Sailing’s popularity is on the increase judging by how many people – kids as well as adults – are getting involved.
That was evident when the Bacardi Laser National Championships were held two weeks ago at the Cayman Islands Sailing Club in Red Bay.
This was the biggest sailing championship in the Cayman Islands for over a decade, reflecting the growing interest in sailing in the most important annual dinghy championship in the club’s sailing calendar.
The sailing conditions were challenging as the two day event was held in the tail-end of a Nor’wester that was affecting the whole region.
On the first day sailors had to contend with the winds between 15-20 knots and some significant chop, however this didn’t prevent a big turnout of 17 racers over two divisions (13 Standard rig, and four Radial).
The second day saw the conditions ease a little much to the relief of the competitors who were exhausted from the first day.
The laser is a single-person performance dinghy which is hugely popular around the world and a staple fleet at the Olympics.
The laser fleet at the club has been growing steadily since Hurricane Ivan and this year there was sufficient depth to hold the championships in both the standard and radial divisions.
The radial configuration, featuring a smaller sail, is generally more suited to lighter sailors, but comes into its own in high winds, as it is less susceptible to being over-powered.
Out-going CISC dinghy rep, Jon Faris was particularly excited by being able to support the new division and said: “Cayman has really terrific sailing conditions most of the year, but you have to be in the right boat to enjoy them.
‘I’m glad the radial rig is coming into its own. It will get sailors out on the water, even on those windier days.”
The event was dominated by Nick Taylor who grabbed first position in all seven races over the two days. Taylor’s participation in several international regattas over the summer has certainly helped him improve as he separated, rather handily, from the fleet, particularly on the tricky reaches.
Rick Caley, the club manager said: ‘Nick is considered a great asset by the club, thanks to his frequent racing, and generosity with quality tips regarding technique, strategy and tactics. Nick certainly brought it out on the race course in true champion form.’
Olympian Mark Clarke kept the heat on Taylor, putting his size and experience to good effect in the strong winds and took second place in the standard division, as well as the coveted Clydesdale trophy sponsored by Compass Marine.
Meanwhile only one point separated Clarke and Charlie Grover, an active club sailor and consistent performer in all conditions, who took the third position.
The remaining spots were each a battle unto themselves and no one had an easy ride, especially given the challenging conditions.
Race officer Peta Adams said: ‘There has been a noticeable improvement of the fleet on the whole, mostly due to the frequency of informal racing going on at the club these days. The mid-fleet finishes were remarkably tight.”
In the radial class, youth sailor Chris Delaney proved to be a real force, impressing and surprising everyone with a great display of skill, smarts, and strength.
National sailing centre head coach Mike Weber was out on the water to catch the action. He said: “Chris has developed so rapidly in the laser, it’s fantastic. He’ll be racing internationally after Christmas and with performances like this I expect good results for him even in the larger, tougher regattas.”
Olympian Tomeaka McTaggart gave Delaney a run for his money and took second place and also appreciated the competition and growth of the radial division, which is her boat of choice.
She said: “Chris did a great job. I was giving at least 100 per cent out there, so I have no regrets. There should be some good races ahead!’
Ken Holland, a relative newcomer to laser sailing and very recent adopter of the radial rig, brought in third place, clearly pleased with his performance and the rig.
With the sponsorship of Bacardi for a second year in a row, and the Doghouse, the Bacardi Laser National Championships has developed into a premier event at the CISC, with hopes for further growth in the future.
The CISC continues to develop its laser racing calendar to promote the skills of its member sailors. After a well earned restful December, the laser fleet is looking forward to the much loved race fixture, the East End Regatta, 23-24 January.