SPORT - Wizzard' dominates Dragon

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Andrew York wins Dragon NSW championship on countback

Andrew York, skippering Wizzardry, has been awarded the International Dragon NSW championship on a countback after he and Matt Whitnall, at the helm
of Taranui,
finished equal on points at the end of the eight-heat NSW championship.

Taranui came from behind to level with Wizzardy in Sunday’s final three races, but with three firsts to Taranui’s one win, the countback went to Andrew York and his crew of Matt Ramaley (mainsheet) and Craig Young (bow).

The Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron conducted the regatta over the extended weekend with two races sailed last Friday, three on Saturday and the final three on Sunday in a wide range of conditions on the harbour, from a "lottery" on Friday to perfect weather for the final day.

The championship is a significant event as a lead-up for the strong NSW contingent entered for the Prince Philip Cup and the World championship for the evergreen Dragon class on Melbourne’s Port Phillip Bay in early January. At least eight of the crews who contested the States will be going south.

York, a former Australian Laser dinghy champion and two-times America’s Cup crew member (Advance in 1983 and Kookaburra in 1987) is in only his second season in the Dragon class, while Whitnall returned to racing Dragons on the Harbour this weekend after a break of 12 months.

York set a cracker pace, starting with two wins on Friday and a third first place, along with a second and a ninth, on Saturday. This placed Wizzardry on five points, with one discard after five heats, while Taranui was on 15 points with a scorecard of 5-5-4-3-3 at that stage of the regatta.

Whitnall threw down the gauntlet with a win in the first race on Sunday and followed this with two seconds to level the score after York had placings of 3-7-5. Carl Ryves in Sidewinder finished a close third on 22 points with a scorecard of 2-2-1-10-2-2-11-3.

In addition to York, Whitnall and Ryves, other heat winners were Liquidity (Richard Franklin & Damien Hannes), French Connection (Anthony Armstrong) and Linnea (Sandy Anderson).

"I crewed with Gordon Ingate in Whim, when we finished a close second to Nick Rogers in the Prince Philip Cup on Sydney Harbour in 2009 and really got the taste for sailing Dragons," York said after his State-title win.

"I bought this 13-year-old Petticrow boat and have put many hours into improving the systems; 70 hours alone on setting up a jib tacking system, which I believe is better than those on the latest Dragons.

"With Matt Ramerley joining Craig and I this season, we have done a lot of training, in particular with "changing gears", using runner and mainsheet tension to maintain the boat’s angle of keel as the wind strength varies.

"This teamwork paid off in the first two races last Friday when the wind was down to 10kts and up to 15kts. We didn’t get good starts but we worked our way up through the fleet to win both races.

"We let Matt come close to us today, but at the end of the day our teamwork paid off in winning our first State title," he said.

Whitnall was also pleased with his performance over the regatta. "Our worst race was a fifth and we went close to having three wins today in perfect Sydney Harbour conditions — easterly winds, blue sky, big run-out tide and fair winds all day," he said.

"In contrast, Friday’s racing was a lottery and Saturday was also light and flukey with racing across the ferry lanes from Taylor’s Bay to Point Piper, then the wind clocked east for the last race. This caught out those boats trying to repeat the feats of banging the right corner and left them far behind.

"The PRO, Ian Kingsford-Smith, did a really superb job on the start boat, using the black flag each day after one general recall to ensure the recalcitrant skippers were kept in check," Whitnall added.

He described his return to the Dragon class racing on Sydney Harbour as an exciting lead-up to the international racing on Port Phillip, hosted by Royal Brighton Yacht Club.

"After not racing on the harbour for 12 months against all the local boats, we noticed a few old hands who are new to the class, such as Roger Hickman, adding great value to Wolf Breit’s campaign with Shapes. They were fourth over the weekend and showed great potential each day," said Whitnall.

"The new Petticrows have speeded up this fleet by a few minutes and the racing is very close, with the Sydney fleet now at 10-plus boats each Saturday.

"This is adding to the development of the class nationally as owners are turning over boats a lot faster," he said.

At least six Sydney fleet owners are taking their Dragons to Melbourne for a Pre-Worlds Regatta at Royal Brighton Yacht Club on December 4 and 5, with Andrew York planning two extra weekends of training on Port Philip Bay.

Meanwhile, leading Russian Dragon sailors Mikhail Muratov and his wife Olga White, who sailed prominently in the Prince Philip Cup in Sydney in 2009 and again in Perth this year, are preparing for the World championship by competing in the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race. They have teamed up with champion ocean-racing yachtsman and recently recruited Dragon crewman Roger Hickman in chartering Vamp, a well-performed Corby 49 for the 628nm ocean race.

Peter Campbell


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