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Event report: Neil Pryde UKLA National and Open Laser Championships

By Alison Boyd
18/7/2015

DAY 1

Sponsored by Neil Pryde, Harken UK (Official Hardware Sponsor), Laser Performance and Noble Marine (Association Sponsors)

Mount's Bay Sailing Club, 1-7 August

Sunday 2 August - Day One

Located in the beautiful far west of Cornwall, Mount's Bay Sailing Club are the hosts of this year's Laser Nationals. With the beach stretching around the bay and St Michael's Mount facing the clubhouse, the setting could not be more beautiful.

The forecast for the week ahead is variable with higher winds forecast for the early part of the competition and much lighter winds forecast for the end of the Nationals. However, this should ensure that the best sailors come out on top rather than a particular 'specialist' taking the honours.

Amongst the 40 Standard sailors who have made their way to Cornwall is Jack Aitken, the defending National Champion, and several members of the British Sailing Team.

Over 100 Radials have entered, so they will race in two flights for the start of the week before being split into Gold and Silver fleets later. Jon Emmet is defending his title, although he is facing stiff competition from top-level sailors such as Hannah Snellgrove.

The 30 plus 4.7 fleet includes a strong contingent from Ireland. With defending champion Arran Holman away sailing 420s, the way is open for a new Laser 4.7 National Champion to be crowned at the end of the week.

After a warm welcome from the club and registration with Dot and her team, the sailors were all ready for the racing to begin this morning. However, with PRO, Ken Falcon, waiting for the wind to settle, the sailors had a longish wait on the beach before launching.

All three fleets successfully completed two races in 10-17 knts, with occasional stronger gusts, although the black flag made an early appearance! The day's racing was on the usual trapezoid course, with fleets competing on the inner or outer loop.

With a few shifts on every beat, it was important for all sailors to keep on the lifted tack, and the advice to go right proved most beneficial. A strong cross swell due to the tide coming in created a skewed downwind which created some difficulties for the sailors, especially due to the large obstacle of St Michael's Mount!

In the Standard fleet, GBR sailing team member Martin Evan is topping the fleet with a first and a second, while fellow GBR sailing team member Jack Wetherell is in second with a fifth and first.

Hannah Snellgrove is in first in the Radial fleet, with two wins, and Ben Elvin is in second with a first and a second. Hannah said, 'It was a really fun first day racing in a building breeze, with some great waves. The key was getting a good lane off the start, working some small shifts, hiking hard and enjoying the waves surfing downwind.'

With two bullets Benno Marstaller is leading the 4.7 fleet. Ross Thompson is second with a fourth and a second.

Stronger winds are forecast tomorrow, so it will be interesting to see how the results develop.

Results:

Standard

Martin Evans, 3pts
Jack Wetherell, 6pts
Denzil May, 7pts

Radial

Hannah Snellgrove, 2pts
Ben Elvin, 3pts
Tim Brow, 5pts

4.7

Benno Marstaller, 2pts
Ross Thompson, 6pts
Gethin Owen, 6pts

DAY 2

Laser Nationals day 2_750

Monday 3 August

Overnight in Mount's Bay the wind blew hard, but come daybreak it had eased so that the initial overnight forecast was a little over optimistic. However, with Radio 4 discussing the large swell that was forecast for the west of Cornwall, conditions were set to be interesting.

Unfortunately, with the wind very up and down in strength and with continual shifts it proved to be a challenging day for competitors and race committee alike. Both the Standard and 4.7 fleets launched as scheduled this morning, with the two Radial flights kept ashore until the first start had been made. As a result of the conditions, all fleets, both those ashore and those afloat, were kept waiting for about two hours for a reliable breeze. At around 2pm, racing began for the Standards and 4.7s, and the Radial fleet was launched.

