2019 Laser 4.7 Youth World Championships

Portsmouth Olympic Harbour, Kingston

Kingston, Ontario, Canada

16-23 August 2019

By Mia Lovelady

 I have just returned from competing in the 2019 Laser 4.7 Youth World Championships at Portsmouth Olympic Harbour, Kingston, on Lake Ontario Canada. I travelled 36 hrs from Perth via Melbourne and Los Angeles and finally to Toronto with my fellow teammate Toby Coote (SoPYC). I spent 2 days in Toronto prior to travelling to Kingston for some exploring and jetlag recovery. From here, we travelled 3 hrs east to the eastern side of Lake Ontario to Kingston, which was the venue for the 1976 Montréal Olympics.

 The week of pre-regatta preparation and training saw some interesting breezes and conditions, and nothing like the racing. Majority of the 6 days were hot and humid and had little wind. The unpredictable conditions resulted in 4 successful training days and 2 rest days. The day before the opening ceremony Team AUS successfully completed measurement, and after we went to the pier to cool off from the Canadian humidity. The Opening Ceremony took place for the 185 sailors from 35 countries, where Australia was proudly represented by the 9 sailors and Coach Ben Walkemeyer (WA) with flying flags and much colour, many boxing kangaroos and an Aussie spirit. We were very proud, and the spirit was high!

 The regatta comprised 12 races over 6 days with only 1 drop. Racing was split into 2 boys and 1 girls fleet sailing on a trapezoid course.

 Day 1 the forecast showed promise for the scheduled start time. There was a fairly consistent 6-7 knots. The breeze wasn’t particularly exciting, but it was just enough to race. 2 starts were completed for each fleet, but none of the racing was successful. The girl’s fleet were the most aggressive fleet in the first three starts of the championship, crowding and shouting on the line right up until go. AP over A and back to shore after a long humid day.

 Day 2 was a completely different story; the forecast was looking like the opposite. The first set of races were conducted in the mid-teens and gusts to the low twenties. The first race was especially nerve-racking for me being the first actual race of the regatta and not knowing what the competition was going to be like set me back. I finished R1 30th and good to get going. I was heading into R2 strong and motivated. By the time the first set of races were completed the wind was reading in the high teens with gusts in mid-twenties, and the short lake chop started to become like rolling waves. The waves definitely weren’t foreign to the Aussies, which made me look into R2 with a strong mind. Half way through race 2 the wind picked up further into the 20’s with gusts up to 30kn. I finished R2 with a keeper score of a 23rd. Unfortunately, the girls were sent in after 2 races, whilst the boys continued to complete a 3rd race.

 On Day 3, the Race Committee focused on completing qualification for the boys, so the girls were forced to wait. The day started with about 8kn from SSW. Both boys’ fleets started clearly under “U” flag. However, it took quite a bit longer to get the girls going, as we tended to be a bit more aggressive on the start line, which resulted in numerous recalls and Black Flag starts. We were also faced with big oscillations in the breeze, which made it tricky for clear starts to get away. During the first race the wind picked up just a bit and for the rest of the afternoon speeds hovered at 10-12kn with occasional gusts in the mid to high teens and very brief lulls of 8-9kn. In those conditions with erratic shifts it was important to be aware of the phases. Sailors who managed to sail the lifted tacks would find themselves at the top of the fleet, and those who took risks by splitting from the pack generally found themselves struggling to be at the front. I ended up with a R3 36th, R4 30th and achieved my goal in the last race of the day in R5 with a close fought 2nd place. I was on a high.

 Day 4 of the regatta was very different. The girls fleet had the opportunity to start first and sail the outer course, however, that did not change the apparent lack of respect for the starting line. After one general recall under “U” flag, the RC already had a few eager sailors crossing the line with just under 1 min to go. This then forced more and more boats over as time progressed. While the Race Committee took their precious time confirming the sailors who were over, the wind oscillated 10 degrees right which forced the course to be moved in order to make it even. Whether the girls fleet had simply the most aggressive starters removed, or the remaining sailors really did not want to share the fate of being disqualified, we were much more orderly during the next start sequence and we managed to get away clear. The wind was a bit steadier than on Day 3 – not as many wind shifts to exploit (or suffer), and work for the RC was therefore easier. With good wind strength that built up throughout the afternoon up to the mid-teens, conditions were very good for an enjoyable day on the water. The girl’s fleet was able to pick up an extra race to get back on schedule, and we did so without any more sailors being disqualified for being over the line early. There are individual sailors who received a second yellow flag (which they likely felt was not justified), others who could not get a clear start, and some who came in on port at a busy mark rounding and had to duck half a dozen boats. Then there were those who stayed out of the strongest adverse current or were able to pick a good spot on the start line with clear air and space below and avoided traffic at mark roundings. For the most part, the results on the scoring sheet reflect those stories. I finished the day with R6 44th, R7 34th and R8 17th.

 Day 5 saw a prevailing breeze the furthest right than we saw all week, but with a good speed in the low double digits. The girls fleet started their first race of the day with a nice straight line. Unfortunately, majority of the fleet started the race 20 seconds before the start signal. As a result, the RC stopped playing Mr. Nice Guy and all of the starts from then were black flag. With the heating element playing its part the wind speeds again picked up first to the mid-teens, then on the final race for each of the 3 fleets it was in the high teens and low twenties. Given the forecast for poor conditions the following day, the RC wanted to get in 3 good races with good conditions for the sailors which they managed to do. Unfortunately, before the last start of the second race I was scored a BFD for crossing the line less than a second before the gun. During this start the RCs’ timings during the sequence were out by a few seconds, which therefore forced me over the line early. I questioned it and filed a protest to the RC in hope that they would review the sequence and realise that their timings for each increment was wrong. They denied it and my protest was thrown out and I was forced to keep my BFD. I ended up scoring a 17th for R9, 64 (BFD) R10, and 21st R11.

 Day 6 with only 1 race to go everyone was eager to get on the water. The forecast was for a dying N breeze to eventually be replaced by a thermal breeze, with light and variable winds. Unfortunately, the forecast was pretty accurate. The winds were light 0-5 kn. And they were variable with oscillations as big as 70 degrees. With high hopes for suitable conditions fading as the afternoon wore on, the signal boat hoisted AP over A flags, which the sailors all cheered and then started heading back to shore. But no regatta is complete without an abandonment being followed by a new breeze appearing shortly afterwards. And sure enough, the new breeze appeared from the south and gave all the sailors a pleasant push back to the harbour.

 Overall, I finished 27th out of the 65 boat fleet, with my best result of a 2nd in R5. The main lessons I got out of the championship were big fleets race management, keep calm and focus on end game, hold your lane, straight line speed, consistency, risk management, dealing with adversity. The jury went hard early on the rule 42 infringements. Even I managed to pick one up on Day 4.

 Now I am focusing on training for the Australian Championships, Sail Sydney, Sail Melbourne and the Youth Championships. I would like to thank my parents (Grant & Rachel), RFBYC, FSC – Ben Walkemeyer, WASS/WAIS, The Ron Tough Yachting Foundation, WALA, as well as all my family and friends for their continuing support.