Welcome to the new Intdragon Forum. Let us use it much more for discussions about the future of the class! The below should be considered a contribution to this discussion.
The dragon class and the international dragon regattas have been in a very positive development during the time I have been sailing actively in the class, from 2001. The success for the class is probably a consequence of several coinciding factors: The rising general interest in retro design, the increased buying power, the well organised regattas in interesting places in many countries, the high level racing, the handy concept of transportation and rigging, PetticrowÂ´s and IDAÂ´s successful development and promotion of the class, royalty participation etc.
However, we may be able to make some changes and take some initiatives that will make the class even more popular for even more sailors in even more countries. And that will also make dragon sailing even more pleasant for the existing active dragon sailors on all levels (see Robert Alpes interesting discussion papers about the class layers of the dragon class on this forum).
I am an IDA officer, however the below considerations and proposals are personal. Many similar proposals have been heard from various sides. I try to gather some of them and place them in a context here. The proposals aim at contributing to the discussion about the future of the dragon class, and I will promote (some of) them in one or the other form to be brought up as proposals for my fellow IDA officers and for the IDA AGM.
The point of departure is, that we want better organisation of the regattas and of the international and the national regatta schedules, fairer racing, (even) more participation in international regattas, and more sponsor money to the benefit of the above priorities.
I am not an advocate of extreme adaptation to sponsor or media demands, neither do I have illusions about having many young sailors sailing dragons. The dragon is a long keel boat sailed by experienced, competent sailors, who often have a long time dinghy or keelboat racing background. This boat and these sailors demand fair and intense sailing on rather long courses in free winds. However the majority of dragon sailors today prefer 2 races a day on a medium length course (a la Palma Sofia Cup or Cannes Royales) over one race on a mega length course (Gold Cup).
The below suggestions are meant as points of discussion. They are all part of a draft for a total concept for international dragon racing, but they can also be discussed and initiated one at a time. Each point is a rough draft, which definitely needs elaboration, refinement and more precision.
In the below, I focus on practical proposals for the future, not on the analysis of the existing situation, which lies behind each proposal and the whole concept.
1. Grading of the International Regattas
Championship level: World Championship, European Championship and Gold Cup
Grade 1 regattas: Princess Sofia Cup in Palma, Petite Navire in Douarnenez, German Grand Prix in Kiel and Regattes Royal in Cannes.
Grade 2 regattas: Some national championships like the German, English, French, Danish championships, and some other national regattas as Kieler Woche, La Baule, Wellness Cup, Edingburgh Cup, Dragon Saint Tropez etc.
Grade 3 regattas: Some national championships like the Belgian, Norwegian, Austrian, Finnish, Hungarian etc. and some national regattas as Cascais, The Lake Garda Regatta, Dragon Battle of Jutland, etc.
Every year the IDA officers come up with a proposal to the AGM of which regattas belong to which category. Variation of regattas on the higher grading levels should be welcomed.
2. Regulations of Graded Regattas
a. IDA Rules
Racing at the Championship and Grade 1 regattas will be held according to the IDA Regatta Rules and Regulations and the racing must be managed by an IDA appointed principal race officer.
b. Date Protection
Protection of Championship or Grade 1 regattas. No other graded regattas can have first or last race day within a period of 12 days from the first or the last race day of a championship and a grade 1 regatta, including tune-up regatta.
No graded regatta should last more than one week-end plus one week including transportation for participants from the continent in question. At long regattas the first racing day should be Monday and the last racing day should be Friday.
d. Measurement and weighing
After the first three racing days at all regattas on the Championship level the top 4 boats and 4 other boats selected randomly must be measured, weighed, and swing-tested in an IDA described environment by international measurers. Crews from these boats should be reweighed.
At Championship and Grade 1 regattas the jury boats should have an active role:
- At mark roundings, when they observe rule infringements they whistle a flute, encouraging the rule breaker to exonerate his rule breach, encouraging the infringed party to protest, and offering themselves as witnesses, if any protest hearing occurs.
- The jury also has an active role concerning pumping, rocking and hanging, where the jury can give warnings and penalties.