For the Standards, the first race began in around 5knts of wind, but this filled in from the right during the second beat. James Gray, Laser Podium Potential Squad and National Youth Squad Coach, showed the rest of the fleet how to handle the tricky conditions by finishing in first and Martin Evans, yesterday's leader, was in second. In the second race, the wind picked up to 8-12knts and Jack Wetherell took first position with Martin Evans in second.

With four races now taken place with one discard being applied, Jack Wetherell is on equal points with Martin Evans, but he is placed in first position on countback. James Gray is in third and, with two very consistent fourth places today, youth sailor, Sam Whaley, is now lying in fourth overall.

As in the Standard fleet, the 4.7's the first race began in very light winds which picked up towards the end. With an average start, Alex Butler went to the right and was first around the windward mark. From that point on he kept a good lead to take the win. Benno Marstaller, the winner of both of yesterday's races, worked his way through the fleet to take second.

In the second race, the wind picked up in strength from the first and became more consistent. Marstaller led from the start to take his third win of the event and Butler, who was fourth at the first mark, ended up in second.

For the Radials, the first race was completed in 10-12knts, whilst the second was in 12+knts. As a result, the second race was completed with flat hiking and planning.

Yesterday's leader, Hannah Snellgrove kept her lead over the fleet with two more wins. However, with at just one point behind Hannah, Ben Elvin is in second place. Ben said that, 'Today was all about the waves. Really technical sailing to keep up the boat speed which was the most important factor of the day.' Top placed Youth sailor is Matt Whitfield who is currently in third overall.

With an increasing wind, all of the day's races were completed. The forecast for the day had proved correct although it came through later than anticipated. The swell got up to approximately 2m and is forecast to increase to about 4m tomorrow.

An added bonus for the sailors today was the sighting of a small group of dolphins who sailed alongside some of the sailors.

After racing, all the sailors returned to the shore before attending the evening UKLA AGM where, as well as the meeting, a draw was held for items generously donated by Harken and a sail donated by Laser Performance.

Results:

Standard

1 Jack Wetherell, 5pts
2 Martin Evans, 5pts
3 James Gray, 8pts

Radial

1 Hannah Snellgrove, 3pts
2 Ben Elvin, 4pts
3 Matt Whitfield, 7pts

4.7

1 Benno Marstaller, 3pts
2 Alex Butler, 8pts
3 Gethin Owen, 12pts

DAY 3

Laser nationals day 3_750

Tuesday 4 August

Today's forecast of high winds and high swell for the west of Cornwall proved to be correct as the sailors were greeted with both when they arrived at the beach this morning. At its peak, the wind was approximately 25knts in the morning, but it dropped gradually during the afternoon to about 18knts. Another important factor to take into consideration was the fact a discard was applied after yesterday's racing, meaning all the competitors were able to drop their worst score.

Due to difficulties in setting a course, all three fleets were held ashore this morning until the wind had settled. The Standards were released first and made their way to the racecourse. Once they had arrived safely, the yellow and then blue Radial fleets were released before the 4.7s were allowed to launch. All the sailors had to battle their way through the surf on the beach before starting the sail to the racing area.

With a strong swell of 2-3 m coming in from one direction and wind-blown chop coming from another it made for some interesting racing. During the racing, strong winds and big waves resulted in a few capsizes throughout all three fleets and the downwind legs proved particularly challenging.

In the Standard fleet, the rivalry between GBR Sailing Team members Martin Evans and Jack Wetherell continued. In today's conditions, Martin came out on top with two firsts, with Jack coming second in both races. This means that Martin is now back on top of the leader board.

Martin Evans said, 'Everybody had read the forecast and knew it would be a day of big breeze, big waves and big physical effort. The entire fleet seemed anxious to get on the water for the exciting conditions - even those who had a bad day still seemed to enjoy the thrill of the wind and waves. The big side swell coupled with the wind-blown waves made the sea state messy which, combined with the surprisingly gusty and shifty wind made the racing more than a pure speed drag race. Ken did a great job to get the starts off successfully and quickly allowed the sailors to make the most of the windy conditions. Personally, I love the breeze. The windier and wavier the better for me! I was a notch ahead of the rest of the fleet in terms of boat speed meaning I could sail away from the fleet on the shifts and extend to some very comfortable wins. Really pleased to achieve a perfect day!'

