A double Olympic gold medal winner and former world champion is leading a strong international field of sailors travelling to Belfast to take part in what is set to be one of the largest Dragon Class yachting events of its kind. Sponsored by Belfast Harbour, Royal North of Ireland Yacht Club is hosting the 2012 Edinburgh Cup, the UK Dragon Boat Championships, which will take place on Belfast Lough from 4th July-7th July.
Forty-six boats from 10 different countries, including Australia, Japan and Monaco, will compete in what is the largest field in 25 years as the international race returns to Northern Ireland for the first time since 2000. The event will see Denmark's Poul Ricard Hoj Jensen, who struck sailing gold in the Soling class at the 1976 and 1980 Olympics, pit his wits against current Miss Northern Ireland Tiffany Brien, an experienced sailor who was ranked number one in Ireland in the single handed Laser Radial Class last year. Tiffany is crewing for Julian Sowry, one of the top UK competitors.
A former Edinburgh Cup winner, in addition to his world and Olympic successes, Jensen is excited about returning to a race course he rates very highly, saying:
'I am very much looking forward to taking part in the Edinburgh Cup in Belfast, I have sailed there numerous times before and the sailing area and race course are outstanding â€“ in fact, it would be difficult to find a better race track anywhere in the UK.
'I have not yet seen the new marina constructed by Belfast Harbour and look forward to seeing the facility. I am also very well acquainted with the hospitality of the Royal North of Ireland Yacht club and I am excited about meeting up with 'old friends' and enjoying the social activities during the event.'
The Edinburgh Cup will be preceded by the British Northern Area Championships from 1st July-3rd July, also hosted by Royal North of Ireland Yacht Club. A parade of sail involving over 30 competing Dragon class yachts will take place from Belfast Harbour's new marina facility at Abercorn Basin to the finish line at Royal North on Saturday evening (6pm) to launch both sailing competitions.
Simon Brien, of Royal North of Ireland and father of Tiffany Brien, commented:
'The calibre of entries for the Edinburgh Cup is truly exceptional and, given that we will have up to 10 different nationalities represented, I don't think there has ever been a sailing event in Northern Ireland with such a high quality international fleet. Challenging Poul Ricard Hoj Jensen for the title is a real who's who from the international yachting elite, with current world champion, Lawrie Smith, and Edinburgh Cup holder, Martin Byrne, also coming to take part.
'It's a real coup for Royal North to have such a stellar line-up and we would like to thank principal sponsor Belfast Harbour, whose support has been invaluable in ensuring we are able to host an event befitting the high calibre of participants. As ever, there is a varied programme of entertaining social events to accompany the competitive action and I would encourage people to come along and watch some world-class international Dragon class yacht racing.'
In 2010, Royal North hosted the Irish Dragon Championships, also sponsored by Belfast Harbour, which attracted boats from throughout the UK and Europe. Looking forward to the Edinburgh Cup and British Northern Area Championships, Roy Adair, CEO of Belfast Harbour, commented:
'Belfast Harbour has strong historical links with the Royal North of Ireland Yacht Club and, following the great success of the Irish Dragon Boat Championships both on and off the water in 2010, we are delighted to once again form a partnership in hosting one of the most prestigious Dragon yacht racing events in the world.
'Just last month over 60 yachts from across Ireland enjoyed the new marina facilities at Belfast Harbour during our Lough to Lagan Floatilla and we are looking forward to welcoming international competitors and their families to Belfast once again. Tourism has been a major driver of the Northern Ireland economy â€“ sailing, and the Edinburgh Cup in particular, adds another layer to Northern Ireland's tourism offering.'
For more information about the Edinburgh Cup, visit www.rniyc.org