Stepping up to the Laser Radial
After a fantastic summer racing the Laser 4.7 fleet in the UK and overseas, following this year’s Laser 4.7 Nationals in Abersoch it was time step up and into the Radial. In theory it should be a very straightforward transition, only requiring a different bottom section and sail, but the Radial is a +20% increase in sail area, so a fairly significant step up in power.
After the Nationals there were 7 weeks to train and get to grips with the Radial before the first UKLA Autumn qualifier in Sunderland towards the end of September. The UKLA runs an excellent open training Radial programme, which is a must do.
It’s also been great having the opportunity to do some training with Jack Weatherall (British Sailing Team Podium Potential sailor) and Tom Parkhurst (who was also transitioning from the 4.7 after the Nationals). Sailing with Jack was particularly helpful for getting a clear view of the increasing physicality needed for sailing the Radial in breeze. Safe to say, Tom and I were on our knees after 3 hours with the breeze nudging 17-20 knots!
Training done we made the 4 hr drive up to Sunderland, with a bit of a detour on route to collect a new carbon top section. The forecast for the weekend was good and with just over 60 Radial entries it looked like we were set for some good racing. The event was also the secondary indicator for the RYA Youth Squad selection, so lots at play for many of the Youth sailors.
Conditions on the Saturday started sunny and with a 8-12 knots south easterly breeze. The tide was also destined to be a significant factor, resulting in plenty of start practice and black flags!
Being on the start line with the likes of Ali Young and a number of other senior sailors was a bit surreal – but that’s one of the great things about our sport! A busy start line combined with the conditions and a high level of sailing meant that the starts were critical. As my first day of national level racing in the Radial things went really well scoring 9, 7 and 2. The final race of the day was the highlight – after multiple general recalls I ended up 2nd behind Ali round the first windward mark. My boat speed was good upwind and I managed to hold on to 2nd at the finish.
Sunday brought a little more wind (up to 15 knots at times) and the earlier start meant that the tide wasn’t so much of a challenge during the starts. My results were slightly more mixed, scoring 8, (25) and 16 but I was really pleased to finish 6th overall and 3rd Youth. So overall a great start and worth the long drive north.HISC Qualifier
After a second excellent UKLA Open Training weekend at WPNSA it was time to make the trip south to HISC for the second Autumn qualifier. The HISC event was combined with a Laser 4.7 Qualifier, so it was great to catch-up with friends still sailing in the 4.7 class, although trying to get 6 races completed for the 3 fleets all on a single course was probably fairly stressful for the PRO and the race team!
Conditions on the Saturday were unseasonably warm with fairly light 5-8 knot breeze (…..still Rooster Thermaflex conditions). As with Sunderland, the starts were key in the light conditions with the Solent tides playing a part – pushing the fleet down towards the pin end of line. Hannah Snellgrove won the day convincingly with 3 bullets. My results were a bit more mixed scoring 13, 15 and 9.
The forecast for the Sunday was for more breeze but this didn’t materialise and with a 2pm last start time cut off, getting 9 starts away to complete the race programme was always going to be a challenge. As is often the case, the larger Radial fleet was the group giving the PRO the most trouble, with their race 5 needing four recalls! Trying to be consistent in the light conditions was the challenge for the day, so I was pleased to score 9, 2 and (15). Overall this gave me 6th (same as Sunderland) and 2nd Youth. Congratulations to Arthur Brown who sailed a great event to finish 1st Youth and 1st Overall.Inlands
The arrival of Storm Brian over the weekend of 21st and 22nd October resulted in the third Autumn Qualifier being cancelling – which was a good call under the circumstances.
So after the first Youth Squad training camp at WPNSA over half-term it was on the final national level event of the year – the Inlands at Grafham Sailing club.
Unloading boats and rigging on the Saturday morning wasn’t the most pleasant experience – heavy rain, cold and not much wind! But the forecast for the weekend was good and by the time the fleets were launching the rain had cleared and a 10-15 knots breeze had started to build. The day ended up being a bit up and down from my perspective, with a 4th, 7th and DSQ (resulting visit to the protest room).
Sunday dawned sunny, but colder (……definitely Supertherm conditions) and with a little more wind. The breeze was fairly shifty and my results in the first two races were mixed, scoring 20th and 12th. Going into the final race of the day the 2pm latest start became a factor following a number of general recalls and one recall too many resulted in only five races being sailed.
My finishing position was 11th, so not as good as the two Autumn Qualifiers, but overall it’s been a great first 4 months in the class.What next….
Over the winter I’m really looking forward to training with the RYA Youth Squad and with the UKLA class open training. My last major event of the year will be the Palamos Christmas Regatta, which will hopefully be a great opportunity to do some slightly warmer weather training and racing, as well as being an opportunity to get some International regatta experience in the Radial fleet.
Looking ahead to 2018, the early season focus will be around the UKLA Spring Qualifiers (Stokes Bay, WPNSA and Pwllheli) for Worlds qualification and the RYA Youth Nationals in Largs.Happy sailing! Matt