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Displaying items by tag: Laser

The simplest of all dinghies, and barely changed since it surfaced 50 years ago, the Laser made its first Olympic appearance at the Atlanta 1996 Olympic Games.

A 23-year-old Brazilian called Robert Scheidt narrowly won the gold medal in Atlanta ahead of Great Britain’s 19-year-old Ben Ainslie. Somehow, a quarter of a century and seven Games appearances later, the Brazilian magician will be vying for the podium yet again.

Unfortunately, from an Irish perspective, despite a four-year campaign, Ireland did not make the qualifying grade in the men's Laser so no Irish sailor will be racing against Scheidt in Tokyo next week.

Winner of five Olympic medals and narrowly missing out five years ago on home waters at Rio 2016 where he finished an agonising fourth place, Scheidt is defying his age and setting out to prove that a 48-year-old can conquer athletes half his age.

"The competition is very tough and the boat is very demanding from a physical point of view,” says Scheidt.

“But I'm motivated to improve my competitiveness. I'm going to fight as hard as I can in Tokyo for another podium finish. Clearly, it’s not so easy anymore because the years go by, but I think I can get to Tokyo in good shape. It was a difficult decision, because I stopped for two years after Rio, doing other things in the world of sailing, but now I’m going there with great commitment. I don’t like to go just to attend the event, I want to be ready and play for a medal once more.”

The 35-boat Tokyo mens Laser fleet will sail ten races ahead of their Medal Race on Sunday 1 AugustThe 35-boat Tokyo mens Laser fleet will sail ten races ahead of their Medal Race on Sunday 1 August

Even the dedicated Brazilian would admit that he is no longer considered the favourite for gold, however. Back in his heyday, the nine-time Laser World Champion started every regatta as the stand-out favourite. Then along came Australia’s Tom Slingsby who dominated for a few years, culminating in a straightforward cruise to Olympic gold at London 2012. Four years later in Rio, Tom Burton continued Australia’s winning ways, narrowly beating Tonci Stipanovic (CRO) in his bid to become Croatia’s first-ever Olympic Champion in sailing.

Burton embarked on another campaign for Tokyo 2020, yet just weeks after winning the Laser World Championship in 2019 the Australian selectors chose Matt Wearn ahead of the reigning Olympic and World Champion.

Wearn’s metronomically consistent performance across many major regattas - wins at the European Championships and Olympic Week in Hyéres, as well as second places at the Laser World Championships and the World Cup Series in Enoshima - was deemed the better bet for the Olympic berth.

“I am really excited to be able to go and compete for Australia,” says Wearn who is looking forward to the potentially massive conditions on Japan’s Pacific seaboard.

“Enoshima can have quite a big swell with bigger waves, which is similar to sailing off Sydney Heads. The wind tends to come off the land there, which makes conditions shifty and quite hot. We can recreate those conditions whenever there’s a hot westerly in Sydney, so it gives us confidence to be able to train in similar conditions at home.”

The field is wide open in this division, with at least 10 athletes who will be disappointed if they don’t make it to the podium. Among those would be France’s Jean-Baptiste Bernaz, fourth at last year’s Worlds and fifth at Rio 2016, and Norway’s Hermann Tomasgaard, sixth at the 2020 Worlds.

Then there are the previous medallists, not least Stipanovic who came oh-so-close to Olympic gold five years ago before his attempted match race against Burton went pear-shaped and the Croatian was forced to settle for silver.

Now aged 35, Stipanovic continues to train with other top Laser sailors including his good friend Pavlos Kontides (CYP) who first came to global prominence at London 2012 when he took the Olympic silver medal behind Tom Slingsby. More recently he won consecutive world titles in 2017 and 2018. To this day, Kontides’ silver is the only Olympic medal ever won by a Cypriot athlete in any discipline, so it’s no wonder that Kontides enjoys ‘national treasure’ status on his Mediterranean island. The Republic of Cyprus honoured Kontides through the issue of a commemorative stamp. How many sailors can claim that kind of household fame!

