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Byrne scorches rivals in thrilling Dragon battle

Irish crews have been dominant in a resurgence of the International Dragon Class, with 43 boats from Russia, Japan, Australia, Ireland and the UK battling for honours in the British Opens for the Edinburgh Cup at Abersoch in North Wales.

Martin Byrne, commodore of Dun Laoghaire's Royal St George YC, clearly believes in leading his large club by example. Last year, he emerged at the head of the pack in the Irish Dragon Championship on Belfast Lough. This year, going into the final race at Abersoch he was in with a shout on 17 points to the 16 of joint leaders, Mikhail Muratov of Russia and London-based German skipper Klaus Diederichs.

For Byrne, crewed by Adam Winkelmann and Portuguese sailmaker Pedro Andrade, there was an extra edge to this super-final. Although Muratov had his own Russian crew, Diederichs had recruited Ireland's bright Olympic medal hopes Peter O'Leary and David Burrows.

The spur of Dun Laoghaire taking on the superstars of Cork and Malahide in a major international event certainly did the trick. Byrne made a perfect start, and was able to dictate tactics thereafter on the demanding beats.

His boat Jaguar marched into a commanding 200-yard lead, but though it seemed easy enough for him to maintain cover on the next in line, this was high powered stuff in which even the smallest breakage would spell defeat.

However, the real battle was for second place, and that was resolved on the final beat, with Muratov and Diederichs in a ferocious battle.

While they were slugging it out on the right, Belfast Lough skipper Simon Brien -- points leader of the Corinthian division for all-amateur crews -- was powering up the middle. On the line, it was Muratov second, Brien third and Diederichs fourth.

With his second place, Brien -- crewed by his brother Mark and David Gomes -- was clear winner of the Corinthians, and fourth in the open, while Ireland's club strength in the class was underlined by Richard Goodbody of Dun Laoghaire being second Corinthian, and seventh open.

The elegant 29th Dragon may date back to 1929, but in her updated form, she's the boat for our times. The style is set by the South Caernarvon YC, who hosted a great regatta. Within their own Dragon class, you are limited to spending no more than £15,000 on acquiring a used boat.

As for Ireland, we're on a Dragon roll. In 2012 the Edinburgh Cup will be staged on Belfast Lough, and the really big one, the Dragon Gold Cup, will be in Kinsale. Bring it on.

Ireland recorded solid results at the Youth Worlds in Croatia, with Philip Doran of Courtown winning the final race in the Laser Radials and placing 10th overall, while Sophie Murphy was 11th in the Girls Laser Radials.

Meanwhile in the Pacific, Irish navigator Ian Moore has called the shots on the winner of the 2,250-mile Trans-pacific Race from Los Angeles to Honolulu.

In the Transpac he was drafted in with other talents such as Volvo winner Mike Sanderson to help the 74ft Bella Mente take the trophy for owner Hap Fauth.

Irish Independent