Royal Harwich Yacht Club Laser Open, 7th October 2017
As we turned up in the car park on a sunny but blustery Saturday 7th October for the annual Laser Open Meeting at the RHYC, it was clear that the fleet was larger than it had been for the last few years.
At the briefing, Commodore and PRO for the day Chris Brown welcomed the visitors to the club. Although then promptly told us to tidy the car park of the laser trailers or he’d move them himself! This was in jest, but the club was going to be busy with the Solo Open Meeting and Junior On-Board beginner sailing and junior race training – we’d be seeing over 50 boats out on the water!
A few of the club’s laser sailors decided to help in the support boats rather than sail given the wind strength and frequent gusts. Nevertheless, 20 Lasers from 9 different sailing clubs hit the water after a delayed launching, as we had waited patiently for the tide to come in.
As Race 1 was getting underway on a windward-leeward course, the breeze remained strong but we were yet to experience any of the 35 knot gusts predicted on WindGuru. With the strong tide, hitting the left-hand side of the course was the way to go up the first beat and it paid for those who did. Stephen Videlo and George Finch were on the right-hand side, which looked favourable at one point but the wind swung back and both had to tack a few times to lay the mark, letting over half the fleet round before them. Now the fun started, heading downwind in some waves, created by the wind and tide flowing in opposite directions. Stephen Videlo was trying too hard to make up some places and managed to fall in, followed by Sam Benbow also falling in. However, the rest of the fleet remained upright, if sometimes out of control! The fleet began to spread out on the second beat, with Matt Aldous-Horne leading. He kept the lead to the finish, with Matt Hart coming in behind him and Alex Davey finishing in 3rd place. Two radial sailors, sailing without handicap Benjamin Reason and Euan Harris finished 5th and 6th on the water, displaying their skill in the strong breeze.
There was a change of course for Race 2, where we had to sail a sausage then a triangle, rounding the marks to starboard to keep us out of the shipping channel. Initially this caused a few shenanigans as those sailors who’d gone left, following Matt’s tactics from Race 1, would pass the windward mark on port, with some of those coming in on starboard causing those on port to do a few quick tacks to avoid collisions! This continued throughout the fleet and it was made clear how to approach the mark next time round! The breeze was beginning to reduce slightly, but gains were to be made off-wind, going left in less tide or right in more wind. There was some close racing between Matt Aldous-Horne and Alex Davey for first place, but Matt came out in front and took his second win of the open. Alex followed (perhaps he wasn’t concentrating and was trying to see his son oppie sailing on the other side of the river?) with Stephen Videlo in third (he managed to stay dry in race 2!).
The course remained the same for Race 3. In the briefing on shore, Chris Brown, the PRO had said when asked about Black Flags that he hadn’t used one in 40 years and wasn’t planning to start today. Even with the tide pushing the lasers over the line, they remained sensible with only one boat over and already returning at the start of Race 3. The tide was slowing down and the wind had also fallen. George Finch rounded the windward mark first, with a large group of lasers on different tacks behind, which made for some interesting rounding’s for some sailors! The pile up at the windward mark allowed George to sail the run without being covered, whilst Alex Davey and Matt Aldous-Horne were slowing each other down by luffing each other. The wind stabilised even more on the second beat and George maintained his lead, although covering to keep. Matt Aldous-Horne, now in 2nd in check. This continued onto the two reaches of the triangle and onto the final beat. George finished 1st, with Matt in 2nd and Cameron Harris in 3rd.
The course changed again for the fourth and final race of the day, into a ‘P’ shaped course, still with roundings to starboard. After a clean start, George Finch once again rounded the windward mark first, after taking more of a middle route up the first beat rather than fully on the left. Hot on his heels was Matt Aldous-Horne and Cameron Harris who rounded shortly after. Both spent the top of the ‘P’ trying to luff George off course, but without success. After the second reach, Matt was successful and overtook George off-wind and sailed through onto the second lap in pole position, with George close behind.
The next group of lasers contained around 6 boats who battled up the second beat. At the front, Matt and George were continually crossing each other on opposite tacks, but George managed to come into the mark on starboard and round first. Matt chased on the two reaches, but it wasn’t until the run where he sailed over George into first place (déjà vu from the previous lap). By the bottom mark, Stephen Videlo and Harry Wallhead had caught up with the first two boats. Matt sailed a solid last beat to the finish line, with George trying to cover but also maintain 2nd position. With Matt over the finish line, George was forced to tack as Harry Wallhead came across on starboard. In a nail-biting last minute of the open meeting, with George and Harry both on the same tack, it was too close to call from the water. George just managed 2nd, with Harry inches behind in 3rd place.
At the prize giving, Chris Brown presented the prizes alongside RHYC’s Laser Class Captain Graham Ireland because “hadn’t won anything for once”. Chris Brown presented a glass to Jeremy Halfhide for being the best RHYC laser that doesn’t normally take part in Laser opens.
First radial and 6th overall was Benjamin Reason (Harwich Town Sailing Club)
3rd overall – George Finch (RHYC)
2nd overall – Alex Davey (RHYC)
Matt Aldous-Horne (Fishers Green Sailing Club) was presented with the RHYC Flag Trophy for winning the open meeting with 3 race wins. This trophy had been previously won by Chris Brown in 1965 (although then it was for the club’s Enterprise Open!) Matt thanked the Race Officer and his team, the support boat crews and the galley/bar staff for helping us have a fantastic open!
Laser Sailing at RHYC
The Laser fleet is the largest dinghy fleet at the RHYC (over 30) and is made up an eclectic group of individuals. We have sailors from all ages and sizes, reflecting the Laser national squad training fleets, with Grand Masters, Masters, Radials and increasing numbers of 4.7s.
We sail nearly every Sunday and Wednesday evening during April to December, racing in our own class with our own start. In 2015 our fleet grew with both adults and juniors joining in with the regular competition in the fleet. The Laser open for 2017 will be held on Saturday 7th October and we’re aiming to attract as many sailors from the East Coast as possible to this event! It will be the final event in the 'Three Rivers Laser Series', following behind Aldeburgh and Waldringfield. More details soon!
There are ongoing discussions about a “buddy” system which is hoped to run as an ad hoc race day pairing of the top end of the fleet with those from lower down so that pre race briefing and post race analysis can be done with a view to identifying and correcting the errors that cause the lower sailors to lose touch with the top end. I find that quite often when those from the lower end are close to and competing directly with the top sailors they do sail a lot better by virtue of having an immediate role model to copy. Imitation maybe a sincere form of flattery but it is also the quickest way to learn the right things to do to win races.
We are a friendly fleet and plan to have some socials and training during the season as we are very keen to give everyone an opportunity to increase their sailing ability, eat and drink amongst a group of fellow club sailors. If you have any questions or want to get involved with the Laser fleet, do not hesitate to get in contact! See you on the lawn!
Graham Ireland, Laser Class Captain