Close racing on day 3 & 4 of the Aberdeen Dragon European Championship in Cowes 9/6/06

Day Three

Tensions were high in the third day of racing for the Aberdeen Dragon European Championship in Cowes on Wednesday, with Denmark and Russia dominating the leaderboard. Lars Hendriksen of Denmark, sailing with Will Willett and Martin Leifeldt aboard Edward Sawyer’s Clairvoyant, lead the championship on 16 points while Germany’s Thomas Muller, with crew Martin “Stavros” Payne and Mario Wagner, was second on 26 points.

In sparkling conditions in the Solent the racing was underway as the wind began to build from the west.

With the championship at its mid point there was a heightened air of anticipation from the first signal. At the first weather mark Sergey Pigiugin’s team from the Ukraine led the fleet closely followed by Jakob Bergbauer of Germany and Lars Hendriksen of Denmark.

On the first run Pigiugin, Bergbauer, Hendriksen and Nicholson held their positions, but behind them Shayduko was clawing his way back to round the leeward mark in fifth ahead of Bandolowski, Urvois and Boillot. Wilkinson-Cox was also on a mission and rounded ninth.

On the next beat Shayduko and Wilkinson-Cox kept the pressure on and at the second weather mark Pigiugin continued to lead from Bergbauer but Shayduko moved into third with Nicholson fourth as Hendriksen dropped back to fifth ahead of Urvois and Wilkinson-Cox.

On the final run Hendriksen dug deep and showed impressive boat speed to pull back up into second hard on Pigiugin’s heels as they rounded the last mark. They took off up the right hand side but a few minutes in Hendriksen made his decisive move and tacked away. Faced with the dilemma of covering Hendriksen or the fleet, Pigiugin stood on – a move that was to be his undoing.

At the line it was Hendriksen by 17 seconds from Pigiugin with Bergbauer third, Bandlowski fourth, Shayduko fifth and Nicholson sixth. Ireland’s Simon Brien sailed a lovely final beat moving up from tenth to seventh with Semerkanov in eighth, Campbell ninth, Urvois tenth and Wilkinson-Cox eleventh.

Day Four

The fourth day of racing was like snakes and ladders. Races five and six were completed and the results of the two races were almost polar opposites – for the most part those who did well in the morning race were no where to be seen in the afternoon and vice-versa. Conditions continued to be exceptional with more glorious sunshine and a slowly building breeze

Wednesday’s overall leaders had mixed fortunes yesterday and although Denmark’s Lars Hendriksen continues to lead, his margin is now just 6.7 points having taken tenth in race five and a disappointing 19th in race six to give him 45 points overall. Fellow Dane Bo Selko’s win in the fifth race was enough to move him into second overall on 51.7 points just one point ahead of Russia’s Maksim Semerkanov whose 13th in race five was fully compensated with a win in race six.

Valdemar Bandolowski of Denmark remains in fourth, now on 64 points but German Tommy Muller’s overnight second place took a hammering with today’s 16th and 23rd places so he drops into fifth with 70 points. Behind Muller local sailor Eric Williams is sixth (72 pts) with Ireland’s Simon Brien seventh (75 pts), Denmark’s Frank Berg eighth (76 pts), Artem Shayduko of Russia ninth (78 pts) and Sweden’s Tom Lofstedt tenth (81.7 pts)

At the start of yesterday morning’s race local girl Julia Bailey was a woman on a mission. She and her crew, husband Graham and David Heritage, took possession of the committee boat end and then immediately tacked off to the right. The majority preferred to head left looking for the wind bend on the north shore but Julia was on the money and rounded well clear at the windward mark.

Bailey looked supremely confident for the next three legs happily holding off all challengers to lead at the final leeward mark from Selko and Pay. Poul-Richard Hoj-Jensen of Denmark had sailed a blinding last run to move up from the cheap seats into fourth with Williams fifth, Nicholson sixth, Gray seventh and Hendriksen eighth.

The final beat was to be a real cliff hanger as Bailey and Selko split tacks. It was clear that Selko was gaining ground but as they approached the line it was neck and neck and the two boats crossed so close together that even the competitors didn’t know which had one. Only the sharp eyes of the Royal Yacht Squadron’s man on the line were able to confirm that Selko had taken the race by a hair’s breadth from Bailey. Hoj-Jensen sailed his best race of the regatta so far to take third with Pay fourth, Lofstedt fifth, Ezhkov sixth, Nicholson seventh and Williams eighth. Gray and Hendriksen rounded out the top ten.

After a short delay as the wind settled and PRO John Grandy and his team re-laid their course along the Bramble Bank race six, the penultimate race in the series, was away. This time Maksim Semerkanov of Russia came out of the first beat in the lead with Williams, Rob Campbell of Britain, Bandolowski, Lofstedt, Peter Warrer, also of Denmark, and Cowes Fleet Captain Gavia Wilkinson-Cox in pursuit. Frank Berg, Antonio Correia and Oleg Khopersky completed the top ten after the first beat.

From here on in Semerkanov was never seriously challenged and Williams comfortably held second. Lofstedt moved into third place on the first run and was followed into the leeward mark by Bandolowski, Berg and Correia with Wilkinson-Cox still seventh and Campbell eighth.

On the second beat the top four began to stretch away as Correia moved up into fifth and Wilkinson-Cox took sixth. Berg was now seventh just ahead of Simon Brien from Ireland. On the final run Campbell and Berg swapped places but everyone else held steady. At the line after the final beat it was Semerkanov, Williams, Lofstedt, Bandoloswki and Correia with Cambell and Wilkinson-Cox swapping places in the closing moments to finish sixth and seventh respectively. Berg took eighth with Brian ninth and fellow Irishman Neil Hegarty tenth.