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The Dragon Years 1952-1970

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By the early 1950s the International Dragon was a well established and popular Olympic keel boat class with fleets in many countries. The original cruiser/racer conceived by Norwegian Johan Anker in 1929 had been developed into a thoroughbred racing yacht. A local architect and sailor, Noes Petersen, arrived one day in early 1952 at the Pedersen & Thuesen yard and discussed with the owners the possibility of them building a Dragon for him. Upon agreement being reached the two boat builders realised they would need two things and quickly. The first was a set of Dragon drawings, which they obtained from the Danish Sailing Association; when the drawings arrived they had to scale them up from 1:10 to full size. This emphasised their second urgent requirement for additional space to build the 9 metre long Dragon. To begin with they built an extension but soon moved into a larger building by the hotel next door to their loft. By pulling out all the stops the small workforce completed the building of this Dragon over the next few months, having to satisfy the measurement requirements of the class. On 6 July 1952 Poul A. Christiansen issued the measurement certificate and Noes Petersen took delivery of DEN 122 Vivi II, the first Pedersen & Thuesen Dragon. Their next three orders were received for delivery in 1953 (DEN 123 Lizzie II) and 1954 (DEN 128 Eva and DEN 129 Vivi III). They made one further Dragon (DEN 131 Be Be) in 1955 before receiving two orders that this time came from abroad. John Day from Torbay was soon sailing GBR 289 Scimitar and Tim Colman (of the Norwich Coleman’s mustard family) from Lowestoft was racing GBR 292 Salar. Pedersen & Thuesen had arrived on the international scene after seven years.

Over the next three years seven boats were ordered by British Dragon racers, including GBR 295 Indra bound for Lowestoft, GBR 308 Monatoo bound for Yorkshire, whilst GBR 313 Venture, GBR 337 Pendragon, GBR 375 Bim and GBR 340 Nortic all went to the Solent and GBR 332 Javelin was delivered to Torbay. During 1960 King Paul of Greece ordered a Pedersen & Thuesen Dragon, made with Honduras mahogany, so that he could go winter racing in Piraeus. The price was Kr 50,000. Unfortunately the King died before he took delivery, but the boat was taken over by the present IDA Chairman King Constantine. A sister boat built the same year for another Dane, Axel Holm, was DEN 162 Maj-Brit. With her he won the 1969 European Championship and came second in the Gold Cup. In 1962 the famous Danish sailor Ole Berntsen ordered a new Dragon, which he named DEN 166 White Lady. He went on to win a gold medal in her at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. He had the mickey taken for deciding to have the hull painted white, a departure from the standard highly varnished and very pretty looking finish to Pedersen & Thuesen Dragons. This made the boat stand out on the start line and therefore easier to spot if she should be over the line. In Ole’s hands the boat also won the Gold Cup in 1962 and the first Dragon World Championships in 1965, so this apparent disadvantage did not affect his ability to win races.

By 1966 the Pedersen & Thuesen order book was running a waiting list, so popular had their boats become. Børge and Poul decided they needed more room and so the opportunity was taken to buy the next door motor cycle workshop and build a larger, purpose-built yard. By now the business employed eight craftsmen, including Børge’s half brother Knut Hammer and Poul’s brother Peder and in addition to Dragons they were making small cruisers, Folkboats, Flying Dutchmen, OK dinghies and Optimists. British helms Bill Citron, Tim Colman and Pat Dyas were on their second Pedersen & Thuesen Dragons. Boats had been delivered around the European continent and to North America. Others had been bought from their original owners and then taken as far afield as Australia. The last new Pedersen & Thuesen Dragon to come to British waters and the last known to have been built was Simon Tait’s GBR 455 Royalist in 1970, still being raced at the Medway fleet to this day. By then the IDA was looking at introducing alloy spars and fibreglass hulls into the class. Realising the day of wooden Dragons was coming to an end, Børge and Poul started to seek alternative yachts to build. 

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