It was a great start to the Open Dutch National Championship yesterday with 32 Dragons racing on the famous Ijsselmeer, based at the Olympic Regatta Centre here in Medemblik. With an oscilating wind of 10-15kts, mainly from the south, the fleet experienced flat water and challenging wind shifts. Ideal conditions for Dragon racing and with the “traditional” three up-wind leg’s that the Dutch always stick to (God bless them), two great races were sailed.

Pieter Heerama sailing his newly re-built Pedersen & Thuesen (NED 316) with Theis Palm and Joost Houweling, had a good first beat making the most of the ever changing wind shifts to hold a solid lead at the top mark. Our current IDA Chairman Richard Blickman (NED 393) and one of Belgium’s top helmsmen Alex Helsen (BEL 79) were in also in good shape and these three boats were the first to set their spinnakers for the 1.5 mile run.  On the second beat Heerama extended his lead, as a number of other contenders began to challenge Blickman and Helsen. On the final beat it was NED 300 Michel van Dis and NED 411 Wouter ten Wolde who made the very best from a  right-hand-shift during the middle of the last beat to finish 2nd and 3rd respectively behind Heerama.

It is always surprising to see how bunched up the fleet get towards the finish even after a 2 hour race, indeed this is why it takes no time at all for the remaining boats to complete the race and then head back down for another start.  The efficient and effective PRO had kept his “main” committee boat on station and was already adjusting the line in preparation for the 2nd race. Meanwhile the competitors could relax, de-brief on the race and enjoy the odd bit of lunch as they sailed, stress-free back to the start line…..  Why oh why don’t we sail like this all the time….  Bring back three long upwind legs for all National and International races…..  Instead of these stupid and sometimes dangerous “Hooked” line finishes……  Do races get started any quicker like that….??  Not in my experience of 20 years in a Dragon life !!

Anyway, moving on swiftly Stavros (we get the message), race two was started in simlar conditions with the fleet equally spread on the expertly set line. Making a strong challenge from the right-hand side of the first beat was NED 345 Reinier Wissenraet who actually held a slim lead from Ten Wolde NED 411 and Heerama NED 316 at the top mark. During the remaining two down winds and two more upwinds there were a few place changes, but Reinier sailed very well to hold onto his lead to take the winners gun. Gaining some revenge for his slip-up in race one was BEL 79 Alex Helsen who squeezed into 2nd place right at the finish, with NED 316 Heerama having to settle for 3rd.

So after day one. 1st Pieter Heerama 1, 3.  2nd Reinier Wissenraet 6, 1.  3rd Wouter ten Wolde 3, 4.

With stronger winds forecast today we can only hope for two more races… But Friday and Saturday look like more perfect weather again, so all is well here in a sunny Medemblik……

Higher, Faster, Longer………..   Stavros.  (NED 411).

P.S. Special get well message for my good friend and current Dragon World Champion crew, Ossie Stewart, as he recovers from a very recent mild stroke. Rumour has it Lawrie & Tim took Ossie out for a re-union slap up meal, then passed Ossie the bill……. 🙂