Laser Radial World's Practice Race a blow-out

Jo Aleh (NZL) left and Annu Tunnicliffe (USA) at the Media launch for the 2008 Womens Laser Radial World Championships
Jodie Bakewell-White, Yachting NZ
The Hauraki Gulf played host today to around 50 sailors for an attempted practice race ahead of tomorrow’s start to the 2008 Women’s Laser Radial World Championship. 116 are expected on the water for the first race of the series which is scheduled to start off Takapuna, North Shore City, Auckland at 11am tomorrow.

While the Gulf provided only around 5-10 knots of north easterly breeze until mid-afternoon today, a forecasted swing towards the south kicked in around 3pm making things difficult for race organisers who were attempting to lay a course for the practice race in a shifting and freshening breeze.

Just less than half the fleet left the beach in the early afternoon with the intention of testing the waters and their start sequence form in today’s practice race. However with the changing conditions challenging the race management and the increasing breeze everyone was back on the beach again around 3:30pm.

Predictions are that the wind will build, threatening competitors with the prospect of up to 20 to 30 knots for day one of competition tomorrow. Sunday’s forecast is similar which could make for a high-speed, high-action start to the championship which runs over the next six days.

With 116 entries, racing will take place in two fleets for the qualifying rounds following which the top half will advance to the gold fleet and the remainder to silver for finals which are scheduled to start Tuesday. An 11am daily start is planned for each of the six days of the regatta with no reserve day in the programme.

If conditions allow, ten races will take place starting Saturday 15th and concluding on Thursday 20th when the 2008 Women’s Laser Radial World Champion will be decided. Representatives from 40 nations are taking part with both Olympic qualification and national selection on the line at this event, so for many of the competitors the stakes are high.

New Zealand has the largest team competing with ten representatives taking part, all excited at the prospect of top level international competition on home waters.