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Laserfest 2019 at Whitstable Yacht Club

by Jon Bentman 16 Jul 17:25 BST 13-14 July 2019

The third annual Laserfest at Whitstable YC - sponsored by Sailing Chandlery and Lothbury Wealth Management - will be remembered for light winds and long hours on the water. Patience was rewarded, however, as the weekend's programme of four races were all successfully completed - no one left drifting on the tide - and there was in fact much close racing among the 48-strong Laser fleet.

Olly Cage-White (Broadstairs SC) managed the conditions best with a near-perfect four points from the three races counting to take the win. His strongest competition came from James Goodfellow, down from Ardleigh Sailing Club in Colchester, ahead of Pierce Seward (Broadstairs SC) and Christian Brewer, the best of the Whitstable sailors.

Radials had dominated the top rank in 2018's Laserfest, but this year in the lighter winds the full rigs held sway in this handicap event (standard, radial and 4.7 all sail together). So top radial was Max Hunt in eighth overall, ahead of a noticeably sharp-sailing youth in the form of Christopher Marsh, 16th.

Both days had promised much with decent 10-12 knot winds sweeping across the Whitstable beach during morning rigging, but both days this breeze died away. On the Saturday it died as the Lasers launched, on the Sunday, teasingly, as the first warning sounded.

Nonetheless, on the Saturday - after much searching around the estuary - wind was found (around five knots), the course relocated and the racing got under way. Race Officer Mark Barnes has a good record in national competition and delights in bringing to Laserfest the big race big course championship experience. A big course and a long race, to be exact. Race lengths remained the full four laps each time and this typically meant over 100 minutes racing per race! Quite a feat of endurance for the regular club sailors. In fact from launch to recovery the Lasers were afloat for five and half hours on the Saturday.

Time afloat didn't diminish the value put on time ashore, and the Saturday evening was riotously partied away with a barbeque and band (Sold on Soul). It wasn't until midnight that most found their beds - for many of the visitors this was a bed in the club's bunkrooms, or perhaps kindly billeted with WYC members.

Laserfest also includes the Laserfest Tri-Series, a teams competition based around three regattas held over the summer on the North Kent coast - the first hosted by Broadstairs SC, this one at Whitstable YC and the finale at Herne Bay SC (September 1). Whitstable YC had taken the lead in both the Elite and Club teams categories at round one, but at Whitstable the Broadstairs Elite team fought back strongly to take the Elite win on the day and to carry a slim nine-point advantage to the final round where they hope to retain the shield they won in 2018. In the Club teams competition both Whitstable and Broadstairs entered 'ringers' (ie Elite sailors feigning incompetence - all part of fun and games) but even after weeding out the bogus entries Whitstable were again clear winners and now look favourite to retain the Club shield at the final round.

As ever, Laserfest is about fun and inclusivity. Everyone is welcome and know that class-compliance on kit is overlooked for this series. If you fancy joining in the fun come along for the final round at Herne Bay SC (enter a club team if you can muster one). And if you find yourself sat in raft of six Lasers, gunnel to gunnel, at the gybe mark (as found at this round), it's not an occasion for protest - just all part of the fun! Find all you need to know at www.laser-fest.com

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