Bronze medallist from Rio 2016, Sam Meech is back representing New Zealand at his second Games, not quite sure how things will pan out after so little international competition. "It has been really difficult [not racing] so it's been a completely different buildup," says Meech. "You’d normally be racing every couple of months, so you’d have your goals to work on from those races and you structure your year around those.

"We tried to do the same but just around training blocks and you take as much as you can from those. We have also been heading to Australia [to train with their best Laser sailors], which has helped, and treated them almost like regattas. We haven’t checked in with the Europeans since February last year so it will be interesting to see how they are all going.”

Philipp Buhl (GER) was disappointed to finish 14th at Rio 2016, but the German has remained dedicated to his craft. Winning the World Championships in early 2020 means Buhl goes to the Olympics as the reigning World Champion although a lot has changed in the past 18 months. At 1.87 metres tall, the athletic German should relish the big conditions that Enoshima can bring, although all-round conditions should suit him fine too.

When the pandemic struck, the British Laser squad grew tighter, realising that their best chance of success in Tokyo was if they worked together and shared knowledge and learning as openly and honestly as possible. That collaboration resulted in the British team taking the top three spots at the European Championships last year. But in the end, only one man can go, and that honour goes to first-time Olympian Elliot Hanson.

Hanson came to sailing almost by chance during a family holiday in Anglesey, but took to the sport like a duck to water. He moved swiftly through the club ranks and won the Topper World Championships at the of 14 after only three years in the boat. Since then, victory at last year’s European Championship and fifth at the Worlds make him a serious contender to follow in the footsteps of Sir Ben Ainslie and Paul Goodison who respectively won Olympic gold for Great Britain in 2000 and 2008.

So many nations compete in the Laser fleet from all parts of the world. Representing one of the largest nations, but a small nation in sailing terms, is Vishnu Saravanan who flies the Indian flag on his seven square metre mainsail.

Non-sailors perhaps don’t appreciate the strength required to hike out a Laser as relentlessly as they do at Olympic level. “If you can hold a plank for 50 minutes you will be okay,” jokes the 22-year-old who serves in the Indian Army.

Sailors use core and lower body strength to make sure the boat stays as flat and as fast as possible. Lockdown forced Saravanan off the water for a while, and he had to look for more creative ways of staying fit and strong, such as when he tied himself to the back of a car and pulled it. “I did that to improve my back and core strength,” he says. “But the car was too light. My coach had to keep applying the brakes [to increase the load]. Maybe next time I can try it with an Army truck!”

Andrew Lewis carries the goodwill of Trinidad & Tobago with him as he competes at his third Olympic Games. He wants to use his profile to help build a legacy of sailing back on his Caribbean island. “

Trinidad and Tobago is small but mighty,” says the 31-year-old. “The sport of sailing is small but, thanks to the vision that I shared with my father [David] and he shared with me, one day you’ll see a lot of white sails on the foreshore.

“When I return with silverware, hopefully, my role is to, pretty much, hand over any success I achieve. It’s not for me. You cannot take any medal to the grave. It’s for this country.”

Racing in the Laser fleet will commence at 14:30 on the Kamakura racing area on Sunday 25 July. The 35-boat fleet will sail ten races ahead of their Medal Race on Sunday 1 August.

A full list of competitors is available here

- Andy Rice

Published in Tokyo 2020
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At Monkstown Bay Sailing Club in Cork Harbour, Ronan Kenneally leads the July dinghy league in his Laser on 2 points, with John Moynihan 2nd in another Laser on 5 and Michael and Sandy O'Brien sailing a 505 in third place on 7.

As regular Afloat readers will know, Cork Harbour is the venue for next year's 505 World Championships where MBSC members will compete on home waters in August 2022.

Published in Laser
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The Dublin Bay Laser fleet based in Dun Laoghaire Harbour are celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Laser class with a novel one-day sprint regatta on July 25th.

The single-handed Laser remains one of the most popular one-design dinghies since it was officially unveiled at the New York Boat Show in 1971. Since then nearly 220,000 Lasers have been produced with ILCA class associations in 120 countries globally including Ireland.

