Dartmouth’s harbour chiefs and council officials are aiming to attract more international sailing events in the wake of a highly successful J80 World Championship which drew 76 yachts from nine countries.
The facilities laid on by the Harbour Authority, South Hams District Council and the Royal Dart Yacht Club and the Britannia Royal Naval College have been showered with praise by the event organiser Becci Eplett, Marketing and Operations Manager for Key Yachting Ltd.
She said: “It has just been amazing the response we have had from everyone we have met in Dartmouth. They have all been superb. South Hams Council officials helped steer us through the red tape and then left us alone to get on with it. They were superb. I even had a resident present a poem to me saying how wonderful it was we were here!
“If the harbour authorities, South Hams and Naval College and town could work together Dartmouth could really turn itself into a major international sailing venue. I am looking at bringing our J-Cup race series for yachts up to 43 feet here. Dartmouth can really do it. But they need to bring the people of the town along with them. More step on step off pontoons would be an advantage.”
An American J80 syndicate had their 50 metre-long superyacht Legend moored in the river for around a month and with a 15 strong crew and six strong race team gave great luxury spectacle to the town.
Racing their J80 “Fired Up” they managed a creditable 37th place in the MIQ Logistics 2012 event and provided hospitality for race officials on board and frequently dined out in top restaurants around town and even dived into speciality Devon Cream teas and tempting Cornish pasties. Before leaving, the Legend came alongside the Embankment to take on 20,000 litres of diesel in a textbook operation that went without hitch.
Councillor Bill Hitchins, Executive Member for Assets at South Hams District Council said: “The J-80 World Championships were a real prestige event that gave Dartmouth a great deal of kudos and has recognised its special qualities.
“It has had a beneficial effect on trade and one would want to see it going from strength to strength as an international sailing venue. This would be a very welcome effect to raise the attraction of the town and the surrounding area.
“It is certainly worth us having talks with the Dartmouth Harbourmaster Rob Giles about how we could promote the area further as an international sailing venue. Bringing cruise ship business to the River Dart is totally worth our while to support.”
Mr Giles said: “It has been a very busy month. We have had superyachts, cruise liners, two visits by the Sail Training Ship Lord Nelson and Jubilee Pageant. For the J80s there were three organisations: the Naval College, with their amazing banqueting facilities, South Hams District Council with Coronation Park and the Royal Dart Yacht Club with their race organisation – it was a perfect partnership which, with the superyachts, reaped amazing benefits.
“I am very mindful that with myself and my deputy that we will continue to generate further expansion for Dartmouth in attracting top class sailing events and to promote it as a desired destination for superyachts.”
Councillor Hilary Bastone, Executive Member for ICT and Customer Service, at South Hams said: “It was estimated before the event that the J80s would bring in £500,000 to Dartmouth before the event but I think that will have been exceeded now. The reputational gain for the town has been immense.”
After five days of challenging sailing in Start Bay the J80s had their two final races cancelled on Friday because of severe gales. The positions after nine races were therefore declared final and the Spanish achieved a clean sweep of the medals board.
Jose Maria van de Ploeg was declared the new World Champion and crowned at the official dinner for 400 guests hosted by the Britannia Yacht Club and the Royal Dart Yacht Club in Britannia Royal Naval College’s Casper John Hall.
Kevin Sproul of GB came 4th, thre other British crews were in the top 10, and
Baltic Wharf helmed by local helmsman Henry Bomby was a creditable 20th.