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2020 Finnish Dragon Open

In Finland we are already halfway through our season, despite COVID-19 only the early May regatta was canceled but since then everything has been sailed in accordance to schedule. The other positive news is that the fleet has been growing with several new boats and younger people coming into one of the most competitive keelboat classes in Finland.

On Friday 17 boats were ready for an 11.55 start but racing got postponed due to an unseasonal thick fog rolling in. A two hour postponed meant that all sailors enjoyed lunch on-shore in the club restaurant. After lunch, the fog lifted, and a nice breeze with sunshine set in. Perfect weather. Race Officer Ted Gröndahl had set a long line but the fleet pushed hard with all but a handful of boats over the line. After a general recall the black flag came out but the fleet still pushed too hard and race officer Ted Gröndahl had to recall the whole fleet again. This was lucky as a thick for rolled in very quicky giving visibility went down to approximately 50m. In Finland, there are lots of islands and rocks so it was important not to sail away into the distance without a chart………….after a long wait and the fog not lifting people download various navigation apps to get home safely. Sometimes technology on water can be very helpful! Onshore the Finnish Dragon Association had organized beer, soup, bread, and sauna to welcome the new sailors and catch up on stories after the summer vacation.

As 2 races were lost on Friday and with great conditions forecasted for Saturday racing started early to get an extra races in. Conditions where perfect 22c, 6-8 knots of steady south – southwesterly breeze and bright sunshine.

A much better-behaved fleet got it right in the first start of the day. Although the fleet was very tightly packed Dmitry Bondarenko sailing GBR 408 emerged as an early leader challenging places with local champions FIN 92 sailed by Peter von Koskull. New to the fleet but very fast and young team skippered by Henri Virkkunen managed to squeeze in a third place. Behind them would follow a very closely with place changes happening right up to the finish line.

In race two Sara Antila wanted to forget about the first race and show that she can race the best in the fleet. At the first mark, she emerged as the leader, held her nerves on the downwind, and the upwind but at rounding the top mark her crew made a tacking error and Dmitry Bondarenko pounced and took the lead to the finish. Sara Antila sailing FIN 89 still came a very credible 2nd.

In the last race of the day with the wind was holding steady direction and the sun continuing to shine brightly. At the start, a few of the top boats shot of the ladies tees and were called OCS. The fleet also split to port and extreme starboard side of the course with the leaders emerging from the latter. Peter von Koskull, FIN 92, sailing with 4 up worked the boat hard to emerge as the leader. Local sailing legend Tomppa Jungell sailing his now almost classic dragon FIN 64 managed a second with Dmitry Bondarenko finishing 3rd.

Onshore the local Dragon Association had again organized food in the form of BBQ sausages and beer, gratefully received by a hungry and thirsty crowd.

On Sunday the sun shone again but the wind was a bit brisker 9-13 knots and very steady, perfect for 3 back to back races on the 1954 Helsinki Olympics sailing course.  The youngest skipper in the fleet, Henri Virkkunen, SWE363 has a lot of sailing experience and knows the local waters well as he led from the start to finish. Very impressive. He was Sami Salomaa who was a guest helm onboard FIN 72 as his Dragon got stuck in Palma.

In race 2 things started to heat up Peter von Koskull team put all their 284.6Kg to good use hiking hard and sailing well. Henri Virkkunen got the hang of the winds and boat speed and came in second. Tomppa Jungell was again there to take the 3rd place.

In the last race of the day, it was close racing between the leaders Dmitry Bondarenko and Peter von Koskull but also midfield racing remaining very tight both on the water and on points. The left-hand side of the course paid with a slightly stronger breeze. Downwind various tactics seemed to work with some opting for angles and others dead downwind. With such close racing and overall placings at stake, even the quit FINS could be heard across the water to ensure a clean rounding around the bottom mark.

After very close racing it was Dmitry Bondarkeno who took the winners gun and overall Finnish Dragon Championship. Peter van Koskull finishing second and Tomppa Jungell a well-deserved 3rd.  Special mention for newcomer Henri Firkkunnen coming in 4th overall.