The Laser 5000 national championship took place in Weymouth in three days of glorious weather
The Laser 5000 UK national championship was held at Weymouth over the 10-13 August and will be remembered for the outstanding sailing conditions – four days of perfect racing, all twin wiring with a 25 knot day thrown in for good measure – even the sun played ball.
Before the event, this year’s winner would be hard to call – the Richards brothers in ‘Radii’ had the proven track record but Mark Emmett and Jonny Backhouse in ‘Appleton Signs’ and Jamie Shelton and Graeme White in ‘Westcountry Watersports / Mylor Rigging’ have shown this season they have more than enough pace to cope with the challenge. With some new young guns on the scene as well, this was set to be the most hotly contested championship for some years.
Appleton Signs were the first to lay down the gauntlet win a bullet in the first race, followed by Radii with Glen Truswell and George Rice (‘Gerber’) taking third. The second race was won by a whisker by ‘West Country Watersports’, again with Radii following close on their heals with ‘Gerber’ showing some consistency with another third, a feat they were to repeat in the third race as well. In the last race of the day, sailed in perfect Force 3-4 conditions, Radii finally placed their first win of the series to leave the first day as tight as it could get with all the main challengers sampling victory.
Day two will long be remembered for the sunny 25 knot conditions and will go down in 5000 history as one of best days racing ever seen. The racing was tight all round the pitch with some spectacular capsizes all the way down the fleet. Although only a matter of seconds were between most of the top three finishers, the Richards brothers’ experience shone through and they managed to post a perfect scoreline of three bullets. Jamie Shelton and Graeme White kept up the challenge managing a 4,3,2 while Appleton Signs had a shocker, having scored a second in the first race of the day but then capsized just short of the finish line in the second race while in third (dropping them to 10th in that race) – only to find that they had pulled out their spinnaker halyard cleat in the meantime.
With a DNS for the next race they were left to try and pick up the pieces for the second half of the regatta. The high winds allowed a few new faces to appear on the leader board with Nick Farrer and Chris Gosforth scoring a second place and old hands Simon Spolton crewed by Fiona Coates showing that experience counts with a 4,3,3 scoreline for the day. Newcomers Jim Baldwin and Carl Gibbon also posted a consistent 5,4,4 to move up the leaderboard.
There was no let up for day three. This time sailed out in Weymouth bay, the sea breeze eventually kicked in for another blinder of a day in 18-20 knot breeze. Those who forgot to put on the sunscreen would be seen that night lighting up the Weymouth skyline!
There was no let up from the ‘Radii’ boys though who put in a championship leading performance of 1,1,4, the last race being marked by an impromptu capsize by the Richards brothers to the delight of the fleet who pilled past them. This performance would effectively seal the regatta for Radii since with three discards in the 12-race series, they had done enough to theoretically not have to go out on the last day. Westcountry Watersports and Appleton Signs could only look back on their performance that day (2,4,1 and 3,3,2 respectively) which allowed Radii such a comfortable winning margin.
So, for the unprecedented fourth year in a row, Andy and Dave Richards could relax and enjoy their moment of triumph – but the race for second place overall for both the championship and Eurocup was well and truly on.
Day four dawned with a little less wind but still good enough for some tactical twin wire racing on short courses inside the harbour. ‘Radii’ sportingly completed the regatta and contested all three races, and with the pressure off seeming to raise their game still further by posting a 1,2,1. After two races the battle was going to go down to the last race. Appleton Signs needed to finish at least three places in front of ‘Westcountry Watersports / Mylor Rigging’ to secure second overall. With two laps to go, ‘Westcountry’ were in seventh with Appleton in second, with the honours seemingly in the bag for Mark Emmett. However, Shelton/White never gave up and squeezed up to fifth place to claim the runner up spot.
Appleton Signs were left with the final podium position while ‘Gerber’ continued their consistent streak by finishing fourth overall with youngsters Jim Baldwin and Carl Gibbon moved up to fifth and also claim ‘Best Newcomer’. In the ‘Buddy Team Prize’, where teams of two boats are paired up from the top and bottom of the fleet after the first day’s racing, Nick Farrer/Chris Gosforth and Andy McKee/Alex McKee showed the best overall performance to take that title.