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5000 reasons to celebrate 25 years

by Andy Rice 26 Oct 2019 13:29 PDT 30 November 2019
Laser 5000s on Lake Garda © 5000 class

Join in with the fun at Hayling Island Sailing Club on Saturday 30 November, when a gathering of legends will be swinging the lantern about the good old days of the Five Tonner, the Laser 5000...

Some of twin-wire skiff sailing's early pioneers are set to meet at Hayling Island Sailing Club on 30 November for a Laser 5000 class reunion. When the Laser 5000 burst on to the scene in the early 1990s, it spawned a revolution in high-speed skiff sailing. From the 18ft skiffs in Sydney Harbour to the late-80s adoption of twin trapezes and asymmetric gennakers in the ever-developing International 14, the Laser 5000 came out as an affordable, one-design option for sailors who wanted to turbo-boost their weekend racing.

The early days of the 5000 attracted some names that have gone on to achieve great things elsewhere in the sport, for example:

Adrian Stead (double Olympian), Paul Brotherton (Olympic sailor and Olympic gold medal winning coach), Rob and Peter Greenhalgh (Rob being a Volvo Ocean Race winner and Peter arguably the most successful sailor on the Extreme Sailing Series), and so the list goes on.

The Laser 5000 also created a platform for many mixed crews to compete at the top level of the sport, such as multiple champions Mark and Liz Rushall, Jeff and Claire Davidson, Tracey Covell and Steve Mitchell (both of whom did Olympic campaigns, with Steve crewing Iain Percy to victory at the Star World Championships).

Andy and Ian Budgen were by most measures the most successful crew in the Laser 5000's heyday, and it's Ian who along with Joe Burnie, Steve Norbury, Tracey Covell & Simon Spolton, decided to get the band back together for a celebration. "Whenever you speak to anyone who raced the Laser 5000 back in the mid-nineties, they remember it as some of the best sailing they've ever done," said Ian, who has gone on to forge a career as a professional sailor including a stint in the Volvo Ocean Race. "It was 1994, with the Audi Laser Eurocup, when the 5000 really hit its stride. We had TV coverage and that enabled many of us to get sponsorship that helped cover your costs of competing for the season."

It was also the Audi Laser Eurocup circuit where Laser Performance salesman Richard Simmonds cut his teeth as a TV commentator. Listen to Richard's commentary from this video from 1994.

and you can understand why he would go on to become Britain's voice of sailing for the Olympic coverage and many other high profile events including the America's Cup. Another Laser 5000 owner was Andrew Preece who started filming the Audi circuit and who would later team up in business with Richard Simmonds to form APP, Andrew Preece Productions, which took TV coverage of sailing to a new level in the UK.

If you were part of the Laser 5000 scene in the 90s or any time since, view full details on the Facebook Event page "Laser 5000 25 Year Reunion" or email Ian on and book yourself a seat at the table for a three-course slap-up meal, plenty of wine and lots of tall, grossly-inflated stories of heroism from the pioneering days of skiff sailing. It's going to be a fun night.

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