Hannah Snellgrove only won one of her races in the Radial fleet, having won all her previous races, but she still managed to come second in the second race of the day! She remains in the overall lead of the Radial fleet with Ben Elvin still in second.

Defending Radial National Champion, Jon Emmett, had a much better today after yesterday's black flag. As a result of the flag, he was much more conservative in today's starts. However, in the first race for the Radial blue fleet, he tacked off to the right on a shift after the start and from then on led all the way round to the finish. In the second race, Jon decided to start at the Committee Boat (no chance of being over the line). Unfortunately, the wind went left after he tacked off and he found himself near the back of the fleet. However, by working hard throughout the race he managed to finish in third. Grand Master Jeff Loosemore showed everyone how it should be done and led all the way round. Jon Emmett said, 'The day was pretty physical, but I was surprised how shifty it was.'

The 4.7 fleet saw a new name in the line honours today with Douglas Calder taking a win in the first race. Meanwhile, Benno Marstaller resumed his winning streak by winning the second race. Gethin Owen was Mr Consistent with two second places, meaning he maintains his third place overall. Alex Butler, yesterday's top performer remains in second.

First race winner, Douglas Calder said, 'Despite the challenging conditions, I managed to win the race, with Gethin Owen just behind in second place. The conditions were similar in the second race of the day, the wind dying a little towards the end. Benno Marstaller finished in first and Gethin Owen in second. It was a great day with challenging conditions, and I was really pleased to win the first race of the day.'

All the sailors seemed to enjoy their time on the water and are looking forward to tomorrow's racing. However, with another big forecast, it looks like conditions will have to be assessed on the day!

Results

Standard

1 Martin Evans, 7pts

2, Jack Wetherell, 9pts

3 James Gray, 21pts

Radial

1 Hannah Snellgrove, 5pts
2 Ben Elvin, 11pts
3 Tim Brow, 11pts

4.7

1 Benno Marstaller, 6pts
2 Alex Butler, 16pts
3 Gethin Owen, 16pts


DAY 4

Wednesday 5 August

Yesterday's weather forecast proved to be correct and the Race Committee had to struggle with high winds, rain and poor visibility before they were able to set a course. After a wait ashore, all three fleets were released and racing got under way.

However, after the first race, the conditions deteriorated significantly, with the wind increasing in strength from about 18knts to gusts of 30knts, and the Radial and 4.7 fleets were sent ashore shortly after their first finish. As they had been started first, the Standards managed to complete both of their scheduled races before the weather closed in.

The top four in the Standard fleet finished in that order in both of their races today as Martin Evans continued his dominance of the event. Jack Wetherell came second, James Gray third and Harry Blowers fourth.

In the Radial fleet, Hannah Snellgrove returned to her winning ways and won her race ahead of Jon Emmett. Youth sailors Jordan Giles and Jake Farren-Price were first and second respectively in the other race. Jordan said, 'On the race course it was very windy with some nice waves for sailing downwind. It was a day where hard work and good boat speed were key to doing well. Visibility was poor and I couldn't really see where I was going most of the time!'

After today's racing, the Radial fleet was split into two with Hannah Snellgrove topping Gold fleet, Jon Emmett in second and Ben Elvin in third. The split of the Radial fleet into Gold and Silver occurred after the 53rd placed sailor which means Robby Boyd goes into the next stage of the competition as the top sailor in the Silver fleet.

Benno Marstaller won the one 4.7 race of the day, with Gethin Owen in second. That means that going into the penultimate day Benno is in first overall, with Gethin in second in front of Alex Butler who is now in third.

