By Tony Evans of the Howick Sailing Club
Mark (Oliver) and I headed off to Taupo early Tuesday morning. We had reworked my trailer to fit the 2 lasers and it all came together quite well. We arrived at Taupo about an hour before the midday training session, with Sam Meech, the Laser class bronze medallist from Rio.
Getting onto the water, we soon noticed the fresh water in the lake. It is a different sailing experience, especially when the first wave over the bow went down the inside of the wetsuit. We were to be wary of that all week.
Mark and I only sailed the session for a short time. It was very intense with a lot of boats around a short course – great for boat handling – but on balance not so good for gear, especially with the wind getting up. We went ashore and tinkered with the boats and caught up with some old and new acquaintances.
On Wednesday, Mark leveraged some of his old contacts to be included in a ‘race’ that the Chinese team were organising. These were guys in their 20’s, racing in the open fleet and the ‘race’ was set up to be a dress rehearsal for a regatta race, designed to get us thinking about race readiness. It worked. This session allowed us to determine some of the wind patterns and get familiar with the 20 degree shifts that were to become a feature of the regatta. Not to mention the wind strength variation too! The bonus was that we were pretty competitive with the visiting team.
Thursday came and with it, the first 2 races. The wind was forecast to be strong from the west but actually settled into 15-20 knots. The shifts were big and the variation in strength meant a lot of sail setting changes to keep fast. Mark had a good first race with a 3rd.I was 5th to the first mark and got caught out up the second beat sailing the shifts and not the breeze lines as we learnt the previous day. The second race was similar conditions and Mark finished a solid first day with a 5th. After a poor first beat and a capsize on the run, I had to settle for 11th
Day 2 was different again with 8-15 knots from W-SW.
It was very cold in the morning and we overdressed for the racing, having to do a quick thin out during the short break between races. In the first race of the day I sailed the wind lines and managed to get to a strong 2nd for the last trapezoid. Mark had a tough race and was in the pack. The wind died around the course and with the breeze shifting across 30 degrees, anything could happen. I held the 2nd to the finish and after tangling with Radials, as would become normal activity on the last reach, Mark secured what would be his drop of 11th.
The second race of the day proved another lost opportunity for both of us with Mark leading the whole race only to be undone by the dropping breeze down the run and a shift on the last leg to finish 4th. I was 6th round the last mark and ended up doing a 720 turn for a marginal buoy room incident, finishing 10th. The racing was close and we were not the only ones with mixed results. Andrew Dellabarca, who was 3rd in the Masters Worlds in 2016, had scored 20th in race 3.
Saturday came with day 3 and the wind had changed again. This time it was from the North 15-20 knots with some gusts towards 25. The shifts were still big and the wind lines again were the thing to chase. In the first race Mark and I spent much of the race in similar water in the top 5. Again we got caught up with the Radials on the last trapezoid and the congestion this created at the last bottom mark, meant Mark tacked off to starboard to get clear air and I headed right on port. The wind clocked left and I ended up 4th and Mark 7th. Another missed opportunity.
Race 6 was the same conditions and Mark, after a clean start showed how to sail in the breeze and was first to the first mark, bottom mark, top mark again, then onto the last trapezoid.
Down the last run he was picked for pumping by the jury and went to 5th after doing the 720. This was frustrating for him and another lost opportunity. In 20 knots we did not expect the propulsion rule would be an issue and was a lesson for us for next time.
I finished the race 3rd, in what would turn out to be the last race of the regatta. On Saturday night while we had the regatta dinner at the club, the wind blew and then through the night blew some more, and on Sunday morning, with just a small 2 hour window of ‘light’ 20 knots sandwiched between 35 knots, the race officer correctly abandoned the day before we even got on the water.
In the final wash up, Mark finished 4th and I was 6th. As is common in Laser racing, the results were close with a point between first and second and 4 points between 3rd and 6th.
Despite the missed opportunities, we left Taupo satisfied with some very strong aspects of our sailing, particularly upwind and our fitness, and the knowledge that there are other areas to work on, especially downwind.