- The jury will make inspections of one of the top 5 boat and 2 other boats chosen randomly after each race. Important points of inspection: Safety features and equipment, mast wandering at deck level, compensation weight etc.
- The jury takes pictures and video of rule breaking or controversial behaviour for after race discussion and learning.
f. Amount of races
Every racing day should have 2 races with a time length of 1,5-2 hours, no more, no less.
g. Race format
Race format should be up-down, 2 or 3 rounds. First beat should be 25% longer than all other legs. Starting sequence should be 10 minutes.
h. Coach boats
For all graded regattas all coach and other boats related to one of the racing boats should pre-register as coach boats. These coach boats should fly a flag with a C, and should not be allowed to be closer than 50 meters behind the starting line and its prolongations before, during and after the races.
i. Participation regulations
For Championship Regattas each nation has a participation contingent. For graded regattas with no participation limitations, the fleets should be divided into two fleets, if there are more than 80 participants. The fleet division should be based on the world ranking list. After three of the planned race days have been completed, the best halves of the initial two fleets shall race in the gold fleet, and the remaining teams shall race in the silver fleet for the remaining race days.
There must be prizes for the whole crew at any graded regatta (not only for the skipper).
3. International Ranking System
IDA establishes an international ranking system (IDA chairman Rupert Fischer and the Germans have already developed one), which is based on a weighed point giving from the graded regattas, and where you have a high scoring potential by participating in a minimum of 5 graded regattas during one season. Participation in two Championship or Grade 1 regattas and three Grade 2 or 3 regattas should be sufficient to become no. 1 on the ranking list. There should be one ranking for skippers and another one for crew.
Every mid December IDA hosts a Saturday price giving party in the Royal Thames Yacht Club in London, where the Top 10, the high jumpers, the best team with women crew, the youngest crew in top 30, the oldest crew in top 30 etc. is celebrated, and where we can take our spouses to London for a nice week-end and some Christmas shopping. Fortunately the low price airlines make participating in such an event realistic for many. The social part of dragon sailing is and should always be an important one!
4. International Circuit with a Title Sponsor
The above setup with graded regattas and a ranking system prepares the dragon class for an international circuit with a title sponsor and sub sponsors, those financial contributions will allow the regatta entrance fees to be reduced, and will make it possible to increase the quality of the events on the water and ashore as described above.
The dragon class today has a commercially interesting brand predominantly carried by a group of 40+ sailors with an international outlook and a good buying power. Among them quite a few wealthy, local trendsetters for various kinds of personal equipment and services, cars, banking services etc.
Our races do not and should not have a media/TV interesting format, but the dragon class and regatta environment have an exclusive, high-class, prestigious appeal, which is interesting for certain corporate PR activities and hospitality events to be associated with.
Question: Who is going to handle the sponsor search, the negotiations, and the money? The IDA with a chief commercial officer, or a commercial company Bernie Ecclestone likeâ€¦â€¦?
5. Regional Circuits
The national regatta organisers should be encouraged to establish coherent regional regatta circuits, where one could leave the boat at one venue and pick it up two weeks later for at relatively short transportation to the next venue in the regional circuit. The Iberian Championship is such a regional circuit with free accommodations etc. for the crews in the pleasant Portuguese winter.
The Baltic Cup is another one, where the Germans together with Hanseatische LLoy have shown us how to successfully establish a major sponsorship and a state-of-the-art dragon regatta like the German Grand Prix in Kiel/Strande. Besides excellent racing this regatta involves absolutely pleasant after race food and drinks, entertainment, charity, royalty, and publicity to a degree, that we have not seen before in the dragon class. Of course (much) less will doâ€¦.
6. The National Non-graded Regattas
We/IDA encourage all national associations to establish national regattas, typically 2 regattas in the spring, the graded national championship in the summer, and 2 regattas in the fall. But one regatta is better than none! These national, non-graded regattas should also respect the date protection of championship and grade 1 level regattas mentioned in section 2.b.
7. New Regatta Venues
To encourage the establishment of new dragon fleets and new regatta venues, we should work on having every second or third year a major â€œDevelopment Regattaâ€
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