Weymouth finally showed herself at her best for day three of the Gazprom International Dragon World Championship where the fleet enjoyed two stunning races, races two and three of the eight race series.
With a north westerly wind ranging from as little as 6 knots all the way up to around 18 knots and constantly shifting, the race committee rose to the occasion and produced spot on courses. The Dragons like to sail long legs for their World Championships and typically run with a 2.2 to 2.5 mile first beat. Despite this the fleet was still rounding the first mark tightly packed and the jury had a number of customers this evening following mark rounding incidents.
The quality of the fleet is truly exceptional and contains multiple Olympic medalists, America's Cup veterans and World and Continental Champions and it is clear from the results that there is a huge depth of talent as some very big names are to be found well down the rankings tonight.
Boat of the day was without any doubt Poul Richard Hoj-Jensen's Danish Blue crewed by Hamish Mackay and Andrew Norden. Having won Sunday's opening race they consolidated their lead by taking a good steady fifth in race two, then going on to win race three in exceptional style. A double Olympic Gold Medallist, Poul is also the winner of five Dragon Gold Cups, four European Championships and is one of only two helms to have won the Worlds twice, first in 1989 and again in 2009. Known to the Dragon fleet as simply "The Man", Hoj-Jensen proved today that his physical and mental strength are in no way diminished as he approaches his 70th year and he is still more than able to give the young pretenders a good whipping. He led from the first mark and by the time he rounded the last gate for the beat home he had a comfortable lead. The fleet split evenly port and starboard for the final leg making it impossible to cover everyone, but Poul's final beat was a master class in how to defend a position and was the talk of the regatta village post racing.
The only man who came close to Hoj-Jensen's performance was Russia's Andrey Kirilyuc who is sailing with Aleksey Bushuev and Alina Dotsenko. Kirilyuc is another Olympian who raced for Russia in the Laser in '96, in the Soling in 2000 and in the Tornado in 2004. Better known in the Dragon fleet as one of the top tacticians this has been Aleksey's first chance to show his skills as a helm. He only discovered he would helm the boat late last week when owner and regular helm Dmitry Samokhin was forced to pull out. A quick phone call brought Russian match racer Alina Dotsenko into the team and despite having no practice time they rapidly found their feet taking fourth in the opening race. Today they came off the port end of the start of race two like the proverbial scalded cat and never looked back winning by a comfortable margin. This afternoon they again sailed very consistently finishing in seventh place to put them into second overall.
In the overall standings Poul Richard Hoj-Jensen now leads the regatta on 7 points with Andrey Kirilyuk second on 12 points. Third place overall is held by Hendrik Witzmann, Michael Koch and Markus Koy sailing for the United Arab Emirates, who added a seventh and third to Sunday's ninth place to give them 19 points overall and an eight point margin on fourth placed Inna Shternberg of Russia. Places fifth to eighth are all held by Brits with Martin Payne fifth, Klaus Diederich's sixth, Quentin Strauss seventh and defending champion Lawrie Smith eighth. After his crew Tim Tavinor sustained a nasty hand injury when fending off another boat on the dock after racing on day one Lawrie was left one man short and facing the prospect of having to withdraw from the regatta. Fortunately good friend Bill Masterman, who has sailed with Lawrie and third man Ossie Stewart in the past, was able to drop everything and rush down to Weymouth to step in.
In the Corinthian Division for amateur crews Poul Richard Hoj-Jensen also leads the way with Mark Wade in second, Peter Froschel third, Remy Arnaud fourth and Rob Campbell fifth. One Corinthian team who got more than they bargained for today was Julia Bailey's Aimee. Going up the first beat of race two they were looking very nice on the left hand side. They went to tack and Julia's husband Graham, who calls tactics in the boat, pulled on the runner. He'd just put his full weight into the final adjustment when a block gave way and he effectively threw himself out of the boat. Fortunately he managed to remain in contact and within less than a minute fellow crew members Richard Powell and Will Heritage had fished him out and they were on their way again. Sadly though the advantage was lost and they finished the race in 63rd place.
As always at the post racing prize giving there were some special lucky draw presentations with Tommy Mueller's team taking home three sets of Maui Jim sunglasses and Julian Sowery claiming goodies from Zhik.
Later in the evening the teams enjoyed a wonderful cocktail party at Portland Castle where guests could take a guided tour of this 16th century Tudor Castle, built by Henry VIII to protect against French and Spanish invasion and now owned by English Heritage and open to the public. As well as delicious canapes and English sparkling wine the guests also enjoyed a traditional Morris Dancing display - an entertainment all too familiar to the British competitors but baffling and entertaining in equal measure to the international visitors. All together a thoroughly British evening.
Two further races are planned for Wednesday 11 September and the forecast is for 10+ knots, again from the north west. You can keep up with the latest from the race course via the Pantaenius Live Tracking, where you can also replay past races. News, results and further information will be posted at the event website. The regatta will continue until Friday 13 September with a maximum of eight races scheduled and a single discard coming into play after the completion of race six.