International Dragon Racing in the Future?

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International Dragon Racing in the Future?

Post by pwarrer » Sun Jul 27, 2008 8:41 pm

International Dragon Racing in the Future?..

I: Professionalism


Dragon sailing is primarily for 40+ gentlemen sailors as skippers/helmsmen and a combination of this category and 30+ ambitious racing sailors as crew. We appreciate that young sailors choose to sail the dragon, but we do not have a special ambition for the dragon class to attract young sailors. Most of them should sail modern boats and dinghies. Furthermore we do not have an ambition to be “modern” in the way that sponsorships, advertising and professionalism are preferred. We want a classic boat with a high and fair competition on equal terms. We also want socialising among all teams to be a major element of dragon regattas.

This concept has been increasingly successful during the last 10 years, but several signs seem to indicate that international and national dragon racing has peaked and is declining. Several reasons and explanations can be found: Too many regattas weaken each regatta, difficulties in finding and keeping a crew, alternative attractive classes, less time for socialising at regattas etc. It is hard to do much about some of those factors.

However, there is one trend in international dragon racing, which is one of the main reasons for the decline we see right now, and that is the growing professionalism in the class. We want to sail against the best sailors, but we want to do it on fairly equal terms. If this is not the case, the class will suffer.

We have to initiate steps to protect and develop the dragon class if we want it to survive as the strongest international one design keel boat racing class.

Recent Developments

We have for many years known and appreciated the professionalism of a few owners, who will only have an opportunity to sail if they can hire a crew. During the last couple of years, however, the dragon class has been invaded by professionals paid by rich skippers/helmsmen and even by owners, who do not helm or even sail the boat themselves. Those owners are attracted by the prestigious dragon class with its gentleman traditions.

The class is being split into two groups: The gentlemen or Corinthian teams and the professional or semi professional teams. This has already hurt the class significantly: More and more Corinthian dragon teams give up and leave the class or leave the international regatta scene.

For instance Princess Sofia’s Cup in Palma 2008 saw a decline of dragons to 38, and if you take away approximately 25 professional or semi professional teams, only about 13 Corinthian teams were there. The normal fleets of 5-8 Corinthian dragon teams from each of the nations of England, Ireland, Holland, Denmark, France and Sweden were gone. The bad weather and the criticised regatta management of Palma 2007 cannot fully explain this significant reduction in numbers. The Palma fleet was dominated by 25 Russian, Ukrainian and English dragons with professional or semi professional crews and several full or semi professional crews from other countries.

The most hardcore teams have hired excellent, even world class, professional sailors supported by an advanced set-up of coaches, meteorologists and fast coach boats. In Palma some of the coach boats gathered wind and other race relevant information all over the race course before, during and after the races. They also allowed their boats checking wind and course very close to each start pulling their boats to the starting line last minute giving their crews last minute wind info and advice. Also the coach boats kept extra sails and food so their boats could save weight, and they pulled their boats out to and in from the race course leaving the Corinthian teams sailing an extra hour to the marina hurting the after race socialising.

The above trend of excessive professionalism and/or significant decline in numbers of participants was also seen in Douarnenez and in Kiel at Pfingstpusch and Kieler Woche, and we will see the same trend this year at the Europeans and at the Gold Cup. In general it seems that the normally very strong national dragon fleets and regattas of Britain, Germany, Holland and Denmark are suffering, while the French fleets seems to be doing all right and the Russian fleet – to a high extent based on professionalism - fortunately seems to be developing very well.

If this development continues, more and more of the traditional, Corinthian teams will disappear as a reaction to the professionalism. Then, sooner or later, the owners of the professional teams will leave the class too, because it will eventually not be a prestigious gentlemen’s class anymore. This is a loose/loose situation.

2008 reports from the dominant dragon boat-builders and sail-makers are clear: They suffer a significant decline in orders compared with the previous years, and this is not only due to a weakened world economy.

The link between national and club racing and international racing is also threatened. Some of the dragon sailors, who mainly sail on the national or local level, used to enjoy participating in 1-3 international regattas per year. Some of those sailors, actually being the backbone of many international regattas, are now gradually disappearing from the international scene frustrated by the professional racing atmosphere and the lack of socialising at the international regattas. Since the international racing has been a major motivational force for those dragon sailors, they tend to eventually drop completely out of dragon racing and perhaps find a less expensive boat for local racing.

We want to change this loose/loose situation to a win/win situation.


ISAF has a relevant tool for this purpose, the ISAF sailors’ category registration. It takes you 5 minutes to fill out the registration form on the ISAF website Then you will be registered as a category 1 (amateur, costs may be covered), cat. 2 (sailmaker/boatbuilder, no payment) or cat. 3 (professional, paid hand, who has been paid for sailing at least once during the previous 2 years). If it appears that someone has based his categorisation on giving wrong information then ISAF will give him a two year ban from racing.

