Julia Bailey's new, snazzy Dragon - the boat that's vying for an overall win at Cowes Week 10/8/07

Julia Bailey, currently the leading lady sailor in the Dragon fleet, sailing her brand-new Petticrow DragonAimee, is now just a few points off first place in the 17-strong Dragon fleet.

Bailey who won yesterday’s race hoped to continue the on-the-water battle today with Len Jones inRumourswho’s in first place with 18pts and David Palmer onPrincess Jalinawith 19pts but lack of wind on the Solent forced the cancellation of racing today. So, with one race remaining Bailey has everything to play for. Bailey commented: “It’s all getting rather exciting, hopefully there’ll be a bit more wind tomorrow for the final.”

Bailey’s new boat is rather interesting with a few new features that really makes sailing the Dragon even more pleasing. According Julia’s husband Graham – who has already sewn up the Etchells class this week – they’ve designed a new traveller beam system to give more room in the cockpit which allows the crew to move further forward in light airs.

Instead of the traveller going all the way across the cockpit and dividing the aft end from the crew at the front they’ve basically sawn off the ends to allow the crew to sit anywhere in cockpit rather than having to straddle either side of the traveller beam. Graham Bailey commented: “Normally we sail three-up but in the light stuff the driver is always too far aft, with this design you just slide forward.

“To get back the distance lost on the traveller we’ve managed we’ve developed a slightly different system to the mainsheet fine-tune. On the standard boats the fine tune goes into a fixed point in the centre of the horse, so when you move the traveller, your fine tune is still restricting the adjustment you get. But by putting the fine tune up into the boom and running it along the boom and down the masts and back aft under the floor means that whenever we adjust the traveller we’re actually getting the same adjustment as a full-length traveller system, despite the fact it’s sawn off – a neat little way of not being compromised by having a shorter traveller.”

Graham Bailey also mentioned the other subtle tweaks which has really improved the boat’s performance. Bailey continued: “The balance is slightly different; the rig is marginally further forward [10mm] than the existing boats, and the centre of gravity is just slightly further aft. The combined effect of those two means she’s very, very light on the helm; neutral helm, she’ll sail herself.

“This really makes a difference because I’m always trying to get rid of any weather helm on the Dragon. And It’s not just straight line speed, when you hit waves or you get a gust instead of tugging on the rudder effectively putting on the brakes the boat will just accelerate. It feels super, although it is slightly different way of sailing and takes a bit of getting used to.”

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