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RC Laser National Championships at West Lancs

by Tony Wilson on 12 Jul 8-9 July 2017

Well, what for a busy weekend on the Lancashire coast. The Fleetwood club was hosting their Marblehead Nationals with over 50 entrants registered and also the 10 Rater Nationals on Monday and Tuesday. Then back over the Ribble to Southport we have a full weekend with the RC Laser Nationals. What should we do, which do we enter, or maybe just go for a quick visit around all of them to see some real quality sailing.

On arriving late on the Saturday a quick chat with some of the locals lads revealed that the Friday training day had been a great success. A couple of vital tips were shared in a concentrated minute condensed version briefing, and Skip left Tony with a slip of paper and the recommended sail trim settings for each sail size that Dave had provided.

A light North-westerly wind had the course layout towards the bridge for the first beat. A triangle-sausage course with a gate at the leeward end. The start line for this direction causes not only problems for skippers but also for the starting officials.

Three similar bell-like marks were placed in a line upwind for the windward mark and which to be used would depend on the wind direction.

A couple of early 'jump the gun's required that an addition mark be used as a boundary, as too many boats over the line were just impossible to count. After about the third race, officer 'Captain Horn Blower' Clive Porter joined us and with vigorous use of his bugle soon got the attention of the offenders.

Five minutes were had between races and sometimes more when the buoys needed attention or retrieval from an out of control Laser. It was Ken at the helm taking along Alan, and getting him back in time for the two minute countdown.

Early races had the odd boat slow down and you did wonder if it was yourself or could it be the dreaded weed, but others didn't seem to be complaining. It wasn't until later through out the day that guys were fishing out the slimy green stuff that it started to develop into an overall problem. Or are we just making ourselves reasonable excuses for our poor sailing?

14 Skippers had officially entered up till about a day ago, but we managed to be blessed with 20 in total. Sue Sharman had been coerced into joining in for the day and although adamant that she was going to be last for every race, to her surprise (and also her husband's), she did pretty well for her first official Laser outing and this being the Nationals. Also from Sue was a "Yes!" when she had forced Colin boat number 33 into a penalty 360 degree turn. It was also good to see a couple of other recently new recruits including our youngster Thomas from the West Lancs club.

At the end of day one it was pretty obvious that Dave must have been well in the lead. Who else was up there for a potential podium position was anyones guess. Rob was having a fairly decent day as he had posted three firsts and it's his A sail that he really likes and this brings the best out in him, but where was John Sharman and Tim Long in the mix? How was Laurence our last years Nationals winner number 27 doing? From the back of the pack you didn't know sometimes what was going on and a few just looked bemused at each other when you heard the finish bleep and you were just starting your second sausage lap.

Well on to Sunday and it looked like we were going to have more of the sun ripening weather and again light winds from a similar direction, but hopefully with a bit more of the West in there. With a slight increase of a couple of miles an hour in wind speed, the B rigs were attached throughout.

Clive started the day off with a change of course and it was with the use of four buoys and sailed in a figure of eight pattern twice into a westerly. With the problem of bunching at the windward mark the second bell-like mark was introduced as a spreader.

Tony started with a good entry as his boat suddenly went flat, had he forgotten to attach his keel or did it fall off as the boat went in? A few kind offers came his way for the loan of one and retrieval was to go ahead at the end of the day.

Rob started off well again and had his B sail set to perfection. Hugo seemed to attract a bit of attention usually on rounding the marks, it must be his brightly coloured red boat resembling a fire engine.

It was on one of these early races of the day a bit of commotion started up in that far right corner, when half a dozen Lasers were being attacked one at a time on their rounding by an aggressive swan. It suddenly became apparent that one of her cygnets was hiding behind the buoy and she was only doing the motherly protection thing.

Halfway through the morning as the wind eased the big sails came out again and remained for the rest of the day.

Over a BBQ lunch break the course again was changed and moved around, this time we were to sail two triangles more in the bay area. Skippers were now starting to tire as we had walked a fair amount of ups and downs on that bank and had had another full day on the water. By the end of the day you still had the ringing in your ears of the words from the kids on the play boats to 'hands ears and eyes and toes' repeated through out the day or the false start echo from our bugling Army Sea Captain who had promoted himself to 'General Recall'.

24 races and we had our three discards so it was back to the club house for prize-giving and a short raffle. Nearly everyone had witnessed a bit of weed at sometime through the weekend and all sailing members had endured to the very end, which was good. The weed is not unique to this venue as many other clubs through out the country are also plagued with it. The lost Laser keel was eventually found and retrieved by the Viking Hatchet man, yours truly.

Top five:

1. Dave Fowler, Blackpool and Fylde
2. Chris Treagust, Gosport
3. Tim Long, Abersoch
4. John Sharman, Burwain
5. Laurence Draper, Gosport

The next event on the calendar for RC Lasers is the Northern District Summer Series and TT at Fleetwood on 23rd of July. Results can be found from all events on www.rclasers.com and the Fairhaven Lasers website.

Thanks to all at West Lancs for running this event and to the Laser shops for providing prizes for the raffle.

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