Lawrie Smith leads the fleet on the opening day of the 75th Dragon Edinburgh Cup and UK Dragon Grand Prix in Cowes. All images copyright Rick and James Tomlinson

15 August 2023 – Cowes, UK – Lawrie Smith, sailing Alfie for the Glandore Yacht Club, gave a sailing masterclass in perfect Solent conditions to claim twin victories on the opening day of the 75th Edinburgh Cup and UK Dragon Grand Prix, sponsored by Clear Solutions, in Cowes. Andy Beadsworth’s Provezza Dragon from Turkey claimed a fourth and a second, while Grant Gordon’s Louise Racing took a pair of thirds, leaving the two boats tied on six points, with Beadsworth standing second overall and Gordon third on countback.

For the 42 strong fleet conditions really could not have been better, with hot sun and a lovely sea breeze that built from around 10-12 knots at the start of racing to the mid-teens by the end, gently clocking from south-west to west as the day wore on. The Royal Yacht Squadron’s Race Committee, led by Race Officer Rob Brown, used their well-rehearsed course “walking” technique, which involves moving the marks for each leg to counteract the tide’s influence, on an approximately two-mile course over the Bramble Bank.

After racing Nigel Young, tactician aboard Ron James’ Fei-Lin’s Flirtation, summed up the day perfectly saying, “Today the conditions were a typical sea breeze enhanced wind and the sun was shining. A regatta that’s run by the Royal Yacht Squadron is always really sweetly run and the Race Committee were fantastic today. And the socials organised by Gavia are always going to be good, so it’s hard not to enjoy yourself!”

In both races the fleet was initially over eager, and the general recall flag got a workout, but they got away cleanly at the second attempt each time. The fleet was well spread along the line, although the pin was clearly favoured. Smith did a great job of both starts and led from the outset, seeing off the only real challenges to his supremacy before the first marks. Having established dominance in the early stages of each race he went on to extend and take both by an impressive margin.

Whilst Smith may have been off and away, there was no lack of action in the chasing pack with both races seeing constant place changes. Ireland’s Martin Byrne followed Smith round the first mark of race one, closely followed by Switzerland’s Dirk Oldenburgh, Peter Gilmour and his Japanese YRED Yanmar Racing team and Cowes based Gavia Wilkinson-Cox in Jerboa. By the first leeward mark Gilmour had made his way up into second and there he stayed, but the fight for third was still on. Gordon had rounded the first mark in eighth then worked his way up into third, but it was Andy Beadsworth, helming the Turkish Provezza Dragon, who surprised everyone with a spectacular recovery from a decidedly mediocre start, dragging himself from well buried in the pack up into fourth with Sweden’s Jan Secher in Miss Behaviour fifth, Wilkinson-Cox sixth and Byrne seventh.

The Race Committee did an excellent job of turning the races around quickly, and once again Smith dominated from the outset, winning by an even bigger margin than race one. Whilst neither particularly shone on the first beat, by the end of the first run Beadsworth was up into second place with Grant hard on his heels. On the second beat Gordon had got through into second, but Beadsworth kept pressing and overtook him again on the final beat. Following Gordon home for fourth place was Germany’s Hannes Hollaender in Grace, with Martin “Stavros” Payne sailing True Story fifth and Gilmour sixth.

In the overall standings Lawrie Smith counts two points and has a four-point lead over Andy Beadsworth and Grant Gordon, who both have six points. In fourth place overall on eight points is Peter Gilmour with Gavia Wilkinson-Cox rounding out the top five.

Speaking after racing Andy Beadsworth commented, “Obviously Lawrie did very well today with two bullets, we had a fourth and a second and Grant had two thirds so it’s pretty tight at the front, but it’s still wide open I think. It’s the first day of the regatta, you can’t win it but you could lose it and we’re in the hunt so we’re pretty happy.”

In the Corinthian Fleet for all amateur crews, Chris Grosscurth’s Fit Chick from the Medway put in an excellent showing taking two ninth places overall and a second and first in the Corinthians. Second Corinthian overall and Corinthian race one winner is Martin Byrne’s Jaguar Sailing Team, with Poul Richard Hoj-Jensen third overall, Simon Barter’s Bertie fourth and William Swigart’s Full Speed from the Royal Hong Kong YC fifth.

The Dragon fleet is famed as much for its fun and camaraderie as for its world class sailing, so after racing the crews repaired to the Royal Yacht Squadron for Après Sailing Drinks sponsored by MTM Integrated Marketing. After that, it was on to the Island Sailing Club for a Celebration Cocktail Party sponsored by Wessex Distillery, whose delicious gins were much appreciated by all.

The forecast for the second day of racing is for more beautiful sunshine, but much lighter wind, particularly in the morning. By early afternoon there is the possibility of 7-11 knots from the eastern quadrant and so the race committee remains hopeful of achieving racing, although an initial postponement is quite likely. Two of the eight scheduled races have now been completed and the regatta continues until Friday 18 August. 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 Two Races

1 – Lawrie Smith – GBR815 Alfie – 1, 1 = 2
2 – Andy Beadsworth – TUR12 Provezza Dragon – 4, 2 = 6
3 – Grant Gordon – GBR820 Louise Racing – 3, 3 = 6
4 – Peter Gilmour – JPN56 YRED – 2, 6 = 8
5 – Gavia Wilkinson-Cox – GBR831 Jerboa – 6, 7 = 13
6 – Hannes Holleander – GER1075 Grace – 11, 4 = 15
7 – Jan Secher – SWE800 Miss Behaviour – 5, 11 = 16
8 – Chris Grosscurth – GBR753 Fit Chick – 9, 9 = 18 (1st Corinthian)
9 – Torvar Mirsky – AUS551 Yeahnah – 8, 12 = 20
10 – Martin Payne – GBR818 True Story – 18, 5 = 23