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Laser 5000 Nationals at Warsash Sailing Club

by Taff Owens 16 Jun 2009 10:18 BST 13-14 June 2009

With the weather forecast set fair and the very specific and historical venue, the scene was set for the 2009 Laser 5000 National Championships over the 13th and 14th of June at Warsash SC on the Hamble River. The weekend racing was held in tandem with the Blaze Association Open Meeting.

Warsash, the spiritual home of the 5k. The 5000 was originally designed by Cliff Norbury and Phil Morrison and others from Warsash and designated as the Warsash 5000. The initial sea trials were conducted in the same area as this year’s event and although only 6 boats managed to make it to the entry this year, the standard set was high. Teams came from Grafham Water, Draycott, Weston and Restronguet SC’s and competition was tight.

Saturday appeared with light force 2 winds, and the first surprise for the fleet was the amount of traffic leaving the Hamble which the fleet had to negotiate to get out into the Solent. Once we had arrived in the sailing area, the Race Committee had laid a classic windward/leeward course, with a leeward mark instead of a gate.

The Blaze fleet got away first and with no problems at the start the 5k fleet soon followed. The fleet split early after the start, with GBR 5233 (Army) helmed by Taff Owens and crewed by Andy Mount going right up the course with Thomas and Alistair in GBR 5231 and Mark and Nicky in GBR 5249 (Nimby) following closely behind. Unfortunately Gavin and Sam in GBR 5291 failed to make it to the start line due to a broken main halyard. In the light winds and strong tide, concentration was at a premium, but from somewhere, Army seemed to find some extra boat speed up wind and managed to hold the pole position down wind for two laps. At the bottom mark at the second lap, the committee shortened the course and Army managed to hold off Thomas and Alistair to take the first result.

The next race turned everything on its head! Although the first three leading boats Nimby, Army and GBR 5231 had a clear lead over the remainder, all 3 had failed to notice that the race committee had only set the course for two laps and hadn’t passed through the line on completion of the 2nd, but headed up for a 3rd - disaster! That left Paul and John in GBR 5269 to finish 1st, Niall and Matt in GBR 5301 (Radii) 2nd and Gavin and Sam 3rd. Oh well, let’s hope there are enough races for a discard!

By the time the 3rd race started, the sea breeze had established itself and a steady force 3 – 4 had blown in making things far more ‘challenging’ in terms of preventing mistakes for this 3 lap race. Despite this, Thomas and Alistair once again set the pace and went right with Army following closely, but with Mark and Nicky in Nimby going left away from the tight competition, they seemed to make the right decision. They slowly made progress and were leading. However, Thomas was progressively making small gains and clawed the way back to the front. On the upwind leg of the final lap, Mark seemed to get stuck under the boom on a tack and that was that, back to 3rd position, leaving GBR 5231 in the lead, and Army not far behind. Mark managed to right the boat in time to save 3rd place from Paul and John in GBR 5269.

The fleet headed back to the Hamble and then into the Warsash bar for a very entertaining Hog Roast accompanied by a band provided by the club membership which went down very well much like the beer! Once again, Niall led the fleet entertainment with strangely coloured liquids which seemed to cheer him up and anyway, sleeping under the stars is apparently a great way to begin a Sunday!

With even lighter winds getting out to the start line took a considerable time on Sunday morning, thankfully it was downwind, which meant the kites could be set, but even then it too nearly an hour for both fleets to assemble at the start.

Once again, Army had a good start for the first race of the day and was getting away from the fleet until the upwind leg of the second lap, going left up the course, trying to stay with the tide. However, the remainder of the fleet got the better wind inshore and by the time they arrived at the windward mark, Army was lying back in 4th. A hard lesson in covering the fleet, even if you are well in front! GBR 5231, (Nimby) was leading on the right until Mark took her too far inshore and grounded, giving GBR 5269 the opportunity to get in front at the windward mark. Army now had a fight (!) on it’s hands. Slowly, ever so slowly (and thankful for 4 laps), Army first of all crept passed Paul and John, going higher and faster on the downwind leg and managing to maintain good upwind speed in these light airs. The gap from 3rd to 2nd looked too big to overcome however and the final result for race 4 looked set in stone, with Thomas and Alistair leading Mark and Nicky. However, the race committee shortened the course, taking the finishing line up to the windward mark. Mark and Nicky failed to notice the change of course and went wide of the finish line, leaving an opportunity for Army to come storming through, close on Thomas’s heels to take 2nd place.

By the time the 5th race started, the sea breeze was building nicely once again to a force 3 to 4, better conditions for Niall and Matt, who took the opportunity to close the gap and stay close with the leading pack. Managing to keep the boat flat in gustier conditions and making good course decisions, Niall was able to keep in touch throughout and edged Army back into 4th for the entire race, despite all the efforts being made. By the time the race finished the wind had built to the top end of a force 4 – fantastic!

And so, the scene was set for the final race. The 5 minute gun had gone, so had the 4, we were into the last 90 seconds when Army, whilst doing a tack, capsized after Andy fell over, re-cleated the jib and backed it – result, swimming. Some swearing and quick work on the dagger board and the boat was back up with 45 seconds to go and able to make the line as the class flag dropped. The wind was big, bodies were flat on the wire and just as things were settling into the groove, bang – Thomas and Alistair were struggling to keep their boat upright as the boom broke into two pieces – quite an achievement in a 5k!

The first lap (of 3) had been completed by the time the Blaze fleet had got away from their start – interesting going up the next beat! Unfortunately Radii had capsized at the downwind gate after a very quick Port/Starboard incident leaving Nimby in the lead and Army not far behind and John and Paul in 3rd. That was to be the position at the end of the race and then a fantastic reach all the way back to the club for tea and medals!

After the boats were prepared for the long drive home, prize giving as arranged in the club and final positions could not have been tighter. Thomas/Alistair and Taff/Andy were on equal points in first place, but after count back, GBR 5231 was awarded first place, quite rightly, with Nimby in 3rd. It was a great honour and pleasure to be awarded the prizes by Cliff Norbury who also gave a brief overview of the history of the Laser 5000 and how it came to be.

The weekend was fantastic, the racing great with great courses, the club was very warm in their welcome to us and the 5000 Association is developing well. For all of you 5000 owners or those interested in joining the Association you can get more information at

Overall Results:

PosSail NoHelmClubR1R2R3R4R5R6Pts
1st5231Thomas SamuelGrafham Water26111(DNC)11
2nd5233Taff OwensWarash Sailing Club1-5224211
3rd5249Mark RushtonGrafham Water3-4332112
4th5269Paul BurnsGrafham Water-51445317
5th5301Niall FurgusonDraycote425-63418
6th5291Gavin WebbRestronguet Sailing Club(DNC)3656DNF27

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