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Tactics Made Simple by Jon Emmett
Tactics Made Simple by Jon Emmett

Laser Thames Valley Laser Travellers' Series Round 2 at Littleton Sailing Club

by Mike Bean 11 May 2019 21:14 BST 13 April 2019
Littleton Laser Open © LSC

The second round of the Thames Valley Laser traveller series was eagerly awaited by the resident Laser fleet at Littleton SC, located near to Shepperton (inside the M25 ring). The ten local Littleton Laser sailors were joined by an equal number of keen competitors from the surrounding clubs of King George (1), Papercourt (1), Aldenham (1), Broxbourne (2) and a strong contingent from Maidenhead (5).

The forecast for the day was a variable NE to SE, F2-4 which set the stage for conditions to challenge the body and mind. Fortunately, we were in the experienced hands of our resident Solo race officer Richard Cambrook who set the line up towards the bottom-middle of the lake with the average wind running from the NE down the lake.

Race 1 did not start with the usual bunching and fierce tiller waggling, but a reasonable spread along the line and got away first time (as did all the other starts that day). The windward mark was positioned towards the top-left corner. The fleet split left and right, and as the leaders converged it was already evident that the light wind shifts, and pressure channels were a key differentiator in spreading the fleet out. Sammy Issacs-Johnson popped out around the top mark, followed by Robert Blois and Mike Bean. With Gary Bullock and Colin Carver hot on their tails. The windward-reaching-leeward style course tested downwind speed and tactics too, but Issacs-J did not put a foot wrong and continued to lead around the next 2 laps to the finish. Blois held on to second and Bullock climbed up to third to clinch a memorable Maidenhead 1,2,3. Carver was 4th and Bean 5th.

Race 2 used the same course and line, but a backing-shift saw Bean tack to clear the fleet at the pin-end and lead up and around the top mark, followed by Bullock and then Carver, who then both found better down-wind speed to overtake Bean. After a lap the fleet had split into two. At this point, Issacs-J lead the chasing pack, along with a new face, Edward Brown in his Radial rig. What happened next was a tale of the unexpected. On lap 2 running down to the bottom mark, the wind dropped to a patchy light, squeezing the two packs back together and saw much nervous looking behind. Issacs-J showed excellent off-wind pace to maintain momentum and carve through the middle, but only close enough to round the leeward mark behind Bullock and Carver. Many thought the race would end here, as lunch was fast approaching, but another nervous lap ensued that finished with Bullock and then Issacs-J crossing the line first. However, it was not over! Brown had also maintained his excellent Radial pace to win the race on handicap. Carver was 4th. A special mention too for Andrea Watson who finished 5th (in her Radial) and was the first Littleton boat.

Race 3 followed lunch. The windward mark was re-positioned towards the top-right corner and Issacs-J, Simon Derham and Bean, were quickest to adjust to the reset course. After lap 1, the wind then took another active part in events, increasing in strength to F3-4 and veering more easterly to turn the beat into a fetch and all other legs into reaches. On the one hand, with no easy passing opportunities this was effectively the end of the race, but on the other, it did present non-stop, high-octane planing, that demanded full-on straight-legging and a few whoops; welcomed after the light, shifty morning. It finished as it started; Issacs-J 1st, Derham 2nd and Bean 3rd. Blois was 4th and, another new face, Peter Edel sailed into 5th place.

Race 4 saw Issacs-J and Bean caught in a bunch at the pin-end, whilst a new leader, Ed Pepper, was on fire reading every wind-shift to break away from the right and round the top mark first, with Derham in hot pursuit - a Littleton 1 and 2. Their good form continued for another lap and a half, but now a chasing group lead by another new face, Darren Heslin, along with Bullock, Issacs-J and Bean found some extra pressure to reel the leaders in, waiting for their moment. On the final beat and subsequent run, Bullock with clairvoyant-like precision leap-frogged through to take the lead with an equally sublime Issacs-J slotting into second place, followed by Darren Heslin, Bean and Pepper.

So, Issacs-J, who had temporarily traded his Aero for a laser, showed great pace and adapted best to the versatile conditions (and boat!) to claim overall victory by 2 points from runner-up Bullock. Bean finishing 3rd. The racing did not disappoint, and our thanks must go the race officer Richard Cambrook and to all the home and visiting competitors who contributed to make it a memorable event.

The spot prize, sponsored by Sailing Chandlery, went to Nicholas Selves. Thanks again to Sailing Chandlery for their support towards the series.

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