Yachtingworld.com's Jo Cackett blasted up the Solent today in a Laser SB3 1/8/06

I couldn’t have picked a better day to get out on the water for my first time on a Laser SB3, one of the most talked about fleets at Skandia Cowes Week. Here was my chance to see what all the fuss is about. And with a gusting 25-30 knot north-westerly wind down the Solent and a downwind start with another 79 boats, there was no doubt we’d be putting this 20ft ‘big dinghy’ to the test.

Starting on the unaccustomed downwind course the word ‘carnage’ was in my mind. Was it payback time by the Cowes race committee for the Laser SB3s hastiness on the startline on the second day of racing? ( see previous story )

But all jests aside, with Laser’s James Lund-lack on the jib, Sales Manager Adrian Hart on trim and main, and Paul Bedell on the helm, who were both involved in the design development of the Laser SB3, I felt in good hands.

Milling around the startline we contemplated doing a quick kite hoist and drop to check the gennaker was all in order, but those words; “She’ll be right mate” would soon come back to haunt us. We got a good lead off the startline and while it looked like we got away safely as we watched boats broaching all around us, we spoke too soon when on a gybe the gennaker sheet somehow ended up hooked under the keel. Attempting to fly without untangling it proved too difficult so we had to bear away and get ourselves back on track.

Then we were on our way up the eastern Solent again, clocking up speeds of 15 knots this boat proved just how fast she really is.

It was a nice tight rounding of the first mark and we managed to crawl our way back to the top of the fleet as we beat towards North Ryde Middle. With the likes of Glenn Bourke onMusto, Russell Peters onSelden Seen, and Colin Simonds (current national champion) onD2around us we were feeling pretty chuffed with our come back. But as we kept wide so as not to get pulled too far over by the strong tide many others made a bee line for the mark further east and we saw the girls inTeam MacLarenshooting round the mark with many following in their wake.

The rest of the race came without too much drama, except for the one exciting broach – luckily the vang had been released or we may have been swimming…

The beat back to the finish line past Gales HSB was a long and wet one as the dark clouds released their threatening bucket loads. We bounced over the line mid fleet at 31st. Not bad considering some minor hiccups, but that’s what’s so great about one-design Laser SB3 racing. It’s anyone’s game. Taking line honours was Christina Summerhayes’Team MacLaren, Geoff Carveth’sSmall but SteamyandPrice Waterhouse Coopersin third. Glenn Bourke onMustomanaged to pull into to fourth. While Simmonds came in at 27th and Russell Peters trailed in behind us at 36th.

Back into west Cowes, completely soaked but with a gleeful smile I understood what Adrian Hart meant when he said Laser SB3 racing has the ‘Big Grin factor’!