It’s been possibly 12 years since I last competed in a Laser regatta, so I perhaps should be so surprised to wake up Monday morning feeling like I’ve been hit by a truck! I entered the 2014 NSW Laser states back in November, full of high ambitions of training days on and off the water that seemed to vanish into weekends spent house hunting, working, or well…. Christmas. So when February finally rolled ’round I wasn’t sure if I was keen on a windy regatta, for my increased heft, or light, for my lack of fitness. The Weather forecast was looking a bit confused, but in the end we ended up with both.
This years NSW laser states saw around 60 boats turn up to Georges River Sailing Club on Botany bay, spread across 4.7, Radials and Lasers fairly evenly. While a little smaller than I remember it being, it is still possibly one of the largest one design fleets around, and the state titles and opportunity to compete against a bit of a right skew on the Laser talent pool. it has been over 12 years though since I’ve competed at this level and with the only familar face that of Race Officer Col Chidgey, I really wasn’t sure what to expect from either the fleet or myself.
Light choppy conditions and a competitive fleet really punished my lack of time on water over the years as I quickly found myself buried off the starting line. My only saving grace a nice turn off speed of the wind and the odd general recall to help with the starting practice. The start of a Laser race has always been a place to sort the weed for the chaff and with general recalls across all three classes, it was clear nothing had changed.
Even though the Standard rigs were dominated by 3 main players, the fleet as a whole was pretty tight. From the results, it looks like the level of racing in the 4.7′s and radials were no different. By the end of the day, a sizeable chunk of the 4.7 fleet were within spitting distance of a podium! Competing breeze patterns and a strong run out tide kept everyone on their toes and left the race committee scrambling to move marks between races.
As for me? well By the third race I had found my rhythm, consolidating a good first windward to pick up a 3rd place, a little pick me up for the day with stronger winds on the forecast for tomorrow. It was good to be racing at that level again though; a laser fleet can be very civilised as everyone just goes about their business.
Honking Nor’Easters and a run out tide seem to be a trade mark of Botany Bay Sailing. Arriving at the club in the morning with a moderate breeze already and high temps forecast for western Sydney, it seemed inevitable that we were in for another trade mark day.
Even without the nerves I had from day one, my starts were still a little on the ordinary side leaving me working hard just to stay in touch up the first work. Again, time off the water was proving my undoing taking a couple of races to get used to the sort of short steep chop you definitely don’t get around western Sydney Harbour. Working hard off the breeze was once again my saviour allowing me to reel in what was really some lack lustre first works.
By the last race of the day, the run out tide had the poor committee boat folks side on to a hefty nor’easter leaving everyone’s legs burning while we worked through the chop. repeating a pattern I had started the day earlier, it took me till this last race to find my groove, either that or I was channeling Steve Bradbury. Sean Atherton had demonstrated quite clearly by that point, that he owned that finishers bullet no matter the wind conditions, but it was nice to take home a 2nd for the last one.
4th overall for the regatta was well above my hopes of a top third and more than I was expecting against what was clearly a well honed fleet. It may be 12 years since my last Laser regatta but it’s been 15 since I last won a cube and while I didn’t get one this time, one place short had the what if’s creeping in before I’d even left the carpark. Fellow Dobroyd Sailor Bronwyn Mitchell did well for herself as well taking home top women and 7th outright in the 4.7 fleet, a result she was happy with as preperation for her Australian Masters campaign barely two weeks later.
Racing against a pretty hot Laser fleet was just good solid fun, and it was great to stretch my legs again on what was previously one of my favourite places to sail. But I could barely move by the end of it leaving me wondering how I manged as a young(er) buck…
…didn’t stop me checking out the rest of this years regatta schedule. Maybe I should work on that fitness first ;)
1st Synergy, Sean Atherton
2nd Free Bird, Marcus Whitley
3rd Peximus, Brent Morris
4th Shark Infested Custard, Craig Armour (DAC/BSC)
1st Infinity, Finn Alexander
2nd Eric Weeber, Nicholas Connor
3rd Lambchop, Vanessa Dudley
1st Gotta go, Blake Selley
2nd Alchemist, Peter Charlton
3rd Unsinkable II, Jordan Makin
7th Equilibrium, Bronwyn Mitchell (DAC)