The 2009 NZ Laser Championships started today hosted by New Plymouth Yacht Club. The 4 day National Championship has attracted a record fleet of over 130 boats and international entries from Swizterland, Ireland, Israel, France, Australia, Korea, Canada and the Cook Islands. The regatta has added importance this year as results will used to be determine the NZ representatives for the 2009 and 2010 World, Youth and European Championships.
The hotly contested 43 boat Radial Women's, Open & Youth fleet start to Race 2 which had 2 General Recalls and eventually started under a I Flag
2008 Olympian Jo Aleh mid line, trying to win her first NZ Laser Radial Championship after coming 2nd last year behind the 2008 Olympic Bronze Medalist from China
The next Olympic cycle for 2012, means that there are plenty of top contenders and youth sailors keen to grab that one spot for the Men in the Standard Laser and the one spot for the Women in the Laser Radial. 2008 Olympian, Andrew Murdoch, is keen to have another go after finishing are very creditable 5th in his first Olympics, while Jo Aleh will focus on a Women's 470 campaign for 2012 leaving the Laser Radial position wide open.
Michael Bullot (Left) after wining the 2008 Winter Champs and Matt Coutts who just won Sail Brisbane in December 08
To get an Olympic Campaign for 2012 started a sailor needs funding and the best way to get this is to finish in the Top 10 at the World Championships. Sailing the Laser is so popular worldwide, with almost 200,000 boats around the world, that NZ is only allowed 2 places for the World Championships. So all the contenders need to finish well in this Regatta and Sail Auckland to get one of those 2 places. Its very hard to finish in the Top 10 at the worlds if you can't even get to them, thus its a high pressure sailing for the 10 to 15 sailors in the Mens Open Laser who have a real chance of getting one of those 2 places.
Laser Radials getting ready to have another try at starting Race 2
A few of the sailors to look out for who will push Andrew Murdoch hard are: Michael Bullot who just finished second at the first ISAF World Cup event at Sail Melbourne, Max Andrews who finished 8th at the same event, David Weaver who beat Michael at the North Shore Championships in November, Matt Coutts who just won Sail Brisbane, Former Youth World Champion Blair Mclay, Wellington star Josh Junior, top Napier sailor James Sandall, and current Youth World Champion Andy Maloney.
Part the 130 boat fleet enjoying the great sea breeze conditions today.
In the Women's Laser Radial, Sarah Winther who finished third at last years Nationals leads the charge for the Olympic berth with Miranda Powrie 2007 National Champion a close second. Hot Youth Sailors Cushla Hume-Merry, Rachel Basevi, Briar Dye-Hutchinson, Sarah Tootillare also in with a chance.
This Regatta will also be used to determine who will represent NZ in the 2009 ISAF Youth Worlds in the male and female Laser Radial. So there is cut throat competition in these fleets too with many sailors who have trained hard all year in with a good chance to represent NZ.
The great thing about Laser Sailing is that we have competitors here between the ages of 13 and 65+ Those in the 13 to 15 year old age group sailing in the Laser 4.7 are competing to see who will represent NZ at the 2009 Laser 4.7 Championships in Brasil and the 55 sailors who are 35+ are also involved in cut-throat competition to see who will represent NZ at the 2010 Laser Masters World Championships in England.
In the first start of the day, the 26 competitors in the Olympic mens sailing dinghy, the Laser Standard, had a general recall which worked against Andrew Murdoch who had a great pin end start. At the next attempt to start the race the contenders had seen his stratergy and the pin end was horribly congested. Andrew ended up starting in the second row as his rivals powered away with only a 2 sailors penalised for OCS out of the carnage. Andrew had to sail low and fast to get clear and managed to fight back to 2nd after that bad start. The race was won by James Sandall with Michael Bullot 3rd. Andrew was 2nd again in race 2 with Michael Bullot winning it, which leaves Michael and Andrew tied on 4 points each, joint leaders after the first day.
Full Results and entry list can be found at the following link