The Dublin Bay Laser fleet is the largest in Ireland with over 100 boats sailed out of the RStGYC alone this season and many more launching from across the NYC, RIYC, DMYC, INSC clubs in addition to the Coal Harbour.

A limit of 100 boats can attend the Laser 50th celebrations on Dublin BayA limit of 100 boats can attend the Laser 50th celebrations on Dublin Bay

To mark the 50th anniversary, the RStGYC is hosting a special sprint regatta event, sponsored by Grant Thornton on Sunday, July 25th. The event is open to all Laser sailors across Dun Laoghaire both junior and adult and in all rigs.

With the first gun at 2 pm, there will be a minimum of five sprint races in quick succession for each fleet, with each race lasting between 20-30 minutes. Prizes will be awarded for the top three positions in each fleet with males and females ranked separately in 4.7s and Radials.

Racing will take place in Dublin Bay, which means that this will be a great practice event for local 4.7 sailors who are taking part in the ILCA 4.7 World Championship which is hosted in Dun Laoghaire between August 7-14.

50th anniversary Laser racing will take place on Dublin Bay50th anniversary Laser racing will take place on Dublin Bay

The Laser has been an Olympic class boat since 1996 and this year Ireland is being represented once again by Dun Laoghaire sailor Annalise Murphy in the Radial rig. This Dublin Bay event will coincide with the first Laser race in the Tokyo Olympics.

All activities will take place in accordance with government Covid-19 guidelines with briefing and other communications taking place virtually. A socially distanced closing ceremony will take place in the forecourt of the Royal St. George Yacht Club from 7 pm.

A socially distanced closing ceremony will take place in the forecourt of the Royal St. George Yacht ClubA socially distanced closing ceremony will take place in the forecourt of the Royal St. George Yacht Club

Early bird entry fee for the  Grant Thornton sponsored event is €20 with entry limited to 100 boats. Entry and further details are available on the Rstgyc website.

Published in Laser

Laser racing is back! After a long absence from top-level racing, the Irish Laser Association has staged two highly successful events in the last three weeks with the third event slated for 17/18 July.

The ILCA Masters Championships in May at the RStGYC in Dun Laoghaire attracted a fleet of 63 ILCA sailors and the ILCA Ulster Championships recently hosted by CAYC in Whitehead hosted 56 boats.

On the weekend of 17/18 July, the 2021 ILCA Connaught Championships will be hosted by Wexford Harbour Boat & Tennis club and will be limited to a maximum of 100 sailors. With many top sailors returning from international events and the recent success of the Ulsters, it is expected that the cap of 100 sailors could indeed be reached. Entries close on 12th July and no late entries will be accepted.

Published in Laser
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Laser ace Sean Craig has been on top form in June. In addition to his usual input into racing and sailing administration, he's in the frame in both the two Laser local weekly series currently being staged by DBSC.

Meanwhile at national level, he retained the Laser Masters Radial title at his home club of Royal St George in mid-June from a record fleet, and then in the final weekend of June in brisk conditions at Whitehead on Belfast Lough, he became the winner of the Laser Radial Ulster Championship hosted by County Antrim YC, the oldest winner (at 57) of any open Laser regional event in Ireland.

Published in Sailor of the Month
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The 56 strong fleet of Laser sailors competing for the Ulster Championships was greeted last weekend with steady northerly winds of 12-18 knots on Saturday and 18-25 knots and sunshine on Sunday, for the first The ILCA (Laser) regional event of the year.

The Ulster championships were hosted by County Antrim Yacht Club in the beautiful village of Whitehead on the north shore of Belfast Lough. Competitors contended with strong tidal currents on a trapezoidal championship course managed by race officer, Sheela Lewis.