Despite the poor visibility and rain, which accounts for no photographs today, the sailors enjoyed their time on the water. Due to the light-wind forecast for Friday, three races for each of the fleets are now scheduled for tomorrow.

Results

Standard 

1 Martin Evans, 9pts
2 Jack Wetherell, 13pts
3 James Gray, 27pts

Radial 

1 Hannah Snellgrove, 6 pts
2 Jon Emmett, 15 pts
3 Ben Elvin, 15 pts

4.7

1 Benno Marstaller, 7 pts
2 Gethin Owen, 18 pts
3 Alex Butler, 23 pts

Day Five

Thursday 6 August

As predicted by the forecast, the sailor's awoke today to clearer skies and a much lighter breeze than previous days. The winds stayed much lighter with the breeze ranging from about 8-13knts throughout the day, with the strongest winds in Race 2. After launching, all three fleets sailed out into the bay for a full day of three races.

Line honours in the three races in the Standard fleet today went to Harry Blowers, Jack Wetherell and Martin Evans. With results of the races and discards taken into account, Martin Evans has now secured the Championship with a day to spare. Jack Wetherelll said, 'Roughly it was a light and tricky first race, I started at the starboard and got some good pressure on the right-hand side. In Race 2, I nailed the pin and led all the way round. In the last race of the day, I had to try and effect Martin's start and execute a good one for myself which I managed to do. But, unfortunately, I went for it a little too much and was caught black flagged with a number of other sailors and Martin was able to take the race win and with it the Championship.'

In the Radial Gold fleet, Jon Emmett had a large lead in Race 1, but down the final run the wind died and he was passed by three boats including Hannah Snellgrove and Ben Whaley who took the win!

Both Hannah and Jon were at the pin end at the start of Race 2 which resulted in Jon hitting the mark and having to do penalties. Both of them struggled throughout the race but still managed to finish in the top ten. Georgina Povall, currently the top placed university student, won the race.

Ben Whaley completed his best day so far by leading Race 3 from start to finish. Down the final run, Jon Emmett overtook Hannah, but Georgina overtook both of them to come second behind Ben.

Today, despite having her worst results of the Nationals, Hannah still managed three top ten finishes and is now the new Radial National Champion.

In the Radial silver fleet, Robby Boyd had a first and second to maintain his lead over the fleet. The other two races were won by Olivia Burt and Liz Sherwood.

All three races in the 4.7 fleet had a different winner today. Benno Marstaller won one, which saw him remain at the top of the leader board and, in fact, win the Championship overall. Benno said, 'The light wind and the shifty conditions made today's racing very difficult, as the results were very varied for everyone. Luckily, I still managed to sail three good races.'

Gethin Owen won one of the other races and Ross Thompson the third. Gethin Owen said, 'It was very shifty day today, with very competitive racing. I won the first race then had a poor second race because of starting at the wrong end of the line. I finished fourth in the last race.'

After sailing, the competitors and their families enjoyed a gourmet BBQ prepared by Mount's Bay SC. All week, the club have been providing excellent meals and snacks, and the BBQ was no exception. Once the meal was finished, Ken and Jon held another of their famous draws; this time for a large selection of items kindly donated by Neil Pryde. The final draw was for a new sail donated by Laser Performance.

Tomorrow, depending on the weather, one race is planned for both the Standard and Radial fleets, while two races are expected in the 4.7 fleet.

Results

Standard

1 Martin Evans, 12pts
2 Jack Wetherell, 17pts
3 James Gray, 36pts 

Radial Gold

1 Hannah Snellgrove, 12pts
2 Jon Emmett, 22pts
3 Ben Elvin, 25pts 

Radial Silver

1 Robby Boyd, 150pts
2 Noah McWatters, 155pts
3 Lucy Gates, 160pts 

4.7

1 Benno Marstaller, 12pts
2 Gethin Owen, 22pts
3 Alex Butler, 31pts

Photo credit: Lee Whitehead

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