Laser Inland Championships at Grafham Water
by Elliot Hansen on 6 Nov 2012
A fleet of 43 brave Laser sailors made it inland for this year’s UKLA Inland Championships with a promising forecast. Unlike the usual qualifier series, six races were scheduled and a full series was sailed.
Race 1 got away second time, under a black flag and it was those who took advantage of the pin end bias that took the early lead. However, those who pushed even further left managed to make the most of the left shift and led around the windward mark. Alex Mills Barton led the fleet followed by Jack Wetherell and the chasing pack.
Throughout the race it was a game of snakes and ladders with large pressure differences and a big shift range. It was Mills-Barton who hung on for the win with Ben Cornish pulling through to second and James Gray taking third.
Race 2 followed very similar patterns to race 1 with the leaders coming from the left. Cornish took an early lead and held it to the finish with Wetherell sailing the shifts well to second and Elliot Hanson pulling through to third.
The third race of the day saw the wind swing to its furthest left position and hence the first beat was very one sided. Hanson led around the windward after a good start with the tightly packed bunch close behind. The wind was more unstable than it had been all day which presented opportunities to overtake all the way round the race track. Matt Reid sailed well to recover from a bad start and took second behind Hanson with Mills-Barton pulling through to third.
Following the third race, the sailors headed ashore as the sun began to set and the championship was set for a climax on day two, with a cold and wet forecast!
Unfortunately, the forecast stood correct and the sailors were greeted by rain and a bitterly cold wind. Race 1 was soon underway under the black flag and for the first time there was a starboard favoured line. Following several shifts up the first beat it was those who tried to stay more towards the middle of the race track who led at the windward mark, giving themselves more options towards the top as the shifts increased. Mills-Barton was first around followed by Hanson and Wetherell who consolidated and maintained their positions throughout the race, despite a few rule 42 encounters.
The penultimate race was held slightly stronger breeze, the furthest left it had been all day. This meant the leaders emerged from the pin end and crossed the remainder of the fleet. Similarly to Saturdays racing those who went further left were lifted inside the others. James Gray led at the windward followed by Hanson and Mills Barton. The fleet condensed on the run which made the remainder of the race a close encounter. In the end it was Matt Reid who showed strong downwind pace (despite being under the pressure of a yellow flag) who won the race, followed by Hanson and Wetherell.
The final race of the day was set for a show down with any three helms in with a shout of winning the championship. Mills-Barton showed nerves of steel to win the pin under the black flag to take a commanding lead on the race. The minor places were fought out by the chasing pack with Matt Reid again showing strong speed downwind to finish second. Colin Leonard had his best race of the weekend to finish third.
Overall this gave the win to Mills-Barton with Reid taking second and Hanson third. For many this draws an end to the 2012 season with the next event taking place in Stokes Bay in true fashion for the first spring qualifier.
1st Alex Mills-Barton
2nd Matt Reid
3rd Elliot Hanson (1st Youth)
4th Jack Wetherell
5th Ben UK Laser Association website
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