Yves Theze has just celebrated his 90th birthday and has been sailing Dragons, and only Dragons, for 64 years, competing recently at the Dragon Derby in La Baule.
Born in Morlaix. Brittany,in 1921, he first tried his sea legs aged 10 with his uncle on a 5.20metre centreboard dinghy.
After the second World War, he began his career as a “Dragon Sailor”, crewing for Francois Brannellec on F27, built by the Boatyard Herve in La Rochelle.
Yves soon wanted to helm and in 1950 he bought his first Dragon F42,Coq Rouge, built by Legot in Roscoff. It was followed by a succession of many more culminating in 2005 when he bought his 9th Dragon, Coq Rouge IX, from Petticrows at the age of 84.
In the early days, there were no trailers or 4x4’s; transport could only be done by rail, lorries or sailing on one’s own bottom and so for regattas often in Torquay, Yves crossed the Channel 5 or 6 times sailing from Douanenez non-stop around Ushant. Depending upon the weather it would take him 24 to 36 hours for the voyage. Prudently at sunset he would reduce sail by taking in two reefs and changing the genoa for a storm jib; also to prevent the Dragon shipping too much water he would stretch a canvas cover over the cockpit, leaving just enough space for the helmsman. All this time the crew would rest in the bottom of the boat.
But his longest single crossing was Torquay to Concarneau in one passage !
Yves raced in all the French waters, winning the Regatta Royale in1987. But he was a keen follower of the Dragon Class’s international racing attending the Gold Cup as well as the World and European Championships in Ireland, Spain, Portugal, UK, Belgium and Germany.
Yves often recalled that “In 1951, I took part in the first Dragon regatta run in Monaco. There were not many boats but amongst them were two British Dragons, one of which was Bluebottle owned by Her Majesty Elizabeth, Queen of England. Afloat the English were faring better than the French until a day with no wind. As the boats were still on the water at sunset, the English started a paddle race to port. The French boats surprisingly were slow to start but instead of paddling they used their paddle as a sweep (godille). This was more efficient and the French soon took their revenge and finished first”
That Yves has managed to continue Dragon sailing at his age, is thanks to his loyal and faithful crew Jerome Laurier. Jerome has crewed for Yves for more than 25 years and knows all the idiosyncrasies and demands of his skipper. However without Jerome, Yves Theze would have had to stop sailing. This is a truly wonderful example of loyalty.
In spite of his age, Yves still participates in 5 or 6 regattas a year, only now in France but still driving his 4x4 towing Coq Rouge IX.
At 90, Yves is the oldest licensee of the Federation Francaise de Voile(FFV), and also the oldest holder of a driving licence to tow a Dragon and of course the oldest “ Dragon Sailor” of the world !
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