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February 2009 eNewsletter

Dear Dragon Sailors,

We have had a very busy winter here in Burnham, finishing the new hull mould Poul talked about in his last newsletter and finalising some other details for the 2009 model.

Since finishing the new tooling in November our workshop has been running at full speed on production and service work. Despite the economic gloom, the market for both new and used Dragons continues to flourish. Some newcomers to the class are "downsizing" to Dragons from bigger boats.

However, the main reason for our very busy and productive winter is the continued loyalty and trust that our existing customers place in us. People such as Tommy Mueller, Joergen Schonherr, Jens Christensen/Kim Anderson, Vincent Hoesch, Valdemar Bandelowski/Soren Hvalso, Olaf Sorrensen, Andre du Pon to name just a few, will all be sailing their new Petticrows Dragons this year. They felt confident to place the orders (and trust US with their money instead of their banks) before the new model was ready. Thank you from all of us at Petticrows.

Ian Howlett - our designer has double-checked the new mould progress and offered invaluable advice on a regular basis. Although these days the majority of design and tooling work is computer based, there is still no substitute for a good eye and experience. Added to that Poul's irreplaceable familiarity with the Dragon class and his feedback ensure the changes are not just based on theory!
When I crew for Poul to test changes on the hull, his comments about the way the bow is moving through the waves and how the shape of the wave off the transom is "just right" always amazes me.

Poul successfully tested some of Ian's design ideas on Danish Blue during the 2008 season; these have now been fully integrated into the 09 boats built from our new moulds (changes had to be made by hand on the 2008 boats). The changes have been quite subtle in the bow, but in the run aft they are more significant. Full use has been made of new mould making techniques and materials to ensure the longest straightest waterlines yet.

The International Class Measurer, Gunter Ahlers and IDA Technical Chairman, Mike Hayles controlled us on a regular basis during production and signed off the measurement on the first hull out of the new mould.

Class rules now dictate the spinnaker chute has to be constructed from solid glass fibre. Our new design is lighter as it is part of the deck moulding; it has also been reshaped to make hoisting and lowering of the spinnaker easier.

The spinnaker hatch and genoa furling gear design have also been lowered to reduce windage, giving the foredeck a much cleaner appearance.

A rule change passed unanimously at the IDA AGM last year was unexpectedly rejected by ISAF. To allow optional use of rope runners and backstays above the decks; below decks rope has been used for some time now. Rope technology is constantly improving; new products are reliable and have enabled us to change from wire to rope all over the boat. Just compare a 5 year old Dragon to our latest model and you will see what I mean!
One of ISAF's concerns which lead to the new rule rejection was the degradation of rope fibres in the sun. Poul has been testing rope rigging in Antigua for the last three months; sailing almost every day and has reported no problems and no wear and tear so far, despite the sunny and strong local wind conditions.

The IDA will allow a limited number of boats to test the rope runners during this season so the rule change can be re-submitted and the decision reviewed later this year.

The Danish team Jens Christensen/Kim Anderson is one of the teams given IDA permission and dispensation to act as a trial boat. Jens and Kim were racing in the recent Primo Cup with rope runners and backstay with in their newly delivered hull. Finishing second in the 43-boat fleet in their "out of the box" new hull is exactly the type of result we strive to maintain. No tools were necessary. Just mast up and go!

Jens and Kim opted for our centre console again on their 2009 boat; now becoming popular as it enables greater freedom of movement around the cockpit. We have sold some 20 Dragons with this option.
Also developed at the IDA meeting and approved by ISAF was the rule amending the dimension of the already approved small jib. Poul has been using these with the Antiguan fleet and is sure smaller crews will really benefit, not only at club level.

All that is needed is a small track on the deck, level with the mast. All other gear is just the same as with a genoa, even the halyard.

Follow this link to see more . New jib in Action.

A small, but very useful option that we have now is the continuous genoa sheet with rope shackle. Michi Lipp developed this some time ago. If you like to sail with continuous sheets, using a rope shackle is a very quick and reliable method of attaching the sheet to the genoa without having a steel shackle damaging the mast - neat and effective.
And yet another innovation we have developed in conjunction with Lyndon Brown a Dragon sailor from Perth, Australia is a completely new, quick release genoa sheeting system. Poul will be using the system this season, so if you are in the same place at the same time, ask him to show you. The concept is the main genoa sheet cleat automatically opens when the fine tune rope is released beyond a certain point. This removes any concerns for the lighter crews in releasing the genoa sheet in strong winds and will also allow quicker more efficient roll tacks in all conditions.

Our new mast section mentioned by Poul in his previous newsletter is really taking shape. It's very radical. Here are the first pictures of the extrusion, just arrived.
Ian Howlett has developed this unusual shape using his experience with the 6 meters and other progressive designs he is involved with. The whole concept is low drag and aerodynamic efficiency. We are working hard to have one on the water as soon as possible with Poul during the early season. The small longitudinal stripes are called invigorators and Ian assures us that these are very much part of the low drag concept.

Visitors are always welcomed at our workshop in Burnham to see the Dragon production first hand. As we make everything "in house" from the wood parts, glass fibre mouldings to the spars the whole building process can be seen from start to finish. A particular favourite is to see the process of vacuum infusion now used on the hulls and decks since 2004.
Poul will be racing in most of the major races this year starting in Majorca in the latest Danish Blue where all the new "toys" can be seen. I will also be racing at other regattas.

As always our service van will be at as many races as possible; on hand to help with mid regatta servicing and repairs. Please call or e-mail us if you need spare parts, sails (we sell North sails as well as Hoj-Jensen Design) or some service work mid season so we can make sure we deliver what ever is needed to the regattas.

I wish you a successful and enjoyable 2009 season.

Tim Tavinor