Ulster Championships Laser racing at Whitehead Yacht Club on Belfast Lough Photo: Kathryn AndersonUlster Championships Laser racing at Whitehead Yacht Club on Belfast Lough Photo: Kathryn Anderson

In the prizegiving, Sean Craig paid tribute to the friendly welcome offered by the CAYC, a sentiment that was greeted with enthusiastic applause by all participants. The impeccable hospitality was certainly a highlight of the event.

Royal Cork Yacht Club sailor, Ed Rice Kathryn AndersonRoyal Cork Yacht Club sailor, Ed Rice Photo: Kathryn Anderson

Youth sailors entering the ILCA 7 fleet are a challenge to the senior sailors

Finlay Tulett, a youth sailor from Dalgety Bay SC in Fife in Scotland, won the ILCA 7 (Laser Standard) fleet of 13 boats. RCYC sailor, Ed Rice, placed second, and third place was awarded to RstGYC sailor, Ross O’Leary. It was good to see youth sailors entering the ILCA 7 fleet and challenge the senior sailors.

Finlay Tulett, a youth sailor from Dalgety Bay SC in Scotland Photo: Kathryn AndersonFinlay Tulett, a youth sailor from Dalgety Bay SC in Scotland Photo: Kathryn Anderson

Irish Laser Association is expecting to see a growing number of youth sailors entering the ILCA 7 (Laser Standard) fleet and this opening event of the season gave a glimpse of the challenge that the younger sailors pose!

Christian Ennis of the National YCChristian Ennis of the National YC Photo: Kathryn Anderson

Gruelling beats and fast downwind surfing

The ILCA 4 (Laser 4.7) fleet was won by Christian Ennis of the National YC in a tightly contested event, where conditions made for gruelling beats and fast downwind surfing. Mark Henry of the RStGYC placed second and Zoe Whitford of East Antrim BC in 3rd. Further congratulations to Zoe Whitford who was also the first-placed girl in the ILCA 4 fleet. In the prize-giving, a special mention was made of RstGYC sailor, Krzysztof Ciborowski who was in 2nd place after day 1 but had to retire due to injury.

Whitehead sailor Ellen Barbour Photo: Kathryn AndersonWhitehead sailor Ellen Barbour Photo: Kathryn Anderson

Sean Craig of the RstGYC finished in first place overall in the ILCA 6 

The Radials made up the biggest fleet (28 entries) and it was great to see ILCA 6 sailors from all corners of Ireland of all ages, coming together for the first serious racing for almost two years. First female overall was local Whitehead sailor Ellen Barbour, who counted two excellent third place finishes. Following his recent Master Nationals win in Dun Laoghaire, Sean Craig of the RstGYC finished in first place overall in the ILCA 6 but was pushed extremely hard by many younger, rising stars. Chief amongst them was 2020 RYANI Youth Champion Tom Coulter from East Antrim BC in Larne, who showed a lot of speed and was just edged out of first place in a few races. This performance gave Coulter second overall, a few points ahead of 2018 Topper Worlds runner-up Hugh O’Connor (National Yacht Club). Each day, O’Connor won the middle race in the tough six-race series, sailed in super conditions with great downwind surfing and tough beats, into the tide. RO Sheela Lewis had to contend with many general recalls, and there were black flag casualties when the tide turned, and the ebb started flowing hard out of Belfast Lough.

RYANI Youth Champion Tom Coulter from East Antrim BCRYANI Youth Champion Tom Coulter from East Antrim BC Photo: Kathryn Anderson

After the success of the Ulsters and the return of many top sailors from international events, the Irish Laser Association are expecting an excellent turnout for the ILCA (Laser) Connaught Championships, which will be hosted by Wexford Harbour Boat and Tennis Club on the weekend of 17/18 July. 

Additional reporting from the Irish Laser Association

Published in Laser
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The inaugural Kindergarten Laser Race Series was run for the Dun Laoghaire Harbour 'Kindergarten' fleet by the Royal St George Yacht Club over three Friday evening in June.

Attracting a total entry of 13 boats the fleet largely is comprised of beginner/improving sailors looking to learn more about sailing and improve their skills.

