This summer was different to what I am normally used to. Its rare for me to miss out on the Laser® nationals, even though as a family we sail Laser® Radials (Sarah and I ) and a 4.7 for Harry (age 13). We are at the stage of just starting to stop worrying about Harry when he is racing and thinking of our own race. So we decided to do some family race weeks instead of the Nationals.
Harry in full concentration
Chichester Family Week was first on the calendar; ideal as we could do it from home and I could still keep working half of the time. The venue is one we have visited many times and always has the warmest of welcome. Racing took place for both adults and kids, segregated on PY rather than age which proved excellent fun, as Harry was in with the fast fleet with his 4.7. With winds from the South West most of the week, we were beating against the flood in the morning and beating with it in the afternoon. This was ideal as we could practice the starts with both current against us and with us. Transits were easy to find if you went to look for them. I had a lot of fun leading Harry down the line and showing him the transits. He quickly got over the worry of starting with lots of larger faster boats and looked quite ballsy. Meanwhile Sarah and I had fun with some pretty tough competition from both local hot shots and many visitors. We loved the racing - it was exactly what we had been looking for in a family week scenario with 2 races a day, either side of lunch. Despite being beaten by Sarah in one race - I had sewn up the series with a race to go. I had been itching to have a go in a Solo again and was able to borrow a nice new one with a Batt Sail.
After a good start I was pleasantly surprised that I was still competitive in the strong winds despite my recent illness and slow recovery. I was great fun dukeing it out with Sarah in her radial round the course where she took line honours.
Next regatta would have been the Scorpion Nationals at Paignton, but after selling the boat in search of a Merlin, we were able to then attend Fed Week at Hayling Island in our Radials. This is a regatta that should not be missed if you want a fun week of sailing. Great starts and courses with lots of typical harbour tidal sailing that can do weird things to your mind. Not sure I ever like harbour sailing when wind shifts are ignored at the behest of the current or lack of it. We finished the regatta a day early so we could make our way to Torbay Week.
Luckily we managed to move our accommodation for the Scorpion Nationals right a week and attended Torbay Week in our rather ancient but well pimped Tasar, in preparation for the Tasar Nationals in Porthpean. I had bought the Tasar a year earlier in preparation for the Tasar Worlds in 2011; in the end I was too ill and retired from racing to spend the subsequent three weeks in hospital. I had always had a hankering of a sail in a Frank Baithwate designed boat; he was well ahead of his time, this design was 40 years old and it planes to windward with two hiking. I felt quite retro, so much so that I wondered if my Rooster Aquafleece® should have a 70's winged collar..
Torbay week was really a three day regatta, well ran, but not very well attended. Although for us it was ideal, with some 8 Tasar's to race against, including the National Champion and the GBR team who finished 3rd at the Worlds and were the Masters World Tasar Champions. Although our boat was 37 years old, we had brought it up to current specification with mylar sails, new rudder and daggerboard and some well painted anti slip on the floor!
Incredibly, despite my angst at sailing close to Paignton shore, the shifty and patchy conditions seemed to favour our style of sailing. Despite winning the series, we were more than realistic about our chances at the Nationals the following weekend. We were probably a little overweight at 145Kg, our boat was still 37 years old and that's not to say - we were relative novices at changing the gears in different conditions. Sarah wondered if the mast would fall over the front when she pushed the shrouds forward in 25 knots.
The national championships were held at Porthpean Sailing Club. An excellent venue that was made even better by the enthusiastic welcome from the club's members. It probably helped that Jeremy and Susan Hawkins, the current National Champions were members there and Jeremy had used his business contacts to raise some healthy sponsorship from Kia Cars by Hawkins Motors. I am not sure of the link there ;)
Despite some great starts and first mark positions that would have seen us winning the regatta, our speed downwind was no match for Jeremy and Susan who deservedly took the title with a race to spare. I think we were starting to understand the complexities of the boat towards the end of the week. For a 1970 design that has relatively little publicity, the class seams to be thriving in the UK, with husband and wife teams enjoying the high performance sailing of planing to windward.