Laser Transition - From Topper to Radial
Feature Photo Credit: James Tomlinson.For three years I raced a Topper with reasonable success finishing in the top ten at both the World and National Championships in 2016. Last September I decided it was time to move on from the Topper to a new challenge, the Laser. Given that I was just about heavy enough I decided to move straight into the Radial rather than the 4.7.
Within a week of collecting my new boat I had my first taste of Laser racing by competing in the UK qualifiers in South Shields followed by competitions at Hayling Island and Pwllheli; quite a baptism of fire given my lack of experience in the Laser and a bit of a shock having been at the sharp end of the Topper fleet to be thrown back into the middle of the fleet. After this it was time to put in the cold and long winter training hours. This consisted of on the water training out of Stokes Bay with friends putting in the hours with a few close calls with the Isle of Wight ferry! It was also nice to do some club racing as it had been a long time since I had done any. As well as this I took part in coaching at Hayling Island and open coaching at Weymouth. Highlights from this include sailing in the snow up Portsmouth Harbour to see Alex Thompson return from the Vendee Globe and sailing all the way round Hayling Island which involved swimming the boat under a bridge! I felt my winter training really helped me to get comfortable in the boat and helped to bring my boat handling and speed up to scratch. I also put in a lot of time off the water to build on my fitness. My Cardio was already very good however I needed to build my strength and conditioning. A helpful by-product of this was gaining 10kg over 9 months which has greatly helped my pace in the breeze.
Three more qualifier events acted as a warm up before the first major event of the year, the RYA Youth Nationals at Hayling Island (thanks to James Tomlinson for the great photo). I finished 14th out of a fleet of 53 which I was happy with given it was my first year of Lasers although I still made plenty of mistakes that needed to be ironed out. Unfortunately I then had to take number of weeks out from sailing to focus on my GCSE exams (which I am glad to say payed off as I got a great set of exam results). This did mean I was a bit rusty after the break however I was also fresh and excited to return back to training. My first event back was the Lymington under 21 Laser Open. This was one of the best events of the year with great breeze (20-25knots) and a very competitive fleet. Despite the lack of training I finished third which I was happy with. After this it was back to training as well as a few local opens which I won. It was then up to the beautiful venue of Abersoch for the Laser Nationals. I had a good week in some awesome sailing conditions finishing 13th out of 74 in the Radial fleet. Unfortunately two days were cancelled due to strong winds however this was more than made up for by the awesome body boarding conditions at another local beach, Hells Mouth. After this I was off to the Radial worlds in Medemblik. Unfortunately the wind was very light for most of the week and I didn’t perform as well as I’d like however I learnt lots over the course of the week and now have a clear idea on what I need to improve.
Next up are 3 more qualifiers followed by another solid winter on the water. Having done quite a few major events now in the Laser I am getting a good picture of what I need to build on over the course of the winter.