For those who review this Forum, this is part of a series of papers on Dragon Class Layers and how to integrate them. While the proposer/writer is an IDA Officer, the contents are his notions/observations and are not necessarily those of the IDA or fellow IDA Officers.
Beat [or at least compete against] the big boys, one regatta at a time!
The European Dragon Regatta 'circuit' as it is often referred to, comprises the World's, the Europeans, the Gold Cup, plus the Grand Prix Petit Navire, Kiel Week, HLL Dragon Grand Prix Germany, RÃ©gates Royales and for some, Cowes Week as well. The first 3 locations are not in fixed locations and rotate to different ports annually or bi-annually, while the balance are always in the same location. This means considerable time and money is spent travelling across the Continent and UK and back just to participate in the circuit. For clarification, I will call this the 'Euro Circuit' There are possibly 30-50 boats that maintain this circuit 100% more or less, and there are another 20-30 boats that cherry pick locations but still attend most Regattas, and finally there are 20-30 boats that are regulars but are considerably more selective. Plus the locals at each venue of course!
Not only does it take major investment in time and money to do the circuit, it also takes an investment in logistics and infrastructure. This precludes many who would love to sail the Euro Circuit. This suggests to me that there should be more than one circuit, that each circuit should be in a holistic region [North Europe, South Europe, Central Europe, East Europe, West Europe including the UK], that each circuit be about 1 month to 6 weeks in duration, that there is no or limited timing overlap with each other, and that each regatta/circuit is IDA officiated and raced under IDA Regatta Rules. I will refer to these as 'North or South or Central Circuits' et al! Importantly, one entry Fee is taken for the circuit, all races on the circuit are result linked and tabulated into the new European Ratings System and the IDA presents Trophies for overall results. The first 3 positions gain auto-entry into the next World's, the Europeans, the Gold Cup. These winners of regional circuits deserve great esteem as they have climbed a high mountain to get there and in the process, supported a regional Regatta agenda. Each Circuit is sponsored. This is managed/collected by the IDA and shared with the officiating Clubs/Associations based on the numbers of entries to each regatta. Some of the sponsorship moneys are retained by the IDA to offset expenses. This does not preclude local sponsorships.
How might this work: Let us take the North Europe Circuit as an example. It might be titled the 'North Circuit' and comprise the national championships [or other important events] of Norway, Finland, Denmark, Sweden, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, St Petersburg, and Belarus. This selection represents around 150+ registered racing Dragons, many of whom would race in one, two and some in all of the regattas on this circuit. Importantly, it would also attract boats from outside these countries also, so one might expect up to 50 starters at any one event, more if one of the regatta is the World's, the European's, or the Gold Cup, on rotation there. Each Regatta [except the World's, the Europeans, the Gold Cup events] are a weekend in length allowing the entrant to either move to the next venue on the Monday and fly home for a weeks work, or fly home immediately after the Regatta, returning on the Friday to move the boat to the next venue. For some, they will take the week to move to the next location allowing for a [family?] holiday if appropriate. It may be the only circuit a boat owner does for the summer, but it gives that crew a real taste of the internationality of the sport and allows them to test their racing skills across a region not just a lake or ocean bay.
If we have 5 regional Circuits in operation, I would expect over time for each to build their own authority, influence, importance and following. They would/could become the feeder circuits for the 'Euro Circuit' which should also remain in situ.
It is no simple task to construct such a regional Circuit. To achieve this will take a great deal of across boarder co-operation between national associations within a region. Further, it will take a mammoth effort of co-operation between the clubs, accommodations services, ferry services, and crews to make a circuit function like a well oiled machine. It will require a volunteer management team reporting to the IDA from each region to develop and perfect each program, each year. Senior members of the management teams should also race on the circuit for the first several circuits to observe, refine and report.
There are the benefits of such an approach to International Dragon Racing?
1. It makes international Dragon racing assessable to ALL Dragon boat owners, not simply the elite or wealthy. This is of critical importance if we are to raise the spectre and performance of the ASPIRATIONAL and ENTHUSIASTIC Class Layers. Simply put, better local/regional competition will make better ASPIRATIONAL and ENTHUSIASTIC Class Layer sailors ensuring that over time, they have the Regatta skills and confidence to into the next level if they choose to!
2. It supports Dragon racing in locations that otherwise might not be exposed to international Regattas. Such exposure promotes the Class and gives local Dragon Associations increased opportunities to assemble new interest Dragon ownership.
3. It encourages greater involvement in Regatta racing at local levels, under one set of rules, under one organising authority and increases the possibility of [auto] entry into Circuit A Regattas like the World's, the Europeans, the Gold Cup.
4. It restructures to a large degree how one qualifies for entry into our Premier events. No longer is it simply ONLY a matter of 'X' number of positions available for each country based on boat registrations, although that system should remain albeit with fewer automatic allocations. It is a ground up approach to our racing qualifications.
5. It should attract more sailors to more events and lower the cost of entry. It will increase the possibilities of local sponsorship because of the increased internationality of the event. Importantly, it plays into the hands of the IDA's largest constituency, that of the majority of boat owners who pay their registration fees each year and don't enter into the major Regattas. It gives the IDA opportunities to talk directly with boat owners, to listen and to respond at a grass roots level.
6. It is fair, easily understood, simply communicated, responsible, totally inclusive and supports the principals of One Design Racing; that the best sailor usually wins ... and in this case, not only wins but move up to compete in another league.
7. It can bring with it new opportunities; like skipper and crew coaching, sail trim tutoring, seminars on strategic and tactical racing, and these by respected international sailors who are in attendance at a Regatta.
8. Local Regattas on a regional Regatta program provide major support to local economies. Such support can be leveraged for the benefit of that economy and our sport. The impact of such support to local economies should not be underestimated.
9. Boat owners individual travel costs will be reduced dramatically if they enter a Regional Circuit over a Euro-wide Circuit. Their carbon footprint will be reduced to the benefit of the planet. Their time will be better managed, with more available to their families [more credits at home are always useful], and importantly, the cost of Dragon ownership is amortised over a greater number of international/regional events.
10. I would anticipate this Regional Circuit concept would stimulate the second had Dragon market considerably. This places pressures all the way up the chain and should also positively impact boat builders who would love to increase production. I am not advocating more expensive second hand Dragons, just more Dragons!
11. Race formats will be constant. This is very important as it builds confidence in Regatta racing. If one knows that the first leg is always 2nm minimum, a bad start can be made up for with greater boat speed and still allow reasonable separation of vessels at the top mark. Course layouts will also be constant. Registration, measurement, weigh-in, jury activity, boat drop in and haul out will, as much as is possible also be constant. Registered circuit entrants will have a say [by committee] in all elements of the circuit to ensure standards and fairness are maintained. It's your circuit, it must work for you!
12. My expectations are boat owners would achieve increased satisfaction from Dragon racing, from an increased say in their program, and from greater local competition.
13. If a boat owner wants to enter more than one regional regatta, there should be no restriction this activity if it does not disadvantage boat owners within their region.
14. Professional boats would not be eligible to enter regional circuits. A Professional boat is defined by the payment in money or kind of one or more of the sailors aboard.
This idea is not new I am sure, but it needs a 'champion' or two to give it a kick start. It need the local thinking of interested parties. It need the collective conclusions of national associations. If the idea appeals, contact me and based on the number of positive responses, I will facilitate a European wide conference of Dragon Associations to develop this idea further.
Thank you for your time.
Robert Alpe - IDA Vice Chairman
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