Similar rules have been successfully enforced in the Farr 40 Class and in the Melges 24 Class.

It is important that the proposal secures that the excellent and well-liked professionals already active as coaches and crew members in the dragon class can continue being an asset to the class. Also we are in favour of talented sailors being able to earn their living in the dragon class too. So we still wish to sail against the best and the best professionals too. However, their participation of the professionals should be wisely and carefully regulated so they strengthen the class, not the opposite.

The below fair and careful regulation of professionalism in the dragon class should be supplemented with IDA suggestions for strengthening the regattas on the national and the club level.

The below proposals appear just in time, since the above negative developments are accelerating quite rapidly. If we wait just one more year, it will be even more difficult to restore a healthy dragon class, and if we wait 3-4 more years it may be too late.

We are aware and happy about the fact that a few international regattas have been launched successfully by enthusiastic, clever, and well-funded organizers during recent years. Best example is probably the German HLL Grand Prix in Strande. These exceptions from the general decline are highly encouraging, but unfortunately they are exceptions.

Proposal 1a and 1b: Regulation of Professionalism

For all teams at all IDA graded events the following regulations will be in force:


1. All skippers and crews must fill in their ISAF category in their entry application before the deadline stipulated in the NOR.

2. Boats with helmsmen placed below 34 on the IDA International Ranking List are allowed to have a maximum of two category 2 or 3 (cat. 2/3) crews, or one cat. 2/3 helmsman and one cat. 2/3 crew.

3. Boats with helmsmen placed from 16-34 on the IDA Ranking List are allowed to have one cat. 2/3 helmsman or one cat. 2/3 crew.

4. Boats with helmsmen placed on the top 15 of the IDA Ranking List are allowed to have one cat. 2 helmsman or one cat. 2 crew, or one cat. 3 helmsman or one cat. 3 crew, who is not paid for the race in question.

Alternative – more simple – proposal:


Above points 2-4 substituted with:
Every boat is allowed only one cat. 2 or 3 helmsman or crew.

Proposal 2:

Owner/charterer or owner’s child or parent must be helmsman or crew.

Proposal 3:

Special result-lists and prizes for the best all Corinthian teams.

The rules of proposal 1 and 2 should be enforced and policed by the rather small dragon community, and IDA should offer to check out suspected violations.

Every year at the AGM this rule complex on professionalism should be debated and adjusted if needed.

Proposal 4: Coach Boats

Coach boats must be registered, carry a C flag, and they have to stay behind a line, which is 150 meters behind the starting line, from one hour before the warning signal of the first race till all the races of the day have ended. They are not allowed to be in any kind of communication or physical contact with their team for this period. They are only allowed to tow boats from and to the harbour if they are willing to tow all boats near by them, and not only their own boat(s). Alleged infringements of this rule may be protested by competitors, which may lead to disqualification of the relevant dragon(s). If the jury sees such an infringement the jury must disqualify the relevant dragon(s).

II: Race Management

Our Championship and Graded regattas vary too much in quality and too often lack sufficient quality. We should not pull a dragon 4.000 kilometres by car and then experience unfair sailing because of poor race and regatta management. Unfortunately this happens too often.

We have excellent IDA Regatta Regulations, which cover all issues. The problem is that nobody follows them as they should in order to have excellent regattas. This neglect of the RR too often has consequences as: Poor race management, insufficient and differing NORs and SIs, too high entrance fees, disastrous launchings/liftings, lack of social activities etc.

Sometimes during the years IDA representatives have tried to do this job, but they have many times been unsuccessful in this matter, because they often lack the necessary authority, the skills and the time needed.

We want to have the same high level of race management as they enjoy in for instance the Farr 40 Class, where the professional PRO system has been functioning successfully for years with full support from local organisers.

We need a professional principal race officer at major regattas. This PRO should be of top international level and at the same time he/she should be a competent and empathic coach for the local organisers. Then we will achieve a win/win situation for the dragon fleet and for the local organisers of Championship or Grade 1 regattas. The price for a qualified PRO would be approx. 4.000 dollars per regatta. He could be the likes of the successful Farr 40 PRO Peter Reggio, who is also an America’s Cup PRO. Another candidate could be Dane Jan Schlütter, who has been trained by the Farr 40 pro principal race officer in their 2007 season. But several good candidates could be found even for less money.

Proposal 5: Professional Principal Race Officer

For all Championship and Grade 1 regattas IDA appoints a professional principal race officer, whose responsibility is to see to that the organisers establish and strictly follow an action plan securing that the IDA Race Regulations are followed all the way through. This includes identical NORs and sailing instructions, jury obligations, coach boats, craning, accommodations, social activities, entrance fee (max. 500 Euros), English as written and spoken language etc.

