With just two points separating Andrey Kirilyuk and Klaus Diederichs for the overall championship and a single point separating Philip Dohse and Poul Richard Hoj-Jensen for the Corinthian title, it was clear that the final race of the Gazprom International Dragon World Championship in Weymouth was going to be a gripping affair. But little did we know just how gripping!
Kirilyuk, a three time Russian Olympian crewed by Aleksey Bushuev and top match racer Alina Dotsenko, had a two point advantage going in and Diederich was already certain of the silver medal slot so it was all to play for between the two crews. As the committee went into the start sequence it was no surprise to see that Diederichs, crewed by British Olympian and Etchells World Champion Andy Beadsworth and North Sails' Jamie Lea, was determined to control Kirilyuk on the start line. To win Diederichs had to get two boats between them or sail him down below 18th place so the game was on and it was clear that neither party was frightened to engage. Andy Beadsworth takes up the story.
"We picked him up with about 7 minutes to go to the start just to see what would happen, see if we could rattle his cage. Nothing too serious or aggressive. He just parked up and we sat there on port with us behind him at a stand still and then we decided to get to the right of him and he didn't do anything so we sat there with our sails flapping. Then there was 30 seconds to go and we're behind the fleet with our sails flapping. So we started to sheet in and go and he sheeted in and went and we started on port behind the fleet. We must have been maybe two or three lengths behind on port tack thinking that the job was pretty much done by then. Then he tacked off after the start and we tacked off on his hip and thought - wow were in about fifth here - which was a bit of a surprise."
At the first mark Diederichs rounded in fifth and Kirilyuk in the high teens. On a 2.2 mile course and with a shifty north westerly of around 6-10 knots it was clear that anything could still happen and at the first gate Diederichs had dropped into sixth while Kirilyuk had moved up to 11th. On the second lap Kirilyuk made huge gains and approached the final gate only three boats back. He executed an excellent mark rounding gaining two boats in the process so whilst Diederichs still had good distance on him he no longer had those crucial places.
Up the final beat Diederichs drove Kirilyuk off to the supposedly unfavoured left in a desperate bid to work him down the fleet and put boats from the favoured right between them. It was all looking pretty good until about half way up when another big shift suddenly put them both back at the front of the fleet. A frustrated Diederichs did everything he could including slowing right down and wedging his main up the track to give the other boat bad air in the hope that when they came back to the main fleet there would be sufficient boats between them, but no matter what they did they just kept gaining on the boats to the right.
Ahead of them Mark Dicker was winning the race in impressive style, with Tommy Mueller second and Poul Richard Hoj-Jensen third, but all the attention was turned back down the track to the series leaders as Diederichs finished in ninth place followed by Mark Wade and Julia Bailey, Kirilyuk, Valeriy Ushkov and Markus Wieser.
Initially Diederichs and his team thought that Kirilyuk had done enough to win it and returned home despondent. But on attempting to congratulate Kirilyuk back ashore they discovered that their mental arithmetic was faulty and that they had in fact claimed the Royal Hellenic Trophy and the right to call themselves Dragon World Champions by a single point margin.
In the Corinthian division Poul Richard Hoj-Jensen won the final race which meant that the legendary double Olympic Gold Medalist, crewed by Andrew Norden and Hamish Mackay, claims his first Corinthian Dragon World title to add to the two overall Dragon World titles he already holds. Philip Dohse finished eighth in the race and took second Corinthian with Philipp Ocker third. Speaking at the prize giving Hoj-Jensen paid tribute to the great strength of the Corinthian Dragon fleet and to the quality of the Corinthian competition. He also praised the organisers and race committee for their excellent work. In addition to receiving the Atkinson Corinthian Trophy he was presented with an exclusive two day BMW Snow and Ice Training package by Ulrike Heible of BMW. Although clearly delighted he laughingly admitted, "Its a wonderful prize, but I live in Antigua where we don't get much snow!"
so he generously handed it to second place Philip Dohse, who lives in Munich and will be able to take much better advantage of the exclusive opportunity at BMW's training facility.
The prize giving then moved on to the overall presentations and third placed Marcus Wieser of Germany received a rousing reception from his fellow competitors. When Andrey Kirilyuk and his team came to the podium the audience was fulsome in its appreciation of the amazing regatta they had sailed, but the biggest cheer of all was saved for Klaus Diederichs, Andy Beadsworth and Jamie Lea, worthy champions of probably the most closely fought and demanding Dragon World Championship in many years. The victors were presented with the Royal Hellenic Trophy and a BMW Snow and Ice Training package which Klaus joked would be very useful in the UK just as a huge squally gust of wind shook the tent!
In his acceptance speech Diederichs echoed the thanks already expressed by Hoj-Jensen and acknowledged the incredible quality of his competitors, giving particular praise to Kirilyuk and his team for their extraordinary performance. "They were worthy competitors. It was a very emotional moment and we are all very proud and honoured to win this trophy. And what a way to win this. Also thanks to our coach, the "King of Ferrets" Jim Saltonstall!"
Speaking after the prize giving British Dragon Association Chairman Martin Makey noted, "Despite the English weather its been an amazing championship. We've been extremely proud to welcome competitors from as far afield as Australia and Japan to race on the waters of the 2012 Olympiad. Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy has proven to be an excellent venue and Race Officer Tim Hancock and his team truly came through for the class. Of course events like this aren't possible without sponsor support and I'd like to thank our publicity partner Gazprom International, associate sponsors Aberdeen Asset Management and BMW, and the host of prize and social sponsors who have helped make the event such a success. And finally a huge thank you to our team of BDA committee members and volunteers who have worked to hard to achieve this event."