Laser sailors in New Zealand have a very accomplished pair of hands to help helm them through their boat requirements. Dan Slater, a proud Kiwi Olympian and podium finisher at World Championship level, is the Laser distributor for New Zealand.
Not only passionate about the sport, because he’s very actively involved at the highest level, he also has some very astute observations about the world’s largest dinghy class.
It was 1996 when Dan represented New Zealand in the Laser at the Olympics and since then, he has also coached with the national squad and run some very successful Finn campaigns. He’s currently sailing on the European circuit an integral part of his run in to London 2012 with the Finn.
But down under there will be the biggest ever series of Laser events in the Australia in 2011-2012 and the buzz on the Laser scene is amazing.
Dan comments ‘Ahead is the 2011 Sail Melbourne is very similar to Weymouth and it’s going to be great just to have an Olympic qualifier down here in the Southern hemisphere. We know that all the Laser internationals are going to be here in force for all of the antipodean series during 2011/12’, said Dan.
In fact, the New Zealand Laser squad is absolutely on fire presently. ‘Yes. We’ve had a real revival and it’s great that New Zealand sailing is coming back. For that matter, so too is Australian Laser sailing. It’s getting back to what it probably was 10 or 12 years ago, when we almost dominated the whole international scene, in terms of fleet size. It’s pretty neat to see and a lot of young guys and talent coming through.’
‘The squad is coached by Mark Howard, comprising of sailors like Andy Maloney, who won the Radial Worlds, Youth World Champion Sam Meech, Michael Bullot, who’s twice been in the top three in the Laser Worlds and then our Olympian, Andrew Murdoch, a top ten finisher in the Laser Worlds four times now, I think.
In my opinion, any young sailor wanting to be the best in a one-design class, well simply there is nothing better than to hop onto a Laser and go racing. It is the place to be’, Slater explained.
Australia’s reigning Laser World Champion, Tom Slingsby, has often said that any time he hits the front of the fleet he knows that if he looks around he’s going to see a Kiwi. ‘That would seem to be right at the moment. I was doing a little bit of Laser sailing again in 2004 and I seem to remember looking around myself and there was Tom on one side of me and Michael Blackburn on the other.’
‘The whole Laser scene down here is great, which is why the Europeans are attracted to coming out for our summer.
You have got to sail against the best and the best Laser sailors are down here, right now’, Dan said. He is very much looking forward to the time between now and London and is set up to assist any Laser sailors who are in New Zealand.
‘I have a mobile parts and service van, which does all the local regattas including the Nationals. We’ll be able to assist with any breakages and of course, sell new boats, too. There’ll be special offers in place for the Nationals and through my company, High Performance Sailing, we are able to offer you the best in coaching, too.’
‘We’re also seeing really strong growth in the Laser Radials now that it’s the ISAF Youth Class and also for the Olympic aspirants, with our own Sara Winther having had a great run with two wins in Palma and Heyres.
The Masters is a true phenomenon and so many former keelboat racers are jumping into a Laser because it is so easy to organise everything and then they use the left over budget from what they would have normally spent to go to new part of the world for a championship.’
Dan also highlighted that, ‘If you want to be really competitive in Lasers, you have got to be in a new boat every year.
This is great, because it means we have boats to filter down to people entering the class. For anyone wanting to get into Lasers, there is a big regatta almost every month between now and next May.’
‘High Performance Sailing has a van at the regattas and sell via my website too and I also do sales from the website, too. When I am in Europe, we have two staff who stay on the road, at the events and we service the mark as efficiently as possible, but with lower overheads we can keep costs down as much as possible, which is important with an unfortunately weak Kiwi dollar.
‘So there is good service across the board for what is a really wonderful product and class’, Dan explained.
‘I am based on the North Shore in Auckland, but we’ll also get down to the South Island for the regattas there.’ To find out what Dan and his van will be up to, see www.hps-nz.com