The Brewin Dolphin Dragon Gold Cup 2012 got underway in spectacular style as the 60 competitors from 16 nations and 4 continents completed their first race in strong winds and big seas off Kinsale.

The Dragon Gold Cup is legendary for being one of the toughest championships in keelboat racing as it is raced over huge 12+ mile windward leeward courses and there is no discard in the six race series.  Today’s rough seas and winds of up to 25 knots from the south certainly ensured it was also a test of stamina as well as skill and there were incidents aplenty with a number of spectacular broaches and some exciting mark roundings as the sailors contended with the confused seas and blustery conditions.

The fleet got away cleanly at the first time of asking by PRO Alan Crosbie, and the first beat saw the boats spread out very evenly across the course.  At the first weather mark those who had opted to go right had the advantage and it was reigning Dragon World Champion Lawrie Smith, sailing GBR763 Alfie, who led the fleet from double Olympic Gold Medallist Poul Richard Hoj-Jensen, sailing GBR775 Danish Blue; Dimitry Samokhin sailing RUS76 Strange Little Girl; 2010 Gold Cup winner Anatoly Loginov sailing RUS27 Annapurna; and Cameron Good, sailing IRL211 Little Fella.

Whilst Smith and Hoj-Jensen then held their positions around the course the battle behind them for third place was fierce.  By the start of the final beat Tommy Mueller, sailing GER1123 Sinewave, had pulled up into third just ahead of Samokhin, Good was fifth and Loginov sixth with Lars Hendriksen, sailing UKR7 Bunker Boys, moving up into seventh.

Hoj-Jensen pushed Smith hard on the final beat but both boats also had to defend their positions on the chasing pack.  At the line Smith won from Hoj-Jensen whilst Samokhin pulled back up into third with Mueller fourth.  Hendriksen, who has claimed the Gold Cup on two previous occasions, sailed a wonderful final leg to cross the line in fifth.  Joergen Schoenherr, sailing DEN406 African Queen, also showed blistering pace to go from 11th to sixth on the last beat, just pipping Good on the line.

Cameron Good, Commodore of the Kinsale Yacht Club, also claimed victory in the Corinthian Division, for the all-amateur crews.  Dublin’s Gary Treacy, sailing IRL198 Dublin Bay, took second place in the Corinthians with Reemt Reemtsma, sailing GBR1121 Caroroo, in third and IDA Chairman Richard Blickman, sailing NED393 Cobweb, fourth.

One of the most impressive stories of the day came from the Australian team aboard AUS222 Puff III.  They were running very deep in sixth place on the second run when a rogue wave caught the transom and span them into a Chinese jybe.  Helmsman Richard Lynn found himself being swept out of the boat as his crew, Ian Olson and Aussie sailing legend Roger Hickman, battled to get their spinnaker, which was now doing a very good job of trawling for supper, back under control.  Fortunately Richard just managed to grab the spinnaker sheet on his way out of the boat and by the time the boys had the kite under control he was back on board.  They had lost a number of places but they dug in on the final lap and managed to pull back up into ninth place, keeping themselves firmly in contention.

Five more races are scheduled and the regatta continues until Friday 14th September.  Lighter airs are forecast for the next couple of days but strong airs are expected to return later in the week.

Full Results are available www.dragongoldcup2012.com

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Images are available on request from fiona.brown@fionabrown.com