There were six races in total for the two desperate rigs (full and radial) on triangular courses inside the harbour. Safety and comfort were paramount with no racing attempted in wind over 15kts.

As Afloat reported in February, the whole idea was to give less experienced dinghy sailors a fun but competitive environment. The sailors also received some on-course coaching from some of the clubs 4.7 and Radial sailors who were in the patrol boats on the water.

The RSTGYC Laser 'Kindergarten'The RSTGYC Laser 'Kindergarten'

They also received really valuable feedback from the race management team which included Sean Craig, newly crowned Irish Radial Masters Champion, Judy O'Beirne newly crowned Irish Ladies Radial Champion and Shirley Gilmore one of Ireland's most successful Masters sailors in recent years.

Laser Kindergarten Series at Royal St. George Yacht Club

Laser Kindergarten Series at Royal St. George Yacht ClubLaser Kindergarten Series at Royal St. George Yacht Club

The video (below) by Darina Loakman also shows the competitors had a great dinner after the event where the Kindergaten groups driving force Rachel Crowley thanked all the competitors, helpers, organisers and club staff.

Also pictured is Commodore Richard O'Connor maintaining social distancing requirements with everyone except his wife Lorraine who finished in third place behind David Bolger and Heather Craig in the Radial while George Misstear won the full rig fleet.

Published in RStGYC

In spite of two days of incredibly varying conditions, there were no major surprises at the winners' enclosure in this year’s MGM Boats Irish Laser Masters Nationals hosted by the Royal St. George Yacht Club.

Dublin Bay served up its usual blend of light winds, sea breezes and 15 knots, all in one race. While the conditions challenged race officer Harry Gallagher and his team, they led to dramatic results in some races.

However, across two days and six races, there were no upsets in this year’s event. First place in the Standard fleet was taken by Howth’s Paul McMahon with a first and three-second places his best results. Royal Cork’s Nick Walsh came in a very close second trailing by just 2.5 points. Meanwhile, Darragh Kelleher of Skerries Sailing Club came in a close third having one in the last race of the event.

Irish Laser Master Champion (standard rig) Paul McMahon of Howth is congratulated by Royal St. George Yacht Club Commodore Richard O'ConnorIrish Laser Master Champion (standard rig) Paul McMahon of Howth is congratulated by Royal St. George Yacht Club Commodore Richard O'Connor

In the larger Radial fleet, Dun Laoghaire dominated the leader board. Sean Craig and Conor Clancy led the tussle for first and second place over the weekend, with Craig eventually arriving on top. He was glad to be able to discard the ninth place from the first race on Sunday, which he had been leading until the wind dropped to zero before the last mark. There’s a new challenger in town in the form of the George’s Marc Coakley who finished in third just one point behind Clancy.

2021 Radial Champion Sean Craig2021 Radial Champion Sean Craig

In the Ladies fleet, as was predicted Judy O’Beirne and Shirley Gilmore fought it out for the title. O’Beirne proved more consistent across the two days and varying conditions to take first place. Alison Pigot of the National Yacht Club came in third behind Gilmore in second.

Ladies Champion Judy O’BeirneLadies Champion Judy O’Beirne

This year saw the introduction of a Novice format for those who had not previously taken part in a national Laser event. The best scores from two races were accumulated across 17 participants in this category with joint first place going to Michael Norman of Wicklow Sailing Club and Hugh Cahill of DBSC. This format proved popular with participants noting how friendly and supportive the rest of the fleet and support crew were across the two days.

The event was operated under Covid-19 guidelines and could provide a template for the efficient running of future events. All communication in advance and during the event was managed through email and a dedicated WhatsApp group. Registration took place online, the race officer’s briefing and protest committee were convened via Zoom. The final socially distanced prize ceremony was live-streamed via Instagram. Competitors were able to dine outdoors at their respective clubs, so the social side of the event did not suffer greatly. Overall this approach led to a very efficiently run event with lots of paperwork and time delays eliminated.

