly the majority headed inshore in search of the wind bend and at the weather mark it was Denmark’s Bo Selko, helming for Peter Johansen, who led the fleet from fellow Dane Peter Warrer. Ireland’s Simon Brien was third very closely followed by Germany’s Jakob Bergbauer, Russia’s Maksim Semerkanov, Denmark’s Valdemar Bandolowski and in seventh Thomas Muller of Germany.

Selko had decided his name was on this race and defended his lead magnificently to the finish. Behind him Warrer initially looked good for second place but Brien got through him on the second beat and from there he slid backward to finish sixteenth. Brien was not letting go of second place so the battle was now for third place with Semerkanov, Bergbauer, Bandolowski, Muller and Ezhkov giving it all they’d got with every tack and gybe as the wind slowly increased. Eventually it was Semerkanov who took third from Ezhkov with Muller fifth. Russia’s Oleg Khopersky sailed a very nice final lap to move from tenth to sixth with Denmark’s Lars Hendriksen, helming for Edward Sawyer, seventh, Bandolowski eighth, Bergbauer ninth and Poul-Richard Hoj-Jensen tenth.

By the start of race three the sea breeze had filled in and the wind was up to 14-16 knots. Despite having wind and tide against them the fleet was over eager at the first attempt and PRO John Grandy called them back to try again. They got away on the second try and the combination of blue skies, good wind and a relatively flat Solent made for perfect racing as the beautiful classic yachts crossed tacks time and again. At the first weather mark Denmark’s Frank Berg showed the fleet a clean pair of heels with Ireland’s Neil Hegarty in second. Selko slotted into third with Hendriksen, in fourth. Bandolowski rounded sixth in a gaggle of boats that included Sweden’s Tom Lofstedt, Louis Urvois from France, Warrer, local girl Gavia Wilkinson-Cox and Portugal’s Antonio Correia.

As Berg consolidated his lead Henriksen pulled up into second and the two of them settled in for the remainder of the race. Behind them the pack remained tight right up until the line where Selko took third from Bandolowski with Hegarty fifth and Correia sixth. Hoj-Jensen sailed a cunning final lap to move up into seventh while Semerkanov kept hold of eighth just ahead of Lofstedt.

The battle for tenth place was a hum-dinger between Muller and Wilkinson-Cox made all the more tense by the fact that Wilkinson-Cox is sailing Muller’s old boat which she purchased from him earlier in the year. Initially it looked as if Muller had made a mistake in letting the boat go but eventually he managed to slip past on the final beat to take tenth with Wilkinson-Cox eleventh.

For Gavia Wilkinson-Cox, a Dragon crew of many years standing who only turned to helming a couple of seasons ago, today was a highpoint in her sailing career. Gavia said: “I’m thrilled to be the top British boat in this afternoon’s race and as Captain of the Cowes Dragon Fleet I’m also thrilled to have such a high level event sailed in the Solent.”

The Dubarry Team of the Day Award on Monday went to Robert Alpe and his crew Bob McCluskey and John Mellows. Robert and Bob have come all the way from Australia to compete with local boy John in this regatta and the Dubarry Award recognised them as the furthest travelled team.