LASER STANDARD UNDER 21 WORLDS - BY HARMON MCAULLAY (posted Sept 2017)

Recently I was fortunate enough to be able to travel to Nieuwpoort, Belgium for the Laser Standard Under-21 Worlds. Nieuwpoort is a small coastal city about 30 minutes drive from Dunquerque, France. Being on the North Sea it is ridiculously tidal with massive water movements, and currents at times moving at more than 14 boat lengths per minute!

I started my trip with some sightseeing in London and Paris before heading up to Nieuwpoort! I arrived in Nieuwpoort a few days before the regatta, however due to some issues with customs I was waiting for gear, and didn't manage to get onto the water until the day of the practice race. The host club was  Koninklijke Yacht Club Nieuwpoort, and they really did put on a great event, even with at times difficult conditions. Launching was one of the more difficult aspects of the venue as either side of low tide the ramp is completely exposed leaving a muddy walk from the end of it to the water, after that there was the long channel to navigate, which difficult if the tide was flowing in!

The racing itself was rather disappointing one for me, I struggled to hold onto good positions and made a number of fundamental mistakes especially downwind which in a close fleet is really costly. Although this disappoints me, I think in hindsight it is possible to put some of these down to pressure, being my first worlds I haven’t had the experience at this level before, and while I felt that this had no effect on me at the time, in many moments it is probably safe to say it did. The level of the fleet also meant that I had to always push the limit, and unfortunately I made some mistakes which I would not normally expect to make.

During the event we lost the first and second last day of racing due to light conditions, while the remainder of the regatta saw fairly consistent breeze with only 1 race possibly being classed as ‘light wind.’ This meant we had some very long days on the water, and that the finals series was reduced in length to 2 races. In the end my result was not what I had hoped for, but being able to compete in the Worlds has left me with a number of areas to work on and improve, and I have learnt a number of lessons about big fleet racing and racing in strong currents. I would like to sincerely thank the WA Laser Association for their continued support as well as Royal Perth Yacht Club, Fremantle Sailing Club, and my family.