Full results from the event are available on the Royal Saint George Yacht Club website here

Published in Laser

The MGM Boats Laser Master Championships kicks off Saturday morning at the Royal St. George Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire Harbour and was setting a number of precedents before sailors even took to the water.

This year’s event has seen record entries with a total of 63 boats registered from Laser sailors aged 35 and upwards. For the first time since this competition format was introduced in 2009, with 35 entries there are more Radial rigs competing than the original Standard rig, with 28 entered.

An unprecedented total of nine ladies are competing for the new Ladies Radial Trophy. With the upsurge in interest in the Laser class over the past couple of years, it is perhaps no surprise to see a total of 17 adults in the new Novice Cup format.

With such a large fleet and a range of formats, it is expected that the competition will be intense right through the fleet. In the Standard rig, previous winner Nick Walsh from RCYC and Howth’s young gun Paul McMahon are hotly tipped, with the forecast favouring McMahon.

Dun Laoghaire expects to control the Radial fleet with Sean Craig and Conor Clancy expected to dominate over the two day event. In the ladies category, Shirley Gilmore and Judy O’Beirne are considered to be the ones to beat this weekend.

In keeping with Irish Sailing’s guidelines for events, the event organisers have confirmed that the event is going virtual. Race officer, Harry Gallagher will be delivering a virtual briefing to all competitors via Zoom. Arbitrations and protests will also be facilitated via Zoom by the Protest Committee, lead by Cxema Pico.

Prize-giving on Sunday will be live streamed on the Dun Laoghaire Laser Instagram page and presumably there will be plenty of virtual cheers for the winners. All in all, it looks like that aside from sailing and socially-distanced outdoor dining on Saturday evening, this will be a truly virtual event.

Full details of the event including results are available at the Virtual Race Office on the RSGYC website.

Published in Laser
Tagged under

Two tough days of light, fickle breeze were replaced with 9-11 knots of breeze in Medemblik, The Netherlands as Irish interest in the Allianz Regatta's ILCA 6 fleet includes this weekend.

Howth Yacht Club teenager Eve McMahon dropped back from 11th to 23rd overnight with Tokyo bound Annalise Murphy moving up four places from 32nd to 28th overall. McMahon's club mate Aoife Hopkins is 43rd in the 58-boat fleet.

Every sailor in the ILCA 6 fleet has a high score that they are using as their discard and this has led to high-pressure situations on the racecourse, as sailors avoid making the same mistakes that could severely punish them and see them drop.

Consistency is really at a premium in the ILCA 6 fleet, but Marie Barrue of France has been doing enough all week to cling on to her lead. She is eight points clear of Dutch favourite and Rio 2016 Olympic gold medallist Marit Bouwmeester (NED).

Bouwmeester had the best day on the water with a 2-4 scoreline, and the next best performer was Hungary’s Maria Erdi who moves into contention for the medals, sitting just six points off third-placed Agata Barwinska (POL).

After racing, Erdi commented, “We finally had some more breeze so we got some hiking in. It was still pretty tricky. The startline was crazy with a lot of general recalls. I was just trying to get off the line. I got in really risky spots, and I just took it from there with good starts and good speed.

“I was always rounding the top mark in the top ten. I was able to make up a few places in the first race but lost some in the second but today was a good day and I’m happy with it.”

Hempel World Cup Series – Allianz Regatta is an important event for the athletes targeting Tokyo 2020 as it’s their final opportunity to test themselves before they head to Enoshima.

Erdi knows a good performance here can set the tone come Games time. She continued, “This is our last regatta before the Games, so we really want to put things together. We’re trying to improve and see how it goes.

“We decided pretty early we were going to come here because there was not much racing anywhere. We didn’t want to arrive at the Games and think ‘ahh, so this is the startline!’ We wanted to get racing and we’re happy that everyone else followed and is here.

“I have a camp with my group at the end of this month and then we fly out to Japan on the 12th for the Games.”

The ILCA 6 fleet will sail two races on Saturday before the deciding race on Sunday.

Racing continues on Saturday 5 June from 10:30 local time.

Full results here

Published in Tokyo 2020
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