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eNewsletter - May 2009

The sudden death of Harro Kniffka at the age of 53 in March, was I am sure, a shock to all of us. Harro was a great benefactor to the Dragon Class and really loved his Dragon racing. His generosity enabled the planned 75th Anniversary Race in St. Tropez to proceed in 2004, when the major sponsor dropped out. He continued sponsoring Dragon events in Germany as well as individuals in the Star and other classes. He will, without doubt sorely be missed, both on and off the racecourse.

The resounding success and participation of the Dragon regattas so far this season, proves the resilience and strength of the Class. Despite a slight lack of wind, the 10th Grand Prix in Douarnenez was deemed to be a great regatta by the 90 odd Dragons who participated. On the other hand, this is what all of us have come to expect from the "Class Act" put on year after year by Louis Urvois, Gwen Chapalain, Annie Ravach and their teams of volunteers; congratulations. I am sorry I could not be there this year, but will be there in 2010. No doubt, I shall make similar comments after the Grand Prix in Strand in Germany, which is held in July. Run by the formidable husband and wife team of Ulli and Manuela Libor, which can only be another recipe for success. Jean- Pierre Gailes continues to be responsible for all the races laid on in Cannes and the Cote d'Azure. Without him pushing the Regattas, and keeping us all informed of results and up-coming events, participation would I feel sure be a lot lot lower. There are countless other examples; La Baule, Deauville, Westeinder in Holland to name a few. My point it, the individuals behind the regattas, drive the success of the Dragon Class far more than the economy.

Having said that, it seems that there is not much of an appetite to take part in the race in Antigua scheduled for 10th to 17th of January 2010. The main reason as far as I am told is that people do not want to "lose" their boats for the three months realistically speaking, it takes to get the Dragons there and back. Under consideration now is a holding the event on a reduced scale and using the local 11 Dragons so people can just "fly and race". If you are interested in receiving more information, please drop Chris Dicker or Sophia at a line.

I have been told by several Dragon sailors now, that a crew training and crew finding programme would greatly benefit the Dragon Class. In my view, this needs to be "attacked" seriously if any good is to come of it. There are many opportunities for setting up some training bases (Antigua for one in winter is not such a bad spot and Cascaisin Portugal another) and good people such as Vincie and Stavros to do training for both crews and helms are around. Let me know if anyone would be interested and if there are enough of you, I will put some energy into trying to get this going.

In its wisdom, ISAF vetoed the rule change to allow us to have kevlar above deck runners at its AGM. Reason given that the material would suffer too much from sun damage and general deterioration. However, Mike Hayles our technical Chief gave me (and some others) dispensation/permission to test them. I have been sailing a lot this winter in Antigua and conditions have been both sunny and windy. My boat has been either in the water or ashore with the mast up for six months. ( Not sure if you have seen the photos of Dragons racing in Antigua Sailing Week; if you have, you know that we had a lot a lot of wind and long 20- 24 mile courses.) I believe the time my Dragon has spent racing hard this winter, equates to a couple of seasons for normal Dragon sailors. When I packed my boat up, there was no sign whatsoever of any wear and tear or sun damage on the runners. I am sending one of them to Mike Hayles, so he can present it, and hopefully make our case, to ISAF so their decision can be reversed.

I have been disappointed with the delay in production of the new Petticrows mast. I should have had the mast for testing for the races in Mallorca, but now I will start using it in the French Championship in La Baule. I know several of you have been looking forward to trying the new section, and I apologise for this delay. On the other hand, the new genoa track system, which has been under development for nearly two years, is almost complete. If you think this is a long time, it is not. When I was asked by the late Udo Pluckelman to come up with a winchless system, to make life easier for his wife Britta, it took me over three years. Many times I thought I had the system cracked, but no, and I needed to put the winches back on half way through a regatta. Then back to the drawing board and designing and making new fittings. However, already most of the crews who have been testing the system on Danish Blue are impressed; I am just waiting for delivery of the final fitting which hopefully deals with the last bit of critisism (from Noddy!). You will hear the results after the races in La Baule and Kiel.

An accident happened during last years Antigua Sailing Week. After racing one of the Dragons accepted a tow from a Yacht into Jolly Harbour. The crew, while fastening the line got her hand caught under the cleat and as result lost three fingers. I have had discussions about crew insurance with Michael Kurtz of Pantaenius for a while now. The following is copied from a mail Michael sent me and leaves no room for doubt:

"As Sophia already mentioned we discussed in general the difficulties to insure non-professional crews on non-professional (fun) regattas. There are no proper crew insurances via the sportboats (Dragons for example) hull and TPL policy available on the market. All sailors must be covered via their own, private insurance facilities in their countries for this kind of individual - sporting activity - risk. There are crew insurance covers available for Yacht Crews, but only if they are working/professionals on Yachts. Another story might be the accident insurance which covers death and disabilities only - but even this is very limited cover and never ever any Dragon owner wanted to pay this extra premium."

Michael's email is clear; crews need to have their own accident insurance in place, as they are not covered by the boat insurance. It is surprising how many people are not aware of this and I therefore bring it up again.

So far, the new model Dragon is performing very well and the owners are happy. Tommy Mueller managed to win the Coupe de Bretagne with his brand new boat; he didn't do so well in the end in the Grand Prix though, finishing 7th. Congratulations to Evgeniy Braslavets from the Ukrainian Bunker Team who was the winner of the Grand Prix. I managed a first place in my first sail on Danish Blue in the Copa in Callanova, followed by a 6th place in the Princess Sofia. Simply due to stupidity on my part; going into the last race race I was laying second. Tommy deservedly won that race too. My full admiration goes to a very quiet and reserved team from Russia; Russia 27, Anatoly Logonov with Alexander and Andrei are having a great season. Winning in Cannes, second in Monaco and the Grand Prix in Douarnenez is a great achievement in my book. All due to dedication and concentration; watch out for this team. We will continue to see them on the winners podium. Another Dragon sailor I take my hat off to is Olga White. Conditions in Antigua Sailing Week were tough without doubt and the courses long. In Europe, a race committee would not have dreamt of even starting a fleet of Dragons. Nevertheless she was on the starting line every day and always came off the boat with a big smile on her face. Last year, she deservedly won this event; this year she was not lucky but conditions were against her too. Even though I won, the racing was extremely close. After racing 22 miles there were only seconds between us and Misha Mouratov who finished second and Anatoly who came third.

I hope to see you on the racecourse; please feel free to have a good look at Danish Blue. There are many new "toys" this season!

All the best,

Poul Richard

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