L-R Lawrie Smith, Goncalo Ribeiro, Richard Parslow an Ruairidh Scott with their Race One prizes at the 75th Edinburgh Cup and UK Dragon Grand Prix 2023. All images (c) Rick and James Tomlinson.

16 August 2023 – Cowes, UK
– Whilst the sun shone and temperatures hit the mid 20s, sadly the wind gods did not smile on day two of the 75th Edinburgh Cup and UK Dragon Grand Prix 2023 in Cowes, sponsored by Clear Solutions. Rob Brown and his Royal Yacht Squadron Race Committee initially announced a two-hour postponement to see if a sea breeze would develop, and then extended it to three hours when signs of cumulus clouds began to develop over the mainland shore. But sadly, it was not to be and at 12.30 the wise decision was made to abandon racing for the day and allow everyone to enjoy a good lunch instead.

Whilst sailing might not have been possible the sailors none-the-less enjoyed a wonderful day. Football fans were able to watch England’s Lionesses take on Australian Matilda’s in the Women’s World Cup, refreshing swims were enjoyed from the beach, boats were tweaked, tours of some of the Island’s attractions were organised. And at 3pm everyone reconvened on the Royal Yacht Squadron lawn to enjoy “Not” Après Sailing drinks, which are being sponsored daily by The MTM Agency, a Southampton based integrated marketing agency with global reach. Having been postponed the previous evening, the Day One Prize giving was also held with overall race one winner Lawrie Smith and Corinthian race winners Martin Byrne and Jono Brown amongst those receiving engraved glassware and bottles of Hendricks Neptunia Gin.

In welcoming everyone to the Prize Giving, Regatta Chair Gavia Wilkinson-Cox joked that in this 75th year, it seemed appropriate that the weather gods had help reinstate one of the original traditions of the Edinburgh Cup. Historically the regatta was run over a full week with the Wednesday being a lay day to enable the competitors to relax and enjoy the venue they were visiting. Although not intentional, Gavia was delighted that this tradition had been temporarily revived.

Renowned for their social stamina, the sailors later enjoyed the 75th Edinburgh Cup Summer Party hosted by Cowes Corinthian Yacht Club and featuring a delicious curry banquet. After supper there was home grown entertainment courtesy of the fleet’s very own singer Dave Ross of Sanka and guitarist Pedro Andrade of Dragon builder Petticrows, who is crewing this week for Peter Cunningham. They were joined on stage by schoolboy Reece Millband, son of Andrew Millband of Glaurung, also on guitar.

One of the most exciting things about the modern Dragon fleet is the diversity of those sailing. From the oldest competitor Ron James who is now in his ninth decade, to the youngest Frederick Street who is still at primary school, sailors of all ages are participating.

Sailing with her family aboard Polly is thirteen year old Elloise Sanders. who began sailing earlier this year by taking her RYA Stage 1 and 2 dinghy courses in a Quba dinghy. Just a few months later and here she is on the bow of a Dragon at the prestigious Edinburgh Cup.

From the world of high performance dinghies comes Faye Chatterton, who cut her teeth sailing 420s and 49er FXs with the British Youth Sailing Teams. Earlier this year she joined Grant Gordon’s Louise Racing Team and she’s loving life in the Dragon fleet. “It’s my first Edinburgh Cup and it’s great that it’s being held here at the Squadron. It’s coming up to a year now of sailing with Grant. We’ve had a brilliant season, we did well at the Worlds where we got a second. We’ve had seconds most of the season to be honest, so we’re really looking forward to carrying on racing this week and hopefully we can change second into a first.”

There are five female helms taking part this week, the largest number ever at an Edinburgh Cup, as well as many girls crewing. The option to sail either three or four up in a Dragon has greatly encouraged mixed and all girl crews, much to the benefit of the class. For some of the younger sailors, a family connection brought them into the class, but for others they’ve come from dinghy sailing backgrounds, other keelboats or via the British Keelboat Academy. This RYA initiative not only gives youn gpeople the opportunity to start keelboat sailing, but it provides a great pool of fit, smart and keen crew. A good example of this are Jake Hardman and Sam del la Feullade, who crew for Gavia Wilkinson-Cox aboard Jerboa – currently lying in fifth. Jake started sailing with Gavia through the Keelboat Accademy back in 2019 and Sam joined them this year.

Selina Dicker was virtually brought up in the Dragon Class, sailing with her father Chris Dicker who is present this week in his capacity as Vice President of the International Dragon Association. After a few years out Selina could not resist the temptation of the 75th Edinburgh Cup, so dug the family Dragon Rackham out of long term storage and got her ready to race. “It was the first time our boat came out of the shed for four years today. She’s 31 years old so she was doing pretty well around the racecourse – we were a bit concerned that something might break given it’s been a while since she was sailed. The team haven’t been on a Dragon for a while either, so the opening day’s conditions were perfect for us. We’ve converted my old SB20 crew Edward Cook to Dragons and we’ve got two other girls with us [Frances Gifford and Sophie Mackley] who are both super-duper Merlin Rocket sailors, one of whom has been sailing Dragons since she was really young like myself. We’re really here to have fun, it’s all about the taking part for us.”

Dragon Edinburgh Cup 2023 Cowes
Wednesday 16 August, evening party at the Cowes Corinthian Club

Another new face is German Laser sailor Hannes Hollaender, who joined the fleet last season and is racing with Arne Hubregtse and Star sailor Kilian Weise. Talking about the challenges of Solent sailing Hannes said, “The sailing here is great. It’s my first time here in Cowes, everybody talks about Cowes Week so I’m very happy to be here now. The conditions yesterday for us as a team were on the one hand very challenging. I come from the River Elbe where we have current and I sail a lot there so I’m used to angles and high speed currents, but that you have these anticyclical currents is very difficult. But we have the available maps [tidal charts] and I think we managed OK. We did an eleventh in the first and a fourth in the second race, so overall we’re sixth right now, so we are pretty happy.”

With no racing completed today the overall leader board remains unchanged with Lawrie Smith four points ahead of Andy Beadsworth and Grant Gordon, and six points ahead of fourth placed Peter Gilmour. Chris Grosscurth leads the Corinthian Division from Martin Byrne, Poul Richard Hoj-Jensen and Simon Barter.

Fortunately the weather forecast for third day of the competition looks much more promising with more sunshine and an east-north-easterly breeze of 17 to 25 knots. The Race Committee may opt to run additional races to catch up the schedule. 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