The Dragon Class in Hong Kong

by Pat Loseby, class captain

The Dragon is a 29' overall racing yacht originally designed in 1929 by the Norwegian designer Johan Anker as a cruiser racer for those of limited means - a boat that could be raced and sailed around the Norwegian fjords and Europe.
Prewar, the RHYC had some 16-18 Dragons - in those days known as Anker Class or ‘A’ Boats; It is understood that the Club was the first to introduce the Class overseas and probably had the biggest fleet outside Europe. All the boats were sunk or destroyed owing to the japanese occupation of the Colony from December 1941 to 1945.
The rig was modified in 1945, the Class received International status in 1948 and was an Olympic Class from 1948 to 1972. There are now about 5,000 boats world wide. A beautiful boat to see and to sail - completely up to date although designed 50 years ago and is one of the few Classes where age and weight of crew have little influence on racing capabilities.

When the Colony returned to normal after the War and the Club was operational again, members wanted to restart the Class and were fortunate in having Capt. J. Kroh-Moe of thoresens here. Capt. J. Kroh-Moe, who was an experienced ‘A’ Class owner prewar, obtained the plans from Johan Anker. The members put their heads together and with valuable financial help from NVA Croucher (our Vice Patron) the Hong Kong & Whampoa Dock Co. agreed to construct 10 Dragons. Construction commenced at end of 1947 and the first Dragons were delivered end March 1948. Their arrival was too late for the 1947/1948 Season. However, during the months before the next racing season, the owners were able to familiarise themselves with their boats - they had impromptu races - spent time on tuning - making alterations etc. I remember having to sail D7 - then owned by my cousin Paul Chidell - back to the yard on a number of occasions with a list of things that had to be done. The Dragons had a very good first season and the racing was very competitive. They took part in the Chinese New Year Race to Macau in 1949 and 1950 - in the 1949 race the first three boats across the line were Dragons, although on adjusted time the winner was a cruiser. There was also a race to Taipo at Easter - on this occasion the Dragons made sure of victory, the first three boats both across the line and on adjusted time being Dragons.

Towards the end of that first postwar racing season, a new Dragon, Tromp, joined the fleet - this boat was brought out from Holland by Royal Interocean Lines (now Nedlloyd). Thirty - one years have now passed since those 10 Dragons were built and, of the original 10 yachts, seven are still racing regularly and do very well. In fact, the Best Dragon of The Year for many years has been one of the original ten. Tromp joined the fleet in 1949 and De Ruyter in 1957 - Tromp was then sold and unfortunately some time later sank in a heavy squall just inside Lymun Pass. Myth of Bowland (formerly Good Wind) (D 14) and Piet Hein (Cybele) (D 12) were brought up from Indonesia - two boats are older than our HK built boats - both were built in Holland during the War, D 14 in 1940 and D 12 in 1942; Raffle (D 4), brought up from Singapore, is also a Dutch - built boat. Then came Schtrompfen (DKH 2), a Westem German - built Dragon, and finally Tiki (DKH 1) a Danish built boat - bringing our total up to 13. Mention must be made of two beautiful new modern Dragons brought out from Denmark by Bill Hancock and john Park to take part in the 1964 Olympics held in japan. They spent much of their time match racing as only one of the two boats could take part in the Olympics and, after trials, Phoenix of Orient (John Park) was chosen and participated in the 1964 and 1968 Olympics. In addition, John Park shipped Phoenix to Europe and took part in various International Dragon Class events with success and had as his crew various members of the Dragon Class and members of RIL staff. Both these Danish Dragons were sold out of the Colony. When the Class was restarted, all owners employed a boat boy and one of the highlights of the racing season was the Annual Boat Boys’ Race - I have found the following which relates to the Boat Boys Race in 195O:-

"The race which had most at stake was the Boat Boys’ Race. It was followed most keenly by the gambling fraternity at Causeway Bay, i.e. all the boat boys, and the owners themselves were by no means disinterested, after witnessing the start which took place in half a gale. The hard - pressed helmsman of a well - reefed cruiser was surprised to see eight Dragons surfing through the driving rain with spinnakers set. However these ‘fine’ conditions were not to last and the race ended unspectacularly in a drifting match."

I think I recall that race or another raced in similar conditions. The days of having a boat boy as a crew are now over. I will end by saying our boats may be elderly but there is a great deal of life in them and they continue to give good racing to a lot of members, young and old! Owners are often looking for crew - so if any one with or without past experience in Dragons would like to crew regularly or occasionally, please get in touch with me - Tel. 5-236312 - during officehours.

The photos of a prewar ‘A’ Boat (‘La Linda’-1941) and a post-war Dragon (‘Hoi Loong’) show how little they have changed over the years. Remember that prewar sails were made of cotton.