The PRO should be present at all IDA Championship and Grade 1 events, and he/she should visit the organisers at least once before the regatta to make sure the action plan is followed. This PRO should work closely together with the IDA officers and especially with the IDA secretary. The organisers should pay maximum 4.000 dollars for this assistance. Besides being a principal race officer and organiser on highest international level, such a PRO should be a qualified coach and partner for the local organisers, so they will reach a new level after each dragon regatta.

Alternative: Only for Championship regattas.

III: Local/national Regattas

We need to encourage activities on the national or club racing level, so we stop the decrease in the participation there. Today we have too many regattas, which cannibalize on each other.

Successful local activities are often dependant of strong national chairmen or fleet captains. It is difficult to strengthen or regulate this regatta level with IDA decisions or activities. However IDA can recommend a regatta schedule and some social activities, that motivate the local sailors for more participation in local and international regattas.

Proposal/suggestion 6: Local Regattas - decrease in quantity and increase in quality

In a local fleet like that of a small country or a region of a larger country, the IDA recommends the national dragon authorities to see to that the regattas are limited to a few well-organised regattas: 2 in the spring, 2 in the fall and one national championship in the summer. Those 4-5 local regattas yearly should constitute a national series with trophies etc. Those locally selected regattas should also be given grade 2 status and should be counting accordingly for the IDA ranking list.

The IDA recommends that the local organisers together with the participating dragon sailors see to that each regatta has a social program such as after race drinks and snacks, dinner, spectator boat etc.

Whats next?

It is our ambition to find support for the above proposals in the dragon community, from national associations and from IDA officers, so the proposals can be put forward for positive decision at the IDA AGM in London in October 2008.

Regarding the seriousness and the acceleration of the mentioned challenges for the class, in our opinion the 2008 IDA AGM needs to cancel the decision of last year´s AGM not to discuss the issue of professionalism until 2011.

No proposals can solve all problems immediately, and some proposals may be difficult to enforce. However, in our opinion, we need to bring forward the already existing discussions about the current situation for the dragon class, and we also need to take appropriate action in due time for the class to prosper.

We welcome constructive reactions to the above proposals.

Juli 27th, 2008

Frank Berg, Valdemar Bandolowski, Peter Warrer (as a private dragon sailor not as an IDA officer)

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Joined: Wed Aug 09, 2006 2:10 pm
Location: England

Re: International Dragon Racing in the Future?

Post by trw999 » Wed Aug 20, 2008 9:40 am

I am aware that the posting above is being discussed amongst Dragon sailors. I am also delighted with the progress of the British sailing team in Bejing at the moment.

When I came across the following on our club web site, I thought it might be of interest:

'When the Royal Corinthian Yacht Club was asked to prepare the British Olympic team for the 1936 Games, rules were laid down for the participants. The definitions used for the 1932 Olympics were adopted; the general instructions defined an amateur and then some particular qualifications were added for yachting competitors. They were required to be Corinthians and that was defined thus: Corinthianism in yachting is that attribute which represents participation in sport as distinct from gain and which also involves the acquirement of nautical experience through the love of the sport rather than through necessity or the hope of gain'

All I will say is that I am very happy to be a member of the RCYC!

Posts: 1
Joined: Thu Oct 09, 2008 3:01 pm

Re: International Dragon Racing in the Future?

Post by bondej » Thu Oct 16, 2008 10:40 pm

"International Dragon Racing in the future" has now been red by more than 1400 and just received one written comment !! It is, in some areas, asking for a debate and in others stating that there are things that have to be changed. So where are you ?

The board of the Danish Dragon Association has the following comments.

Proposal 1: Professionalism

We do not think that the growing professionalism in the way, that the owner, sailing his boat and paying for one or two crew members, helping with the boat on shore and on the water, is doing any harm to the class. It has always existed and we believe that it brings more boats out sailing.

Proposal 2: Owner/charterer or owners family must be helmsman or crew.

We welcome also single boats owned by companies. This has been seen n the dragon class for years, often with the "owner" helming or crewing the boat. The recent development where companies/persons owns several boats in a regatta, all with professional crew, support boats and coaches, is a challenge for the spirit in the class. They have so far entered the class with high ambitions and for that reason we welcome them as individuals. Nevertheless we need to have som regulations for this professional approach to Dragon racing.

Proposal 3: Special prices for the best of all Corinthian team.

Could be done but not important.

proposal 4: Coach boats.

We agree with the proposal for the use of coach boats. We want to race against our competitors under equal conditions, this is from leaving the dock to being back again.

Proposal 5: Professional Principal Race Officer.

Again - this years regattas in Oslo and Cannes showed the clear need for professional race management -
There is no way back ! IDA !

Dragon development:

This was not in the above topics but was discussed on the owners meeting during the Gold Cup this year. The discussion was mainly between the professional sailors and boat builders, who all have different agendas. More mainsail, bigger spinnaker, longer pole, up to 300 kg lighter boat ???
The sun in Portugal can be strong and disturbing for the clearness of the mind !

Jørgen Bonde

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