Grand Prix ChampionsJoost Houweling, Lawrie Smith & Adam Bowers. Champions of Cannes Grand Prix 2014..

When you read a good book or watch a great movie, both will have an exciting and interested beginning, a worthwhile middle and an edge of your seat dramatic finish. Well this year’s first IDA grade 1 event, the Cannes Grand Prix had it all. The Yacht Club de Cannes showed why it is the Premier Sailing venue for Dragons in the South of France by getting everything right. From the initial craning and launching, to the race management on the water with superb “long” courses set by  experienced PRO Philippe Faure and the no hassle marina berthing. Yes Gerard Blanc, Carine, Malcolm, Dennis and all their many helpers made this an event to remember and set the “bar” at a very high level for other Grade 1 organisers to follow!

Although a day was lost due to “indifferent” weather, the careful planning of allowing 4 full racing days, meant that a total of 6 races could be completed. The fleet enjoyed a final day of sunshine, light to medium wind, in the west bay with a backdrop of snow covered mountains. In was a beautiful sailing day as the three main contenders MON 9, RUS 27 & GBR 785 battled hard in their bid for glory.

The first race of the day saw DEN 403 helmed by Frank Berg, owned by Soren Havlso emerge strongly from the PIN end of the line to hold a nice lead around the long course with a 2 mile first beat . Frank is a very good friend of the Dragon Class and it’s great to see him back at the front of the fleet after a quite serious illness. In race two of the day it was nice to see my previous boat “Bear”, now owned by Pierre Bourbin and helmed by French legend Marc Bouet,  FRA 412 hold on to a slender lead and take the winning gun at just after 4.30pm. However, whilst I have only mentioned the race winners, the overall prize came down to the last beat of the last race as GBR 785 “Alfie” helmed by former World Champion and Olympic Medal winner, Lawrie Smith crossed the line 2nd, to then wait to see where his main contender RUS 27 finished…..

As Anatoly Loginov RUS 27 pushed hard right on the final beat to keep close to Lawrie and minimise the number of boats between them, his 6th place finish saw him just 2pts short of the winning total. A great effort from this highly successful Russian Team, crewed by Vadim Statsenko & Alexander Shalagin. In 3rd place overall was MON 9, last years winners, Malte Philipp, Michael Kurtz and Jmbeck Thoresen, who sailed very consistently and really must have a strong chance of European glory in the up and coming event in San Remo.

So Lawrie Smith, Joost Houweling and Adam Bowers, are the Champions of the 2014 Grand Prix. Unfortunately Lawrie and Adam could not stay for the Prize Giving, which was a loss for them as the “Party” thrown at the Palm Beach Casino saw everyone in high spirits, creating a great atmosphere. Below is Joost Houweling holding tightly to the fantastic Grand Prix Trophy. Joost has been a professional Dragon Crew and skilled boatman for many years…. A proud moment for this young man from the Netherlands.

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The top placed Corinthian was local sailor Gerard Blanc FRA 409, who with his crew of Jean-Gabriel and Pierre Germain sailed brilliantly to finish 10th overall. Gerard and his team showed consistent results and must be one of the favourites for the “Corinthian” Championship in Deauville during June.

Finally, we now look forward to the Europeans in San Remo and a fleet in excess of 80 boats…meanwhile I have dashed across the 1800 km to Cascais for my annual Match Race event, which precedes the Second Grade 1 event of 2014, the Juan Carlos Trophy. Although numbers will be down for the Juan Carlos, it will still see a hard fought battle to lift this magnificent Trophy presented by the King of Spain (rumoured to be here in person this year)!

Higher, Faster, Longer…………….    Stavros.   (GBR 789).