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Kit Guide

Laser Master's Europeans

By Steve Cockerill 30th September 2020
As the Scorpion Nationals clashed with the Laser Master's World Championships, the Laser Master's Europeans was a must to meet up with old Laser friends and introduce the European fleet to new things such as The 'Spring Plate' for a Laser self bailer. The European Laser Masters Championship 2011 was staged at - Douarnenez, France: between the 20 - 27 August 2011. To our astonishment on arrival to this beautiful North West facing bay, we discovered that the radials with their 4 categories of Apprentice Master (35-44) Master (45 -54) Grand Master (55-64) and Great Grand Master (65 - 90?) were to race as one fleet. This has been done before when the numbers are on the small side, but with a fleet of 88 boats in the fleet and a shifty off shore breeze we were in for some fun! Race 1 set the scene. The wind at the Committee boat was light and patchy but was slightly left of true which encouraged me to sail towards the pin. Unfortunately half way down the line I was beating - and by the time I had got within 100 yards of the pin I was tacking as the wind was now consistently coming from the Pin End Boat. As the gun went there was a big scramble onto Port - and then a long reach, which became a fetch and then finally something of a beat at the first mark. Amazingly I came out of the melay in some shape - finishing in 3rd, but it could have gone so very wrong. So the RO had now set his stall - once the prep flag was raised, we were going to race! This might be a high scoring regatta I thought. Race 2 Was again full of tricky conditions and once again I came out relatively unscathed with another 3rd. Only one other boat had been more consistence - the fast Apprentice Italian. He had some great downwind pace in the very light. Second Day saw the possibility of some wind from the sea - and so some waves to sail on. I particularly like waves when they are pretty mixed up and these were pretty mixed up. Downwind I was able to pass the Italian with a few ease sheet, heel to windward - bear away and surf manoeuvres. Simple technique but its the best way to pic up the wave speed and use the surf to go straight downwind. Note to self- must emphasise that one on the next downwind DVD. I easily won the first race by some margin - and then had horrible gear failure that took me out of the second race of the day. Its not a nice feeling when you sail in alone to the slipway, knowing that the conditions are those you love and there's nothing you can do about it. Race 5 and 6 on day three were to be with some breeze again. Perhaps 12-15 knots. Its the breeze that would kill me in a standard rig but again I relish in the Radial. I love to keep the toestraps short and really feel the boat locked between my calf's and hamstrings. Race 5 was quite tight, I found myself a little too far left and rounded about 7th. I pulled things together downwind to lead on the last reach. However, the Italian had other ideas. We were in some traffic from the standard rigs ahead- and he was happy to take us so heigh that I was conscious that I might loose Masters places to leeward. After all I am racing Masters, rather than an Apprentice Italian. So after ducking out of a really heigh reach, the Italian had passed me. On the way to the finish - a short upwind to a finish boat and mark, I opted for the normal one long port and one long starboard. The Italian was not under any real threat. But for some reason he was keen to drill me. After pinching for 20 boat lengths I had to put the bow down a little. He responded by putting his bow down on me. At this point I said - what is your problem? He replied, "I am OCS - I am just f***ing your race up" To this I replied that I can protest you for that. He succeeded in converting one place - making me second - because he WAS OCS. The race winner was a master - which cost me. I spoke frankly with him afterwards:

I explained that although we were in the same race - our scores were taken out to find the first apprentice, master etc. As there was no overall event prize - he had no right to try and effect my position. If I had protested, the race winner was happy to be my witness and the Italian was likely to get a DND. (Disqualified not discarded) I then thought that if I won the protest, would I be as bad as him? He had cost me one point - and I would have cost him his series so I elected to withdraw my protest.

The second race of the day was a perfect for me. Nice win. The penultimate day was looking very fluky. The left side of the course could come good, but the forecast was for the wind to switch to the right at any time. In the first race I read it right, stuck to my guns and started mid to pin end. It came good at the top mark, eventually taking the lead on the second beat from a consistent Jean Christophe from my category to take the win. The second race - I called it wrong. I thought it was about to switch to the right with about 3 mins to go - and I sailed to the committee boat. Big mistake and a big gap to bridge to get a top 5 place. I was conscious that a top 5 was a great place - and asked myself why I had taken the right gamble? But these races are often the most fun. With more points at the first mark than all the races added together - every place taken was going to come off my total score. On the last run I dropped a place to 8th - probably trying too hard - and probably because I am a bit heavy at 79Kg. But on the bottom reach there were passing opportunities - and the current would take you high. I would always get an early transit - and dive low and try and maintain my transit by heeling the boat to windward and let the waves suft me lower whist trying to keep the boat moving along the face of them. It paid off - one more boat passed - back to 7th. Rounding the leeward mark - its was clear that the fleet had closed up. I opted for the best leeward mark rounding I could handle - and hold a long port. 8th had tacked off onto starboard. So had 6th after a tight rounding with 5th - and 4th was a long way ahead on port. 1,2 and 3 were not on my radar. 4th blew it - he was sailing for the start boat - not the finish boat. 5th considered that he was plenty clear of me - and let me off the hook and tacked away. I nailed the right hand side and came into the biased committee boat end at speed and with a head to wind luff at the line - I took the original 5th - 4th was still reaching in - and 6th was under us all. So it ended up being 4th. Sorry if that sounds confusing. But it was really exciting. Final day - and the conditions were not what someone with a great series wants. The wind was full of holes and major windshifts. It probably made Datchet look stable on a bad day. With two races scheduled, anyone could luck in twice and take the title. My DNF was looking pretty costly. If I did not have it - I could relax and stay ashore - but with the DNS I had to race - and hope to get one decent result. With that in mind - my mindset was not to win the race - but to be top 10 in the race. This mindset can often help. When the wind shifted with pressure I was happy to take some transoms - and be on the right shift - near 10th. By the first mark - there were some crazy gains being made on the extreme left and extreme right at times - but I hung on in the middle - and rounded 2nd. I took the lead on the offwind - and then had the fun of leading a fleet upwind. Sometimes I thought I was 10th with the leaders from the right - sometimes I thought I was 10th with the leaders in the left - but I kept my cool - lead at the top mark and took the gun at the finish. Phew - The title was in the bag - and now perhaps I could concentrate on beating the Italian (not race him out - but beat him). With the wind shifting finally just before start time of the second race the RO cancelled the race. I had beaten the Italian by 1 point - but more importantly I had won the Masters Title. Sarah found the week a real challenge - big lines are not her strong point, nor are light shifty winds. But she came through to win the Apprentice Ladies title and was first lady to boot. Also winners were Hillary Thomas( Great Grand Master) and Jennie King (Grand Master) - but for some reason they opted not to present either cubes or keep sakes for the ladies who had flogged themselves round the course for the week. John Reay was first Grand Master with John Major 2nd and Michael Priddham 3rd. Michael Kinner was first GGM - with Ian Rawett 3rd behind local French hero Jacky Nebrel. Ian Jones was second to the Italian in the Apprentice division. So all in all a pretty clean sweep for the Brits. Final Results here:

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