Peter Gilmour, Sam Gilmour and Yasuhiro Yaji at the 75th Edinburgh Cup and UK Dragon Grand Prix 2023. All images (c) Rick and James Tomlinson.

  • Big gains and big losses across the fleet as teams battle variable shifting breeze and strong tides on the penultimate day of the 75th Edinburgh Cup and UK Dragon Grand Prix in Cowes.
  • Two bullets give Peter Gilmour a six-point overall lead.
  • Lawrie Smith drops down into second with Grant Gordon holding third.
  • Peter Cunningham jumps up from tenth to fourth overall while Andy Beadsworth is Black Flagged in race four.

17 August 2023 – Cowes, UK – Winning the Dragon Edinburgh Cup has always been regarded as one of the great challenges in one design keelboat sailing, and this 75th edition is proving as challenging as any of its predecessors. Having spent a windless second day ashore, the 41 strong fleet was back out in the Central Solent today for races three and four of the eight race series, and what cracking races they were. The wind was in the southeast quadrant, shifty and ranging from 10 to 15 knots with occasional short bursts up to 18. With the exception of the first race, a building ebb tide made left the obvious way to go upwind, but how far left was the big question.

Peter Gilmour’s was the team of the day, claiming two impressive wins and jumping from fourth to first overall. For others though it was a day of mixed fortunes with some leaping up the scoreboard and others tumbling down.

Talking through their day back ashore, Peter Gilmour said, “We obviously had a pretty good day. We started well in both races. Sam did a really nice job of setting a current strategy. It’s always tricky out there and we followed it to the T and it really seemed to work well for us. In the first race we got out to the right in the flood tide and got pushed up to the top mark and we led around there and won that race. And then in the next race we got over to the left and the relief from the ebb and it made a big difference. In the first race we started at the committee boat and in the second at the pin end, and that very much reflected on where we wanted to go. I think if you can start well and keep your nose ahead and not have a boat underneath you pinching, it gives you a great opportunity to sneak out and just get that first cross which is what we got in the first race.”

Overnight leader Lawrie Smith didn’t fare so well in race three, finishing twelfth, but came back in race two with a second to put him six points behind Gilmour in second. Grant Gordon went into the day in third and came out in third thanks to a ninth and fourth, and now sits three points behind Smith.

Peter Cunningham was the big mover of the day as he and his team found their rhythm in the boat and got to grips with those ever-tricky Solent tides. Race three saw them take second place behind Gilmour and they followed it up with a third in race four, shooting up the overall standings from tenth to fourth.

Also having a good day was Jan Secher whose seventh and fifth put him onto equal points with Cunningham and fifth overall on countback. “We had two good solid races so we’re super happy with that as it’s a really good fleet. Long races though so we’re pretty tired after two races of five legs. But a good day” – Jan Secher

Inevitably when one boat gains another loses, and it was defending Edinburgh Cup Champion Andy Beadsworth who lost out most today. He went into the day in second and tied on points with Grant Gordon. A third in race three put him jointly at the top of the leader board with Gilmour. Sadly, though he fell foul of the black flag in race four and was disqualified, tumbling him down into twelfth overall. No doubt he will be keen to see the single discard introduced after the fifth race.

Likewise falling down the rankings, although not quite so dramatically, was Gavia Wilkinson-Cox. She took a fourth in race three and approached the first weather mark of race four in fifth place, but with a strong foul tide running another boat misjudged its approach, ending up in irons and forcing Wilkinson-Cox to bail out losing her at least ten places. Despite her best efforts she could only finish seventeenth so drops from fifth to sixth in the standings.

In the Corinthian Division overnight leaders Chris Grosscurth and Martin Byrne had solid days and remaine in first and second respectively, but Simon Barter has leapfrogged over Poul Richard Hoj-Jensen to move into third. Hong Kong based William Swigart and his crew had never sailed Dragons before this event and chartered a boat specially to compete. They’d also never sailed in the Solent before. After a quick crash course in both Dragon sailing and complex tidal currents nothing was going to hold them back, and they finished sixth in race four to round out the Corinthian top five going into the final day.

Will Swigart is based in Hong Kong but hails from California and is a Star sailor of long standing. He and fellow Star sailors David Ceasar of Canada and Arthur Anosov from the Ukraine decided that the opportunity to sail in the 75th Edinburgh Cup was too good to miss. David Ceasar explains, “We saw this was the 75th Anniversary and thought it was going to be a great event in a great venue, so we decided this was the perfect time to strike, charter a boat and see what Dragon sailing is all about. They are wonderful boats, they set up really nicely, and they love the breeze which we like. We ended up sixth in the second race today.”

With two-mile legs the races are long and test the competitors’ physical and mental endurance. Back ashore some very tired sailors were delighted to discover a delicious Afternoon Cream Tea with Pimms sponsored by The MTM Agency awaiting them at the Royal Yacht Squadron Pavilion.

Up to four races remain to be sailed on the final day and once five races have been completed the single race discard will come into play. This is likely to bring significant places changes as all but three of the top competitors are carrying double figure results.

The forecast for the final day is wet and windy with nineteen to thirty knots from the east in the morning. By lunchtime the wind should start to abate, clocking to east-south-east, and the rain will ease, so the Royal Yacht Squadron’s Race Committee is hopefully that whilst completing the full eight race programme is not realistic, they should nonetheless achieve two more races to decide the winners. A single scoring discard will be introduced once five races have been completed.

You can follow the latest news from the regatta at the Event Website and the British Dragon Association’s Facebook and Instagram accounts.

Provisional Top Ten After Four Races

1 – Peter Gilmour – JPN56 YRED – 2, 6, 1, 1 = 10
2 – Lawrie Smith – GBR815 Alfie – 1, 1, 12, 2 = 16
3 – Grant Gordon – GBR820 Louise Racing – 3, 3, 9, 4 = 19
4 – Peter Cunningham – CAY9 Powerplay – 13, 10, 2, 3 = 28
5 – Jan Secher – SWE800 Miss Behaviour – 5, 11, 7, 5 = 28
6 – Gavia Wilkinson-Cox – GBR831 Jerboa – 6, 7, 4, 17 = 34
7 – Graham Bailey – GBR192 Bluebottle – 10, 13, 6, 9 = 38
8 – Gery Trentaseaux – FRA428 Bande A Part – 16, 8, 5, 12 = 41
9 – Hannes Hollaender – GER107 Grace – 11, 4, 8, 21 = 44
10 – Martin Payne – GBR818 True Story – 18, 5, 11, 10 = 44