On the opening day of the Dragon Grand Prix European Cup Finals 2019 Ukrainian Olympic 470 Gold Medallist Evgenii Braslavets, crewed by Sergey Pugachev, Sergey Timokhov and Oleksandr Myrchuk, claimed the golden ticket which will allow him to leapfrog past the Quarter and Semi Finals straight through to the Finals.
Over the course of four Grade 1 International Dragon regattas hosted by Cannes, Cascais, Kuhlungsborn and Puerto Portals, 100 Dragon teams have fought a season long battle for the right to claim one of just 20 places in this all new Dragon Grand Prix European Cup Finals regatta. The conclusion yesterday of the Dragon Grand Prix Spain confirmed not only the overall winners of the Dragon Grand Prix Series, but also the twenty teams that had successfully qualified for this brand new knockout competition.
The new regatta format calls for a first round of four qualifying fleet races for all 20 competitors on day one. The overall top ten boats then progress into day two when Quarter, Semi and Final races will decide who the ultimate winner.
Early morning rain gave way to bright sunshine over Puerto Portals and following a detailed briefing, which included confirmation that on the water judging by the International Jury would be in operation, the teams headed afloat. Bang on time at 11.00 and in a shifty 9 knots from the North West the first of the four qualifiers got underway.
With a fleet of such high calibre, a slightly reduced course size and very shifty conditions, the competition was fierce from the outset with constant place changes throughout the fleet. Consistency was hard to come by and most of the teams found themselves at both the front and back of the fleet over the course of the day.
Braslavets opened with a very disappointing 14th then rallied with a second and third, but going into the last race he was still below the qualification point. Drawing on all his knowledge and experience as a multiple Dragon class champion and Olympic 470 Gold medallist, he dug deep and reminded everyone of exactly why he is one of the most respected and successful competitors in the class.
Going into that final race Germany's Nicola Friesen, crewed by Vincent Hoesch and Aleksey Bushuev held a single point lead over the fleet. A seventh place secured her second overall and also allowed her to claim the silver ticket of a bye into the Semi Final round.
Portugal's Pedro Andrade, Russia's Dmitry Samokhin, Dutchman Pieter Heerema, UK's Grant Gordon, Switzerland's Hugo Stenbeck, Australia's Peter Gilmour, Sweden's Martin Palsson and Russia's Anatoly Loginov are the additional 8 sailors who go forward to compete in tomorrow morning's Quarter Final race. Five teams will then join Friesen for the Semi Final, and the top three teams from that race will progress into the Final to challenge Braslavets.
The strength and depth of the Dragon Class is world renowned and in this, the year of its 90th Anniversary, the fleet is once again demonstrating its incredible ability to evolve and remain current whilst at the same time not only retaining but enhancing its unique heritage and innate style. There are some 3000 Dragons across 31 National Classes and four continents registered and racing regularly around the globe. That tomorrow's ten finalists represent ten different nations and include four America's Cup veterans, three Olympians, one Vende Globe veteran, an all amateur crew, a female helm and multiple National, Continental and World Champions speaks volumes about what makes the fleet so enduringly popular.
The forecast for the final day of the regatta is for initially light north westerly winds which will clock round to the north east and increase as the day progresses. The Quarter Final race is scheduled to commence at noon with each of the races expected to last around 45 minutes. To follow all the action from the race course please visit the IDA Facebook page.