The 2019 Dragon Grand Prix Cannes concluded in style at the Yacht Club de Cannes with one final race in superb conditions to decide the winner. Going into the day just ten points separated the top six teams so the scene was set for a nail-biting showdown and the fleet did not disappoint.
After a delay to allow the wind to fill in, race five started in sunshine and 15 knots from 190 degrees, then gradually clocked right to 210, building to 27 knots by the finish. With the points so close there were some tricky decisions to be made for regatta leader Pedro Rebelo Andrade and a conservative approach was needed. While Germany's Stephan Link, Britain's Grant Gordon and Russia's Yevgen Braslavets romped away to finish first to third respectively, all eyes were locked on the battle between Portugal's Andrade and his nearest rival, Thomas Müller from Germany, who had just two points between them.
Initially, Müller looked to have the upper hand, but a jib furler malfunction saw him forced to take on the second beat with his genoa only partially open. Müller is one of the most experienced helms on the circuit with World, European and Gold Cup Dragon titles to his name, and he and his crew of Dragon World Champion Phillip Malte and Markus Koy, a veteran of four Olympic campaigns, the Valencia America's Cup and a three-time Star European Champion, quickly figured out a solution. But the brief falter was sufficient to allow Andrade to pass them and they crossed the line in sixth and seventh places respectively.
So with the final points calculated Dragon European Champion Pedro Andrade and his team of top dinghy sailors Goncalo Ribeiro and Joao Vidinha da Costa plus youngster Kacey Marfo claimed the Dragon Grand Prix Cannes and first blood in the 2019 Dragon European Cup series by three points from Thomas Müller. Grant Gordon's second place was enough to secure him third overall, a single point behind Müller.
Back ashore Andrade was fulsome in his praise of his fellow competitors and his crew "I think I have to say that I profited from the misfortune of some of my biggest opponents. First of all Grant Gordon was leading a race and the wind dropped off and the race committee had to abandon, and then the next day he was black flagged. And again today Tommy is sailing so well and at one stage at the end of the first beat I thought that was it and we weren't going to catch him at all. But we had a good run, we were quite fast downwind, and then he had an issue on board with the genoa and we profited again. The boys I am sailing with haven't sailed much in the Dragon, but they are fantastic sailors and I am really happy with them and it made my life easier."
For 13-year-old Kacey Marfo this week's experience of racing with Andrade has been an extraordinary contrast to his usual life as a schoolboy at the Greig City Academy in one of London's most deprived districts. Marfo is part of the Scaramouche Sailing Project, which uses sailing to benefit underprivileged children, and after the prize giving he explained, "Me and my friends when we started secondary school, we didn't have anything to do, but then our teacher told us about sailing and we just loved it and wanted to keep on going." Asked about what he was did on the boat he joked that, "My job onboard was was to be the fourth person and to try not to be in the way!".
In the Corinthian Division for all amateur crews Germany's Tanja Jacobsohn, a former 470 World Champion, sailing with husband Bernard Jacobsohn and Jan Scharrfesser, put in another great performance to finish eleventh in the race and take the Corinthian overall title from fellow German Maximillian Dohse with Sweden's Karl-Gustaf Löhr third.
At the final prizegiving, the competitors came together to honour their champions and the prizes, which included gifts from event sponsor Marinepool, were awarded. Delicious seafood and cocktails sponsored by Yanmar were served and International Dragon Association Chairman Vasily Senatorov praised the organisers and volunteers of the Yacht Club de Cannes on another superb event. He also invited all the competitors to join him at the remaining events of the Dragon European Cup which will take place as follows:
May 1-4 - HM King Juan Carlos Trophy, Cascais, Portugal
July 3-6 - Dragon Grand Prix Germany, Kuhlungsborn, Germany
November 11-14 - Dragon Grand Prix Spain, Palma de Mallorca, Spain
November 15-16 - Dragon European Cup Grand Final, Palma de Mallorca, Spain
To qualify for the final teams must compete in three of the four regattas including the Grand Prix Spain. Twenty teams will qualify for the final and there will be a quota for non-Corinthian and Corinthian sailors, based on the proportion of non-Corinthians/Corinthians participating in all four qualifying events. For example, if the total entries for all four events are 160, Corinthian entries total 40 and non-Corinthian total 120, then the Corinthian quota for the Final will be five, and the non-Corinthian will be 15.
Vasily Senatorov also invited all Dragon sailors to join him at a very special Dragon 90th Anniversary Regatta, which is to be hosted by the Yacht Club Sanremo on Italy's beautiful Liguria coast from 5 to 13 October 2019. Already 120 teams have confirmed their entry and the final attendance is expected to be considerably higher as Dragon sailors and their friends and family travel from across the globe for this unique gala celebration.
Dragon Grand Prix Cannes 2019 Final Top Ten
POR84 - Pedro Rebelo de Andrade - 6, (14), 1, 1, 6 = 14
GER33 - Thomas Müller - 4, 4, 2, (12), 7 = 17
GBR820 - Grant Gordon - 1, 7, 8, (BFD 52), 2 = 18
GER1170 - Marcus Brennecke - 7, 3, 5, 5, (13) = 20
SUI311 - Hugo Stenbeck - 5, (19), 10, 2, 9 = 26
RUS76 - Dmitry Samokhin - 9, 5, 9, (11), 4 = 27
GER1162 - Stephan Link - 15, (21), 6, 7, 1 = 29
NED412 - Pieter Heerema - 10, 1, 7, (22), 15 = 33
RUS77 - Yvgeny Braslavets - 2, (26), 22, 8, 3 = 35
RUS27 - Anatoly Loginov - 14, 6, (21), 4, 12 = 36