South Australian Laser Championships, for Standard and Radial Rigs, for the second year in a row has headed to Port Lincoln, on the Eyre Peninsula – almost half-way between Sydney and Perth. Port Lincoln has a strong and growing Laser fleet with a good mix of juniors and masters sailors. Team that with a stunning location, sensational weather and first class race management and facilities and you can see the attraction.
Spectacular weather SA Laser State Championships - Pt Lincoln 2011-12
This year the event was run the day after Australia Day, allowing time for a good fleet of boats from Adelaide to make the 6 hour drive over. It coincided with the annual Tunarama event, which celebrates the fishing industry that sustains this prosperous regional city, and provided for great atmosphere, being held adjacent to the club.
The event kicked off on a balmy Friday afternoon, with races scheduled to start from 1530. The strong gradient South-Easterly that had been blowing for three days started to fade once the fleet hit the water, and two races were held in a 8-12 knot breeze with some chop left over from the fading South-Easter. In the Standard Rigs, last year’s Radial champion Luke Hookings took the first race in a close tussle with six-time champion Andrew Darcey, with last year’s Standard Rig champion Ryan Kelly third – the close racing between these three was a sign of things to come for the weekend. There was also a tight tussle within the Masters Fleet, with Andy Dyer just prevailing over Phil Kelly. The Radials saw Largs Bay junior Cameron Philcox taking the first heat over Luke Stephens and Henry Leitner. Both Henry and Cameron are new to Lasers this year from International Cadets, and have hit the water and gone straight to the front of the local Radial fleet. A second race was held before the breeze started to fade more, with overall results after two heats seeing Andrew Darcey leading the Standard Rigs from Luke Hookings, with Ryan Kelly in third. The Radials had Cameron Philcox leading on count-back from Luke Stephens, with Ben Knoop (2nd in the recent 4.7 Nationals) in third.
The Saturday of the event was held in hot 35°C conditions, with the fickle Easterly breeze consistently shifting around and threatening to fade out completely in the hot, dry conditions. Three races were held in trying conditions, with Luke Hookings clean-sweeping the Standard Rigs despite Ryan Kelly always being within a few boat lengths all day. Most people got a taste near the front during the day, with Sean Homan grabbing a third in Heat 4 and Phil Kelly likewise in Heat 3. The Radials saw a good battle between Luke Stephens and Ben Knoop in the sometimes drifting conditions, with Hannah Williams and Joe Kelly also having good days. When the breeze completely faded late in the day, and with competitors starting to resort to swimming rather than sailing to cool off, the race committee decided to postpone the rest of the day before the local 'big fish' started to nibble on anyone’s toes!
Saturday night saw an amazing smorgasbord of dishes from the local families, with the Tunarama aerobatic displays and fireworks providing one of the most memorable settings for sailing social events that most people could remember.
With five races already held and nine scheduled, the race committee pushed on to hold four races back to back on Sunday, with a consistent 10-15 knot Easterly providing perfect racing conditions. With two drops being allowed if nine races were held, every point counted as the battle between Hookings and Kelly in the Standard Rigs went down to the wire. A four-race match race ensued, with no quarter given in a battle worthy to be televised as part of the recent ISAF Worlds! Despite winning the last three heats in a row, Ryan Kelly did not quite pull enough back on Luke Hookings, with Hookings taking out his first SA Laser Standard Rig Championships by three points. Andrew Darcey held on for third overall, with Andy Dyer taking out the Masters, Sean Homan the Grand Masters, James Flint the first Youth and Craig Bascombe the Apprentice Masters.
The final day of the Radials saw Luke Stephens dominate, winning all four races on his way to his first State Championship. Ben Knoop showed that he is ready to step up to the Radial Rig, coming second overall at his first tilt at a Radial series, and Cameron Philcox edged out Henry Leitner for third. The women’s championship was closely fought between Sammy Homan, Hannah Williams and Ash Dyer, with Sammy eventually taking home the cube. Ben Knoop was the first youth overall.
This was the first year that the SA Laser Association has split the 4.7 Rig from the Standard and Radial Rig series, with the 4.7’s being held a week later as part of the SA Youth Championships. This allowed a number of youth sailors the chance to sail in both series, allowing a more accelerated development of what has become a rapidly growing youth fleet in South Australia.