Report - 2011 New Zealand Laser National Champs - A full range of conditions

The progression of a tropical storm provided a full range of conditions for the 2011 New Zealand Laser Champs at Torbay on Auckland’s North Shore.

On Day 1 the race committee struggled with dramatic wind shifts between South East and East. The starting sequence for the men’s Open Standard fleet was abandoned in the first race. They got away in 5 to 7 knots but dramatic shifts continued for their first beat. Ultimately a significant left bias affected all fleets and created a reaching course, overlaying and few passing lanes.

The breeze increased to 10 knots towards the end of the race and increased again towards the start of the second. The course was adjusted to the left but after a clean start for the Laser Standard men the breeze went dramatically right and the race was abandoned at the top mark. After the course was reset to the original heading the Open men got away cleanly again. By then the Radial fleet was edgy and had a general recall - finally starting under a black flag. The breeze moved even further right as the Masters Standard then Masters Radial got into their first beat.

Visiting Australian team member Ryan Paulk scored 1 & 6 to lead Wellingtonian Josh Junior and Tauranga's Thomas Saunders. Setting Australia up nicely in an unofficial trans Tasman series.

Jo Aleh was consistent with 2 & 2 to lead the 51 boat combined Radial women, open and youth fleet. She was chased by Declan Burn, past Splash world champion (4,7) from Picton and Jack Collinson (10,4) from Takapuna.

The day was described as 'crazy' by Jo Aleh - returning briefly to the Laser Radial from a 470 campaign and 'did your head in' according to Mark Orams 2008 Laser Radial Master world champion.

Racing was cancelled for Day 2 as the storm set in. No surprise to the Australian coaches turned back by the police launch as they motored their RIB up the North Shore from Bayswater marina.

Day 3 was dry but high winds delayed racing till 3:30pm. The race committee made a perfect call fitting 3 races in for Open and Masters fleets as the wind moderated from an only just manageable 25 to 30 knots in the first race through to 15 knots in the last. The junior 4.7 fleet was initially held on shore then bought out for the final race with boats coming ashore at sundown.

Ryan Paulk (AUS) lost his early lead with a gear failure in the first race and members of the Yachting new Zealand elite squad, Andrew Murdoch (previous NZ Olympic rep), Josh Junior, Mike Bullot, Sam Meech and Andy Maloney came through in the challenging conditions.

In the 51 boat Open Radial fleet Jo Aleh lost ground to a consistent Michael Cate and Sara Winther, both of whom enjoyed the strong conditions.

The final day 3 was looking doubtful, but the oscillating and relatively consistent 5 to 9 knot Southerly held for the 3 races needed to finish the regatta. Despite the light conditions waves developed the North Shore making a good start and clear air essential to maintain boat speed.

With 5,6,5 Andrew Murdoch relied on a count back to take the regatta from Sam Meech. After 1 drop - only 3 points separated the top 4 of - Andrew Murdoch and Sam Meech (25), Josh Junior (26) and Andy Maloney (27). This result illustrates the intense competition in the Yachting New Zealand elite squad for the one Laser Olympic spot to be decided this year.

Jo Aleh was looking forward to another light day, but with a 13th in the second race only just managed to stay 2 points clear of Michael Cate. Sara Winther 3rd.

Keith Inglis from Taupo was comfortable at the front of the 4.7 fleet throughout the regatta with 1,2,2,4,-5,4 ahead of Trent Ripley from Tauranga and Taylor Burn from Picton.

A fit and strong Mark Page from Manly dominated the Masters Standard fleet with 5 bullets out of 8. But on the light last day an 11 and 13 in the final day left him 1 nerve-racking point ahead of Andrew Dellabarca from Wellingtion and 3 clear from Murray Thom from Auckland.

In the Masters Radial two past world champions Aucklanders Scott Leith and Mark Orams had a close battle on points and on the course. But Edmund Tam from Wellington was hovering and held his nerve on the last day. The final results were very tight - Scott Leith winning with 20 ahead of Edmund and Mark on 21, second place going to Edmund on count back.

Many thanks to our fantastic hosts Torbay SC. And congratulations to the race committee lead by Race Office Ian Clouston. They made the very best of the difficult conditions to get in a full and testing race program.

Next year we are at Worser Bay Sailing Club in Wellington, and already looking forward to it.

All results : http://www.nzlaser.org/content/results-2011-nz-laser-national-championships

Photos: Cathy Vercoe www.luvmyboat.com
Photos: Cathy Vercoe www.luvmyboat.com
Photos: Cathy Vercoe www.luvmyboat.com