Spring Series Report 2018
For a full report on the series by George Finch, click here!

Laser and Solo Open - 13th October 2018

A reduced turnout of Lasers gathered at Royal Harwich Yacht Club for the annual joint Laser & Solo Open Meeting. This was in part due to the UKLA European and World Qualifier just up the coast at the Royal Norfolk and Suffolk Yacht Club. Early on, a few of the sailors gathered in the dinghy park to look at Josh Richardson’s brand-new laser. It was so new, he only had enough time to stick two sail numbers on the sail before launching!
12 Laser sailors joined the Solo sailors at the briefing on the lawn, held by race officer for the day, Dr. Chris Brown. The fleet promptly launched into glorious sunshine with a shifty breeze of ~16 knots. Out on the race course, the wind direction was surprisingly constant, with a few strong gusts ensuring some of the Lasers were cooled off before the start.
Race 1 was a simple windward / leeward course, set on the North shore which meant there would be no crossing the ‘channel’. The fleet got a clean start and were thankful of the support boat leading the way as the windward mark was difficult to find in the autumn sunshine. With the tide on the flood, the pin end of the line was favoured, and Matt Hart showed his dominance by rounding the windward mark first. The wind behaved on the first downwind leg and the only hazard was the Solo fleet coming through after their start. 
The racing in the top 6 remained extremely close and on the 2nd downwind leg, Dave Sheppard and Alex Davey entered some very close high-speed luffing. This meant that Matt Hart could extend his lead, with Dan Hart and George Finch (in 4th and 5th) catching Dave and Alex. The result was a bit of shouting about the rules, followed by the famous 7 letter word – “Protest”. Dave was unsure if he’d forced Alex to change course and therefore held his ground, didn’t do any turns and finished 2nd, with Alex in 3rd, calling Dan and George to be witnesses of the shenanigans that had occurred. Alex and Dan were quick to shout to the race officer about the protest, although the gusting wind meant he didn’t actually hear either Alex or Dan!
For Race 2, the course was the same although the RO had decided to extend the beat by placing the windward mark on the other side of the river. Once again, the pin end was favoured.  George Finch was seen testing out a potential port flyer start with about two minutes to go but bailed out early. Will Finch had cottoned on to this tactic and went for it, leading as he crossed in front of the whole fleet. It later turned out that George’s watch had stopped, and he didn’t fancy his chances guessing the timing and being on port! Matt House, sailing a laser he had borrowed from another club member just an hour before the first start, rounded the windwark mark first, with Dan Hart hot on his tail. Dan managed to overtake, but was then hit by a strong gust and fell in on the run.
This should have been a warning for the rest of the fleet, as 3 Lasers in the middle of the fleet then proceeded to capsize too! Matt Hart was catching up the leaders by sailing by the lee, away from the fleet and was back near the front of the fleet at the leeward mark. Matt continued to sail at a level above the rest and took the lead from Matt House. Further down the fleet, on the 2nd beat, George Finch and Graham Ireland were in a constant battle, with George calling starboard on Graham over 5 times. Finally, Graham changed tactic, ducked behind George as they approached the windward mark and then took his turn at calling starboard! Their battle had let Alex Davey through and thus Alex rounded the windward mark ahead of Graham and George. The 2nd run was less eventful, and Matt Hart went on to finish 1st, with Matt House 2nd and Alex Davey in 3rd.
Race 3 was where the fun really started, as Chris Brown had introduced a new course. This time, the fleet would be sailing a triangle, leading to some exciting reaching. For the 3rd time, the fleet got a clean start and with high tide approaching, there was less of a benefit at the pin end. The breeze had increased, but this didn’t phase Matt Hart who led round the windward mark. Matt House followed in 2nd, with Dan Hart in 3rd. Matt and Matt sailed a very low course to the gybe mark, allowing Dan Hart & George Finch to catch up. Tom Herring and Graham Ireland sailed a course in the middle of the top four, which was certainly the fastest route. 
Matt, Matt and Dan gybed early whilst George held off and sailed by the lee, closer to the north shore of the Orwell. For some reason, this paid off and George had significantly more boat speed. (If anyone can explain, answers on a postcard please….). Matt, Matt and George rounded the leeward mark within touching distance of each other and sailed into Lap 2. Matt and Matt broke away, with George struggling in their dirty air. (Matt Hart is a 505 sailor and Matt House is a Phantom sailor, so there was a weight advantage too…). With Matt & Matt sailing off into the horizon, George didn’t notice a shift and allowed Alex Davey and Dan Hart to catch up and sneak in front at the windward mark. The reaches continued to bring excitement with Graham Ireland reportedly falling in, but Matt & Matt had decided to run by the lee and continued to accelerate away. At the leeward mark, George gybed early and managed to sneak inside of Dan as they rounded. Alex then aggressively covered up to the finish line, ensuring he held onto 3rd place after Matt Hart had taken his 3rd win, and Matt House his 2nd 2nd place. George and Dan finished almost at the same time, neither one knowing who had crossed first.
Chris Brown decided to move the windward mark closer to Pin Mill for the final race of the day, whilst keeping the same triangular course. Matt Hart had obviously won the open, but the next four places were wide open. Once again, the fleet were thankful of the leading support boat otherwise they would still be trying to find the windward mark! Will Finch opted for a 2nd port flyer of the day but was unfortunately caught in a shift as the gun went, prompting his laser to capsize on top of him. As the fleet crossed the channel, a Thames Barge was sailing up the river. This had potential to cause havoc for the fleet. Those who had started at the pin end were more in the luck as they could sail behind the barge and therefore did not get caught in the wind trap caused by the barge’s sails. 
Once the fleet found the windward mark, the shifty and gusty breeze began to play fun and games, with Matt House almost capsizing on George Finch, who was sailing on the layline. There was a benefit to this, as Matt’s sail partly covered George’s enabling him to finally sail flat and fast! Matt Hart, once again, led with Dave Sheppard in 2nd. Matt and Dave began to spread out, sailing away from George Finch, and Dan Hart. The rest of the race was almost processional, with the two reaching legs increasing the distance between all the Lasers. Matt Hart sailed off into the horizon and with George unable to match Dave’s pace, they all sailed into a comfortable 1st / 2nd / 3rd place. The breeze ensured the two reaches were exciting, but Dave and George played it safe to really secure their podium places. Dave covered George to finish 2nd, behind Matt who took his fourth win of the day. George finished 3rd, with Alex Davey following in 4th. 
As the fleet came ashore, tired after four races in strong wind, Alex and Dave begun to settle their disagreement from Race 1 at the bar. After discussing over a beer and Alex demonstrating where he thought Dave was in the wrong, Alex went on to withdraw his protest. The overall points were incredibly close, but Dave opted to retire from Race 1. The impact of this was that he relinquished 2nd place overall. 
Matt Hart had obviously won the open meeting, sailing on a level above the rest of the fleet. Alex Davey, in a repeat of 2017 took 2nd overall, and also in a repeat of 2017, George Finch took 3rd.

Chris Brown presented a ‘perseverance’ glass to Tom Herring for completing all four races despite experiencing the odd capsize or two. 
Thanks to Chris and his team for running a fantastic afternoon of racing and to the support boat crews who looked after the fleet so well.

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
01245 450568