The first Dragon Match Race event in Portugal proved to be a huge success as it was a real “learning curve” for the 10 invited teams from all over the world. With competitors from Holland, Russia, Estonia, Ireland, United Kingdom, France, Portugal, Denmark and Germany (Bavaria!), it was always going to be an exciting and colourful competition. To help limit any “Hard Contact” to the boats during pre start manoeuvres,  50cm stick’s were taped to the stern of these 9m keel boats, which then became part of the hull in overlapping situations. Chief Umpire Miguel Allen from Northern Portugal and his assistants could then make quick and decisive calls which sometimes resulted in a penalty for one of the circling boats. This enabled all 10 helmsmen to spin their boats safely and keep the expensive gel-coat intact, which certainly bought relief to the concerned owners who supplied the 4 identical Petticrow dragons for this premier event. Even when the wind gusted over 25kts the boats were still handled magnificently by the team skills of these hard working and adrenaline “pumped up” crews………….

So over the three days each team raced all 9 others making a 23 flight “Round Robin”. Martin Payne with his multi national crew of Gwen Chapalain (France) and Pedro Arriaga (Portugal) ended up with 8 wins out of his 9 races and clearly lead the complicated matrix. Also making it through to the final qualifying stages was Fillipe de Silva (Portugal) and Vincent Hoesch (Germany) who both finished with 6 wins.  It then came right down to the wire with several teams fighting for the 4th semi-final place.  Geroge Kingston (Ireland) who was crewed by his uncle Shawn Kingston and Estonian professional Alar Volmer, just lost out on count-back after winning 5 races to Henrique Anjos (Portugal).  Anjos also managed to win 5 of his 9 races but won through because he had beaten Kingston when they met. Other teams that came close were Anatoly Loginov (Russia) and Francisco Melo (Portugal) who finished with 4 wins.  Martin Byrne (Ireland), Pieter Heerama (Holland) and Tim Tavinor (UK), all had their hard earned victories during the round robin but the smallest of mistakes on the short courses could change a winning point into a tough zero score………  Such is the way of the “Match Race” format.

As round robin leader, Martin Payne could then select his opponent for his “best of three” semi-final. He chose Vincent Hoesch as there was some kind of wager made in the hazy hours of an Irish Bar !before the event and both were well up for the challenge. This left Anjos to take on Silva, which would at least guarantee a Portuguese boat in the final. So the semi-finals began at about 2.00pm yesterday afternoon with the wind gusting up to 25kts from the NW. In both keenly and aggressively fought contests, Payne beat Hoesch 2-0 and Anjos beat Silva 2-0.   With hardly anytime to catch a breath the 3rd and 4th place sail off was started and won by Hoesch 2-0, meanwhile in the final Payne managed to level the scores at 1-1 with Anjos after their first two encounters. So after completing 13 races each it came down to the deciding race which Anjos eventually won, crewed by Jose Magalhaes and “world ranked” match racing expert Nuno Barreto….  So Portugal can toast Henrique and his team for winning the event and each taking home a beautiful hand carved  wooded “Half Model” of a Dragon made by the experienced boat builders back in the UK at the famous Petticrows yard…. Well sailed gentlemen!

At the prize giving all the very weary competitors were congratulating the organisers and helpers of the Clube Naval de Cascais and yours truly for running the event and it has set things up nicely for future “Match Race” events in our fantastic one design keel boats that were first built back in 1929……….    (Did Johan Anker have any idea of the fun his design would bring to so many sailors all over the world!)

Higher, Faster, Longer, ………   Stavros.