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International Laser Australian Championships - Day 1 wild and wet    
Sun, 30 Dec 2012

The International Laser Australian Championship sailors from around Australia and overseas got a wild and wet introduction to Hobart’s River Derwent as galeforce south-westerly winds swept across the river yesterday afternoon.

Despite many capsizes, several broken masts and one injured woman sailor, most of the near 70 competitors handled the conditions with great skill, only half a dozen pulling out of the races.

'I recorded a gust of 47 knots on my wind indicator on boat; it was very windy,' said Yachting Tasmania high performance coach Richard Scarr. 'However, for most of the afternoon the wind was between 20 and 23 knots, conditions experienced Laser sailors can handle.'

Scarr said the young woman sailor had injured her shoulder 'in a bad capsize'. She was treated ashore by paramedics and later taken to a clinic fo an x-ray.

With the river a mass of white water as Sydney Hobart and Launceston to Hobart finished under heavily reefed sails, principal race officer Kevin Wilson held the Laser sailors ashore until mid-afternoon.

He then decided to first send the most experienced senior sailors in the Laser Standard Rig, the Olympic single-handed men’s dinghy class, to 'test the waters' – and the winds.

When it become clear that they could cope with the winds, then mostly less than 25 knots, he decided to send out the larger Radial fleet, the Olympic women’s single-handed dinghy, but contested by both young men and women.

The Laser Standards sailed two races, with Tom Burton from NSW, currently ranked No 1 Laser sailor in the world, heading the scoreboard with first and a second, from Queenslander Ryan Palk who had two thirds, and another Queenslander Jared West who placed first and sixth in his two races.
Best placed of the Tasmanians was Zac Pullen from the host club, the Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania. His 18th and 16th places has hum 17th overall but third youth sailor in the Laser Standard Rigs.

World champion Mark Spearman from Western Australia and Thomas Vincent from Victoria both had wins in the split qualifying fleets of Laser Radials. Both rank as youth sailors.

The two second placegetters in each fleets were Tristan Brown (WA) and Luke Stephens from South Australia. Top women sailor, with a third in her fleet, is Ashley Stoddart from Queensland while the other third placegetter was another Queenslander, William Bates who is the leading junior.

Of the Tasmanian competitors, Rohan Langford had an eighth, Michael Vaughan (a Masters sailor) a 31st, Sophie Chesterman a 20th, Emma Barton a 21st, Madeline Davies 23rd and Anna Vaughan 24th.

Practice races scheduled yesterday for the International Cadet World Championship fleet and the International 420 Australian championships were abandoned because of the strong winds.

by Peter Campbell

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