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RC Laser Championship of Nations at the Paradise Radio Yacht Club

by John Armstong 29 Nov 19:35 GMT 6-11 November 2017

I have recently returned from attending the RC Laser Champion of Nations 2018. The event was without doubt the most memorable sailing event I have attended in 50 years of sailing. The event was hosted by the Paradise Radio Yacht Club on Emerald Lake, Carrara. With a name like that it had a lot to live up to. In hind sight it probably was as close to paradise as you could find for racing the RC Laser.

Emerald lake is a manmade lake next to the Nerang river, some 4 miles from the Gold Coast in the suburb of Carrara. The lake has a series of islands with beautiful modern Australian homes. My stay in Carrara included a 9 day stay in one of these houses. Starting the day to a breakfast of local fruit and produce sat on the veranda overlooking the lake was the perfect beginning to the day!

The lake has a curved aspect from North, anticlockwise all the way round to East giving plenty of scope for good start lines. The predominant winds are either hot from the NNE or warm from the SSE. Occasionally the wind comes from the mountains in the West and are very shifty and strong.

Monday started with measurement and inspection of all boats followed by an afternoon of practice races to get people up to speed with the venue. Measurement was a very cursory exercise. All of my sails were spread out on the table together with my boat on its stand. The examiner took 5-10 seconds looking at the collection to then say "Yes, looks like an RC Laser".

With temperatures in the low 30s C, a hat and plenty of sunblock we proceeded to lots of short one lap races. The wind was steady all afternoon from the NNE at about 10-12mph. B rig weather for all with an occasional C rig appearing. About 40 boats were racing so they were split into 2 fleets of 20 each taking it in turn to race. This was all good fun and included lots of friendly banter. After a slow start to the afternoon I finished with a 2nd and 2 x 3rd places.

Tuesday started with a prerace briefing. The course was going to be a simple windward leeward one with a spreader mark at the windward end after a port hand rounding and a choice of 2 marks at the leeward end. 2 laps to be sailed with the finish line to be the start line. One feature of racing that was new to the European sailors was that there was no touching of marks. So if rounding a mark any part of the boat touched, then a 360 degree turn was required. It would also be several umpires watching the racing to adjudicate on whether there was boat on boat contact or boat on mark contact. If 2 boats sail numbers were called out as having touched then one would have to complete a penalty turn. If neither boat completed a turn then both boats would be scored maximum points unless a protest was lodged. The umpires would not be judging for fault during contact however they could be called upon if a protest was lodged.

56 boats were entered and split into 4 fleets for the seeding races. These were selected to try and give an even spread of talent between each fleet. The aim was each fleet would race once. The result would count as the first race in the championship. After these seeding races were complete the first 3 boats in each fleet went into the A fleet. Finishers 4-6 into the B fleet, 7-9 the C fleet and the remainder the D fleet.

The day started with the wind a very light SSE breeze but by the time of the first seeding race the wind was up 10-12mph with B rigs set. The wind continued to build so that by the time of the last seeding race all boats were setting C rigs. The first three seeding races had seen the boats spread all over the lake as the first boat finished. I found my self in the final seeding race that saw much closer racing than the other races. All boats finished within 40 seconds of the first. Sadly this saw me finish 10th and into the D fleet!

The start of the heat races saw 5 boats being promoted to the next tier and 4 boats relegated from the A, B and C fleet. This was only for the first race to bring the core number of boats in the A, B and C fleet to 13. For all subsequent races there were 4 boats promoted and 4 boats relegated. This meant that all of the A, B and C fleet races were sailed with 17 boats.

The racing was straight away dominated by the Australians with the young guns Scott Fleming and Scott Mitchell together with Peter Burford and Malcolm Kampe. The first day of racing saw the completion of the seeding races together with 3 complete sets of heat races. Leading at the end of day 1 was Scott Mitchell of South Australia.

Racing on day 2 was very similar to day one with the same course and wind direction. However in the afternoon the wind increased so that some D rigs started to appear. On the water Scott Fleming from Victoria had a dominant day with 3 firsts and a second from the 4 races completed. After 2 days sailing this gave him a big lead over the chasing pack.

The briefing on day 3 brought a reminder from the PRO that if 2 boats were judged by an umpire as having touched, one has to complete a penalty turn or a boat lodge a protest to avoid both being given maximum points. Following this reminder we saw the only formal protest lodged after the conclusion of the first B fleet race of the day. This was between "yours truly" the troublesome brit and Jurgen Luther of South Australia. As Jurgen had finished 2nd and I had finished 5th the protest had to be heard immediately before the A fleet race.

Interestingly at the protest both Jurgen and I gave identical details of the sequence of events on the water. This still led to a 20min delay for a decision to be reached. The result was Jurgen was relegated to last place and I went up a place to 4th putting me into the A fleet.

The third day of racing also saw the strongest winds so far in the afternoon with winds of 20mph and gusts of much more. This resulted in D rigs all round with just a couple of brave souls with C rigs! Interestingly winds of these strengths and 25 – 30 degrees do not feel as strong as D rig racing in winter at West Lancs!! The next day was a lay day so sailing continued on Saturday with the final day of racing. As this was Armistice Day and this was to be remembered at 11:00am, sailing started 1 hour earlier at 09:00am. The aim was to compete 4 races so that the results would have 3 discards. As to be expected the winds started at light 5 10mph from the SSE. All fleets were split between A and B rigs but most of the leading boats sailed with B rigs. As with the previous days by lunch time the sails used were mainly C with a small number of B sails. Also by lunch time the overall winner was confirmed as Scott Fleming. His lead was unassailable with 2 races still left to go.

Although Scott had a big lead over Scott Mitchell in 2nd place the racing throughout the fleet was incredibly close. This can be seen from the results with 8 different winners of the 16 heat races. Also only the 2 Scott's remained entirely in the A fleet with all the other competitors spending at least one race in a lower group.

It was interesting to see how different sailors set about sailing their RC Laser. Scott Fleming sailed with a very notable slack leach but was always quick. His setup appeared to give him an edge when tacking in confined space. In contrast Malcolm Kampe has his leach quite tight and his boom well inside his gunwale. When the water was not to rough he was very fast to windward and could outpoint everyone.

Of the European sailors Ulf Neumann of Sweden finished highest in 5th. He was always near the front and very vocal from the shore! His fellow Swede Gunnar Moller finished 14th. He was much more like the rest of us with results from 6th to 38th. Taco Faber from the Netherlands had said he was not used to the strong winds of day 2 and 3. On the final day with the lighter winds he finished with a 1st and a 2nd. This brought his overall score to 18th. In contrast to Taco I loved the breezes of day 2 and 3 which saw me sailing in the A fleet for most of this time. However my results took a dip on the last day and saw me swap places with Taco finishing 20th.

Paradise Radio Yacht Club have to be commended for organising a fantastic championship. The courses were fair to the sailors and expertly changed when the weather forced a change at short notice. It was sailed in wonderful friendly atmosphere with very few signs of dissent. Valenciennes in 2019 for the C of N will have a hard act to follow.

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