The stage was set for a final showdown of the very best Dragon Sailors in the World, on a day where San Remo “glistened” and “sparkled” with a blue cloudless sky and a challenging Mediterranean sea…..Just a handful of points separated Lars Henriksen DEN 138, Markus Weiser UAE 7 and Malte Philipp MON 9, going into the last race so the European Title was up for grabs.
The line was skilfully set by the excellent International Race Officer Dodi Villani, with a slight starboard bias, as most sailors would probably want to take advantage of heading inshore. Although there was some misunderstanding on the start with a few boats, the fleet got away first time with just an “Individual” recall flag flying. As predicted everyone headed towards the shore on a long starboard tack, looking for extra pressure, flatter water and a wind bend that a curved land mass can often produce. With a 2.3 mile first beat, it was obvious the land would play a vital tactical role.
I spoke with Lars after the race he explained “We heard a lot of noise on the radio and after the most perfect start decide to go back, thinking it was a general recall. However, we soon discovered it was just an individual so quickly tried to make amends calling myself the most stupid idiot ever” !!
I asked Lars how he managed to get back into contention after such a basic error at the start? “The only chance we had was to go hard RIGHT as all the fleet was going left and we would have been in bad air. So we ‘banged’ the right corner, in clear air desperate to catch up and get close to our main competitors overall”. “We then came back in from the right” Lars continued, “and we could see that the boats close to the shore were getting some tidal/current advantage, so we cut into the fleet and made some more gains by short tacking around the coast”. “After rounding the first mark in around 30th position, we worked hard to take more boats on the downwind leg knowing we had to get closer to Markus Weiser who was in a top ten position.”
In actual fact it was SUI 311 helmed by Pedro Andrade, crewed by Martin Westerdahl and Diogo Cayolla who were leading the race and did an excellent job to hang on till the end, despite some huge pressure from former World Champion Lawrie Smith, who was finding his form a little too late in this competition.. MON 9 who sailed brilliantly the day before recording two 1st places, were struggling in the stronger wind conditions, so unfortunately former World Champion, Malte Philipp and his team dropped out of overall contention, but still sailed a brilliant championship to finish 4th.
And so it came down to the final beat which saw Lars and his magnificent team of Kleen Frithjof and Anders Bagger eat away at the distance between them and the superb UAE 7, team helmed by Markus Weiser. At the finish it was a great relief all round for Hendriksen and his team as they managed to get to within 3pts of Markus, thus taking the European Championship by just 2pts. This is the 3rd European Title for Henriksen after previously winning in 1991 (Thunersee) & 2005 (Cowes) a well deserved “Triple” European Champion, congratulations my friend from us all.
A big “Thank You” must go to the Yacht Club of San Remo and all the many helpers for providing such a fantastic event. With the main financial help from Gazprom and BMW, the organisers were able to put on a first class Championship, which not only did themselves proud but also the town of San Remo. The general race management led by Dodi Villani was excellent as was the onshore entertainment and the general atmosphere was electric through out the week. Congratulations Yacht Club San Remo, you served us well….
Higher, Faster, Longer…………. Stavros.