Settled weather wanted for Laser regatta

JONATHAN MCKEOWN
Last updated 13:00 15/01/2014
Laser
ALDEN WILLIAMS/ Fairfax NZ
BREATHING SPACE: Laser fleet South Island champion Paul McNabb and South Island 4.7 title holder Laura Harding enjoy a spot of sunshine before this weekend's national regatta in Nelson.

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Close to 90 boats will whip up some wake on the white caps when the national Laser champs blow through Tasman Bay this week.

The Nelson Yacht Club will host the NZ Marine Turbochargers 2014 New Zealand national laser championships, starting tomorrow. While organisers are worrying about what the weather will do, the Nelson Yacht Club's three South Island champions are focused on their final preparations ahead of the major regatta.

"It is the biggest class in the world. The competition will be insane, with the best sailors in the country here," Nelson sailor and coach Josh Edmonds said. "Obviously I will try and do as well as I did at South Island's but there will be a lot of good sailors from up north. For me, a top-five finish would be great."

Three classes will compete in the four-day event, with the final races on Sunday. At last month's South Island championships, held in good conditions, all three titles went to sailors from the host club.

In the laser fleet, Paul McNabb won all six races to take the title. Edmonds won four races and the title in the radial fleet, while Laura Harding won five and the 4.7 title.

Edmonds explained that while each of the laser fleets race with the same hull, sail size matters.

"All the boats are pretty much identical; it is the sail size that is the difference," he said.

"The 4.7 has the smallest sail, the radial is slightly bigger and the full-size rig is the biggest in the laser class.

"The bigger sail size means more power, so obviously if you are a bigger sailor, you will sail the full rig and if you are younger and lighter you will sail a 4.7. The full rig is the men's Olympic class and the radial is the women's Olympic class."

The reigning national champions in each of the open classes will be back to defend the titles they won in Napier.

Last year, Andy Maloney dominated the open fleet to earn himself the title of national laser champion, but runner-up Sam Meech and third placegetter Thomas Saunders are also in Nelson to challenge.

In the radial fleet, Andrew McKenzie took both the open and youth radial national titles. The 2013 4.7s were won by Bryn Bennett from Worser Bay.

There will be divisions within the fleets with the open grade contesting the overall title. There are also grand masters, masters, youth and apprentice divisions.

Ahead of the regatta, Nelson Yacht Club commodore Dave Gibb said he had just one wish.

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"Basically, I hope this weather settles down before the weekend.

"It's not looking like a very good weather pattern - we have had those strong winds and it is supposed to rain.

"Then a front will come in and it is supposed to drop, but how far, we don't know."

Gibb said the event was of national significance. Being an Olympic class, it attracted many sailors at different stages in their career, from the very top to those on their way.

"It is a stepping stone up into the Olympics for some of those youngsters coming through. If they have those aspirations of being an Olympic sailor this can take them further on as they climb up the rankings."

- Nelson

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