If Carlsberg ran Laser Masters Regattas, then the Spring championship May 13th/14th at appropriately named Beer SC would have been it. Conditions were ideal all weekend with 12-20 knots, building waves and sunshine in a beautiful location with excellent organisation, both on and off the water.
A smaller than usual yet perfectly formed fleet of 20 Standards gathered for a midday start, depleted only by a late injury to Orlando Gledhill, a car bereavement for David Bates and a last-minute defection by Roger O Gorman to the radial fleet, noticeably wincing as a 12-knot gust ripped through the boat park. Simon Barrington was making a welcome return to the fleet after an extended break and Tim Law was sporting a natty new hat and race bib, fresh from securing the Grand Master Gold Medal at the recent World Masters Games in Auckland.
Race 1 saw the early leaders come out of the right despite a pin-bias to the line, with tide against. Stuart Hudson and Alan Davis swapped the lead a few times before Hudson prevailed, taking the win followed by Davis and young Dave Freemen, who had clearly failed to psyche out anyone by doing pre-start push ups on his boat.
Race 2 saw a steady increase in breeze to 15+ knots, with larger seas and some great reaching on the old-style triangular course. Hudson admitted to having ‘hit the wall’ in his race 1 efforts and relaxed into a 7th place behind a dominant Davis, allowing Ellyatt and Law through to fill 2nd and 3rd spots. Race 3 started in a changing tide yet with similar breeze. Davis stormed ahead, with a tight bunch following and much place changing. On the final lap the breeze had softened considerably and Freeman, working harder than an unattractive stripper, slowly ground down Ellyatt who managed just to hold on to 2nd place.
Day 2 dawned with a lighter forecast, no Simon Barrington who sadly had to return home to deal with a burglary, and an unstable 6-8 knot wind. Those heading out to sea got into the building breeze first, and Davies led a shaken-up pack into the first mark, never to be headed. Hicks rounded a steady 2nd, having passed up on the Full English breakfast at his hotel he was revelling in the lighter conditions, with Peter Sherwin, Tim Dickinson and Tim Polglase all challenging at times. Eventually however Hudson and Freeman pulled through to 2nd and 3rd on the final reach with Hicks, failing to notice some weed on his centreboard, also giving way to Law at the finish.
For race 5 the breeze had built again to 15-18 knots, with further marvellous downwind action and some impromptu swimming. Tim Law had seemingly rediscovered his mojo overnight after a civic ceremony and gold medal victory parade in Salcombe, leading around the first mark by a distance from Davies and Hudson. Davies eventually inevitably worked past Law upwind to take another bullet followed by Law and Hudson. A close pack behind saw Robin Annett going well and Neil Peters showing good speed in the stronger breeze.
Race 6 saw the wind peak out at 20 knots or more for the wildest reaches of the weekend. Davis was not to be denied his final race win, with Law 2nd and Ellyatt 3rd. Both Peters and Freeman performed magnificent dismounts with Neil pirouetting in on the run, while young Dave, noticeably unable to match the sheer athleticism of his older competitors, exited his boat backwards at the windward mark while going for a heroic manoeuvre. He decided to swim home. How windy was it? Guy Noble’s rudder exploded on the final reach, and a couple of un-named race leaders were seen to
tack-around at the leeward mark, prudent no doubt but certainly most uncool. All that finished the final race did well to keep the boat under the rig in such conditions.
Race 1 in the Radials commenced with a pin end bias which resulted in many of the leaders being forced further left than they may have wanted. The tide was against the fleet upwind but Jon Emmett managed to pull out from the left and lead at the weather mark with the pack chasing hard. Emmett extended his lead and was followed home by Roger O’Gorman (former Standard superstar / now Radial convert) and Rob Cage in third. For Race 2, the sea breeze was in full effect at 16-18 knots. The fleet was still punching the tide upwind but it was the downwind where easier gains were made. By the end of the first triangle, Jon had once again pulled free but from 2nd to 8th the fleet was bow to stern rounding the leeward mark. This resulted in some of the fleet tacking to the left but it was the right where the leaders emerged. Jon took his second bullet followed home by Cage and Ian Gregory. Race 3 started in similar conditions but with a slacker tide. Again, the fleet drove to the right but many over stood as the tide changed. Once again it was Emmett, followed home by Andrew Byrne and Cage in third. Jon held a strong lead overnight but the rest of fleet from 2nd backwards where only separated by a few points.
Sunday arrived with yet more perfect sunshine. The cafes on the beach were busy with passing cyclists and young families. The breeze was off and many considered lighter wetsuits. Race 4 kicked off in 10-12 knots and again into a punching tide. Even though many started by the committee boat and drove hard right, it was those who started closer to the pin who pulled out ahead. Cage led with Emmett and Byrne close behind. Emmett eventually squeezed past Cage as the breeze started to build with Byrne picking up 3rd. Race 5 and the sea breeze was in full effect. Emmett would win once again but the real fighting was going just behind. Byrne was well placed in 2nd until a capsize allowed Gregory to catch-up and then pull away with excellent downwind surfing. Race 6 commenced in what felt like a strengthening breeze and growing waves. Going upwind required complete focus as the waves were throwing boats around. Jon demonstrated his immense speed and led once again followed by Byrne and O’Gorman in hot pursuit. O’Gorman screamed into 2nd with a roar “This is Epic” which seemed wholly appropriate given the conditions.
As well as a top sailing weekend, there was a great atmosphere on shore. A delicious meal on Saturday night was followed by an expert’s panel in which fleet leader Davis revealed that he goes to bed early and plays Netball regularly to keep in such tremendous shape. Rob Cage reminded Jon Emmet of the potential (limb breaking) hazards of cycle pedal cleats!
At the end of sailing on Saturday and Sunday a great crew of club volunteers helped happy yet exhausted sailors winch up the shingle beach – if only it had extended to the cliff-top clubhouse!
Thanks to all at Beer SC, particularly Geoff Adkin and his race management team for some high-quality fun on the water.
Full results can be seen on the Laser masters facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/uklasersailing/