Den 138 “EVA on Fire” 🔥 Lars Hendriksen, Kilian Wiese and George Leonchuk, celebrate their victory with Champagne 🍾 :-) 

The Royal North Sea Yacht Club hosted the 2022 Gold Cup from the 21st to the 26th of August in the challenging and majestic waters off Oostende.  Despite a low turnout of  only 33 boats it was one of the best Gold Cups organised in recent history and certainly one of the most competitive. Although our current European Champion & our recent World Champion were missing the quality of the fleet was of the highest level. The onshore organisation and activities were superb matching the excellent Race Management led by Nino Shmueli and Dirk Sledsens. A truly memorable Gold Cup sponsored by Yanmar.

Local Race Officer Dirk Sledsens with PRO Nino Shmueli.

The Gold Cup 🏆 is unique for its long 12.5nm courses with a no discard 6 race series, the waters off Oostende are ideally suited for such a challenge. It is such a pity teams stayed away possibly due to the extreme weather conditions experienced 10 years ago, as both the Belgium 🇧🇪 Nationals (sailed last week) and the Gold Cup were raced in perfect conditions. Yes, there is tide, sand banks, harbour lights to consider and occasionally confused wave patterns, but that’s the ultimate  challenge of “Sea Sailing” !  l urge Dragon Sailors to return sometime in the future and support this wonderful RNSYC.

Another quality photo from Ricardo Pinto.

Principal Organiser Xavier Vanneste told me “ We were happy to organise this Gold Cup again in Oostende. Belgium has a small but very active Dragon Fleet, with some teams that sail Internationally. It is important for us to organise a major event every 5 to 10 years to give an extra boost to our fleet, motivate young crews to join our class and encourage people to buy boats. Not only does this give exposure to the International Dragon Class, it also helps to develop further our local community “ Well said Xavier and many thanks to you and your Sister Anne for all your hard work.

Principal Organisers Anne & Xavier Vanneste receive a Model of BEL 82 “Herbie”.

The regatta started so well for GBR 192 “Bluebottle” owned by HRH Queen Elizabeth II 🇬🇧, expertly sailed by Graham and Julia Bailey with Will Heritage and Will Bedford. Once again the most famous International Dragon in the World (built in 1948) proved that like a good wine it improves with age.

After winning Race 1, followed up by a 2nd in Race 2 & 4th in Race 3, Bluebottle was leading overall at the halfway stage.

GBR 192 “Bluebottle” slicing through the waves in Oostende to lead overall after 3 races

Although the second half of the week did not match the opening brilliant achievement of this excellent team,  Bluebottle went on to finish a very respectable 6th overall and Graham, Julia, Will and Will led the GBR 🇬🇧 Team to victory in the Nations Cup.

Nation Cup Winners GBR 192 “Bluebottle” supported by GBR 822 “Danish Blue” and GBR 818 “True Story”.

I asked Helmsman Graham Bailey to comment on his week here in Oostende “We must thank Tommy Muller for donating the prestigious Nations Cup many years ago and we are thrilled to be on the winning team this year with 3 British Boats inside the top 10. We thought very carefully before exposing “Bluebottle” to this level of International competition but we should not have worried, she continues to shine at the top level and it is an absolute joy and privilege to sail such an iconic beauty “.  Excellent words Graham and many congratulations to you and your team’s continued success.

AUS 551 just ahead of GBR 192 and GBR 818.

Another rising star in this highly competitive fleet is Australian helm Torvar Mirsky AUS 551 sailing on this occasion with Martin Westerdahl and Frithjof Kleen. Despite opening their account with a 16th & 10th this very experienced team finished with 3, 2, 3 & 4 which moved them up to 5th overall. Well done gentlemen.

In 4th place overall and also winner of Race 5 was JPN 56 Peter Gilmour, crewed by his Son Sam and Yaji Yasuhiro. This top team also began their  regatta with a mediocre 15th place which immediately put Peter on the  back foot. However, showing their true form and maintaining the high level of competitiveness they came back to finish just 1pt off the podium.

JPN 56 “YRed” Peter Gilmour, Sam Gilmour and Yaji Yasuhiro 4th overall.

Then onto the top 3 teams…. Having another extremely successful regatta and winning 2 of the 6 races was FRA 428 “Band Apart” Gery Trentesaux, crewed by Morgan Riou, Christian Ponthieu and Jean Queveau. This 4 man team are very hard to beat once they get clear of the fleet and by winning the final race deservingly squeezed onto the podium.

3rd overall FRA 428 Gery Trentesaux, Christian Ponthieu, Morgan Riou & Jean Queveau.

The runner up on this occasion was Andy Beadsworth helming TUR 1212 “Provezza”, crewed by Simon Fry and Arda Baykal. This amazing team also followed the tread of a poor start with a 9th & 13th, but bounced back with two bullet’s in races 3 & 4 , 2nd in race 5 and 3rd in race 6. Despite this remarkable turnaround it still left the former double World Champions 5pts short of victory.

2nd overall TUR 1212 Andy Beadsworth, Simon Fry and Arda Baykal.

So onto the winning 🏆 team….Lars Hendriksen helming his “Eva on Fire” 🔥 sailed consistently well in all 6 races and never finished out of the top 6 places. Crewed by George Leonchuk and Kilian Wiese, Lars was always in the right place at the right time and never sailed to the extremes. I asked Lars about his victory, he told me “I have never sailed a Gold Cup with only 33 participants, but I have never sailed in a such a well prepared Gold Cup by the organisers. We got spoilt every day with live music and cold beers. :-) Winning the Gold Cup 🏆 last year was fantastic but this years follow up was a little different as we sailed with Kilian Wiese in the middle, George up front and me on the helm. We entered the competition with ambition of a podium position, with a strategy not to win races but do well and be consistent. In doing so we often had to compromise our tactics and not take big risks. We had a 4 point lead before the final day and I had mentally prepared for Andy winning the race, so we had to be within a few boats of him. In the end we managed to finish 2nd with Andy 3rd ensuring we won the Gold Cup 🏆 “  Brilliant Lars and many congratulations to you, George and Kilian.

Gold Cup Winners 2022…  DEN 138 Lars, George & Kilian.

This was the 4th Gold Cup victory for Lars & George and the first for Kilian.
In closing all our thanks go to the Royal North Sea Yacht Club and Belgium Dragon Association for making this a fantastic Gold Cup.

The ambiance of the club is second to none, with top quality food and service, nothing is too much trouble for the friendly staff and volunteers. It may have been a Gold Cup with just 33 boats, but for those who took part their memories will last a life time.

Higher, Faster, Longer….. Stavros. GBR 818.

Final thank you to Ricardo Pinto 🙏 You are the best my friend ! Check out more photos on his website @rspinto