On Friday 12th February 200 sailors, all of a masterly vintage, took to the waters of Port Stephens to compete at the 2015 Laser Masters National Championships.
Day one saw picture perfect conditions with 10 - 14 knots from 80 degrees and hot sunshine. With the usual disparity of entries across the fleets (the grown ups are much better at getting leave passes it seems) the race committee merged the fleets into four starts, each of roughly 50 boats. First off were the two radial fleets, with two laps on the outer course, followed by the two standard fleets on the inner course.
Race one went without incident and initial nerves seemed to have settled. And then the race committee tried to start race two. Radial fleet one - all good. But Radial fleet two....oh dear. Perhaps it was the Great Grand Masters trying to show the Masters they still had their mojo. Or maybe it was the youngsters leading the old bulls astray. Either way, it wasn't working. After the fifth black flag general recall, and a rapidly diminishing fleet, the first radial fleet were starting to cross the finish line. But still Radial fleet two refused to behave. When they finally got away they'd broken the record for the number of black flags in the Radial fleet - and the start before them were ashore and in the bar.
Day two and the wind freshened a little. Again, under blue skies and with winds veering from 65 degrees to 80 degrees as it increased, with a little more strength than day one - gusting 16 knots by the end of the day.
Day three was a copy and paste of the previous two days, with slightly softer pressure (up to 14 knots), and a significantly higher intake of Voltarin (the Master's version of pre-race stretching...). To make sure everyone was concentrating the race committee switched the start order, sending the standard fleet off first on the outer track. Only 9.1% of the DBSC team got confused, rounding the wrong windward mark...luckily the other 90.9% went the right way.
Valentines Day dinner was a cosy affair - 250 Laser sailors squeezed into the dining room of the Salamander Shores Ibis hotel. And as is the way with the Masters, as much effort went into having a seriously fun evening as goes into the racing. To keep us focused on the reason we were there (not for wine tasting it turns out), Brett Beyer did a fantastic Q&A sharing some of his tips and experiences.
Monday was the final day. With two races scheduled there were plenty of titles still up for grabs. Knowing that the boys were getting tired, and that they had the added chore of checking out of their accommodation, Huey came to the party and stayed quiet til 12.30pm. Which left us with one race instead of two. As per the previous days, the wind filled to about 14 knots and veered to the right (luckily yours truly went left - doh) and the final battles played out as they do in the masters fleets - with elegance and chivalry (and only the occasional bad language...).
Rob Hartnett - 10th
Andrew Cox - 14th
Radial Grand Masters
Martin White - 8th
Pat Levy - 18th
Jules Hall - 2nd
David Newman - 9th
Murray Stone - 10th
Rod Barnes - 11th
Andrew Simpson - 15th
Mike Dunne - 19th
Gerry Donohoe - 36th (only sailed Sat/Sun)
Standard Great Grand Masters
Stephen Wawn - 2nd