PPC Dragon Championship - Youth and enthusiasm breathe fire into fleet

Merum VIC - Dragon fleet
Rick Steuart/Jonny Fullerton
The Prince Philip Cup Australian Dragon Championship was organised by the Royal Freshwater Bay Yacht Club in conjunction with the West Australian International Dragon Association. The Dragon was designed in 1929 and enjoys a long illustrious history of great sailors including Olympic gold medallists and former world champions from many classes, royalty and the rich and famous. The class is sometimes viewed as a classic class raced by sailors of a similar era. Whilst there were many very well known names at this year’s Prince Philip Cup, with an age range of some 76 years!, the proof is in the pudding that the class has a broad appeal with some aspiring youth sailors.

Lucy onboard Taranui - Dragon fleet
Rick Steuart/Jonny Fullerton

Lucy Alderson
Lucy Alderson is 11 years old and competed in the Prince Philip Cup with her dad, the highly experienced keelboat sailor Grant Alderson along with fellow crew members Dean McAullay and Adele Jackson in (Taranui). Despite only having sailed the boat for two weeks, the Western Australian team finished a very credible seventh overall, winning the third race of the regatta and finishing in second and third in two other races.

Lucy Alderson - Dragon fleet
Rick Steuart/Jonny Fullerton

Lucy describes how she got into sailing:
'I did the Tackers course when I was six, started sailing Oppis at eight and now I am in the gold fleet of the Optimist class. I sail out of Royal Freshwater Bay Yacht Club and I have sailed at Royal Perth Yacht Club, South of Perth Yacht Club, Fremantle Sailing Club and I also regularly sail Wednesday night twilight sailing.'

At the Australian Dragon Championship Lucy describes here role onboard: 'It was my first time racing in the Dragon National’s with my dad and we did really well. We won one race. I pull the mast back and forth, furl the jib, I am ballast monitor, I do side stays, pump the boat and I am there to do anything thats required.'

On her future aspirations Lucy says she might like to race in the Olympics one day but right now she is just really enjoying her Oppi sailing.

Lucy will surely be ‘one to watch‘ in the future.

James Stout bow - Dragon fleet
Rick Steuart/Jonny Fullerton

James Stout
James is another Royal Freshwater Bay Yacht Club junior member who started racing at the tender age of six years.

'I started sailing in Mirrors with my dad and after I got a bit bigger and sick of him! I started to sail Oppi’s to get some skipper experience. Then I met with Ethan Low and we teamed up to sail in the Mirrors. We sailed the Nationals in Hobart where we won in the Junior category. I sailed back to back Mirrors and Oppi Nationals in the same two weeks.'

James Stout - Dragon fleet
Rick Steuart/Jonny Fullerton

James has sailed overseas and of all the regattas he said: 'I really enjoyed Pwllheli, in Wales where I raced in the Mirrors, the conditions were heavy with big waves so I like.'

Here I sail on both the Swan River and the ocean in Fremantle where there are consistent winds and you get to learn about shifts. Now I have started sailing 420’s and want to give that a go.'

AUS210 Rob Campbell 2nd Overall - Dragon fleet
Rick Steuart/Jonny Fullerton

At the Prince Philip Cup, James sailed with a very experienced team skippered by UK based Dragon sailor Rob Campbell, along with John Moncrieff and John Low. In very boisterous conditions they won the first race of the championships and went on to finish second overall, narrowly beaten by two points.

'I am known as he hiker but I am the eyes and ears onboard and an extra pair of hands. I have a number of jobs, like fine tuning the jib and assisting in spinnaker hoists/drops.'

This came in very handy according to his skipper Rob who commented:

'James saved the day when he alerted me to the fact that we had snagged a runner under the boat and it was very nearly a disaster.'

James explains why he likes Dragon sailing;

'I really like the one design classes, it makes it really competitive and I can gain so much experience from the older guys. I picked up so much from sailing these Nationals. I sail Dragons regularly with Sandy (Jackson) at RFBYC.'

On the future: 'I will campaign in the 420 and see how it goes. I would like to join the Youth squad and eventually get into the WA squad but right now I am really enjoying my sailing.'

Ethan Low - Dragon fleet
Rick Steuart/Jonny Fullerton

Ethan Low
Ethan Low, son of Dragon secretary John Low also sails from Royal Freshwater Bay Yacht Club in Perth. Ethan used to sail Dragons regularly with his dad but when he got a bit bigger and heavier, he transferred to sail as foredeck on other Dragons in the fleet.

'I start sailing around six years old in Dragons with my dad. I sailed Oppis and raced with James (Stout) in the Mirror Nationals in Hobart last year where we won in our division.'

When not sailing in Dragons, Ethan has started campaigning in the Laser where he is already beginning to turn heads with some impressive results. But he does confess with a shy smile that,

'Dragons are my favourite, I do the foredeck which is a complicated role, It is a technical boat and I gain a great deal of experience racing with a team.'

'I raced in the Dragon Nationals in 2011 and the Dragon Worlds in 2012. I raced in the State titles where we finished second in one race.'

AUS144 Hotspur - Dragon fleet
Rick Steuart/Jonny Fullerton

At the PPC in Perth, Ethan was foredeck hand on Hotspur sailing with Ken Stevenson and Stephan Eyssautier. They sailed a consistent regatta enjoying a third place in the fourth race of the championship.

Ethan plans to split his time between racing his Laser and sailing in the Dragons.

With these three young sailors the future is looking rosy for both the Dragon class and Western Australian sailing.

Victorian Boat crew - Dragon fleet
Rick Steuart/Jonny Fullerton

The Dragon family
Another team to compete at the PPC came all the way from Victoria The twins, Angus and Nick Roney, (20 years), where joined by Mar Borboa – Mexican-Aussie (20 years) and Maia Hester – Portuguese-Aussie (21 years).

They met at the Brighton Yacht Club in Victoria and soon became good mates. They used to sail 12ft dinghies but got a bit big for them and eyed the opportunity of some keelboat racing.

The yacht club offered the use of an old Dragon so they jumped at the chance. They enjoyed it so much that they competed in the PPC in Melbourne and again in Botany Bay last year.

It was in the campsite in Ramsgate, near Botany Bay that they met Western Australian Dragon sailor Ray Chatfield, who kindly offered them the use of Merum, AUS154, a wooden Dragon based at the RFBYC for the PPC in Perth.

The young team travelled to Perth for the first time and thoroughly enjoyed the experience of sailing in a competitive fleet on the Swan River. They plan to keep training in the Dragon and will go back to Victoria with a lot more knowledge and will no doubt be a force to reckon with back home in Melbourne, where the 2015 PPC is due to be sailed.

This only goes to show the true nature of the ‘Dragon family’.

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