by Jake Farren-Price 19 Aug 06:49 UTC 24-26 August 2020 Day 6 of the Laser Nationals at Weymouth © Nick Champion / www.championmarinephotography.co.uk Tweet
The UK Laser Association is running a different kind of Nationals this year, reflecting the inevitable restrictions forced by the Covid-19 pandemic. The event, split into two, will be held at Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy this year, with the first half of the week (24th-26th August) for 50 ILCA 7s and 50 ILCA 4s and the second half of the week reserved for 100 ILCA 6s.
The week is being sponsored by several great companies that provide valuable services to the sailors and each day of racing will have a daily title sponsor. UKLA is grateful to Ovington, Sailingfast, Sailboats.co.uk, Southeast Sailboats and Noble Marine for their support.
As one of the only major sailing events to go ahead over the UK summer, the ILCA 7 entry list was packed a matter of hours after opening with some foreign sailors coming over to get valuable race experience ahead of some major events planned for the Autumn. Among the top Standard sailors fighting for a chance to be crowned national champions this year are
Sam Whaley – photo © RYA
The current national champion will be back to defend his title and is aiming to make it a triple. Only one man has done this in the past… Sir Ben Ainslie. Sam has been training hard down in Weymouth over the last few months and has also been active on Virtual Regatta when not out on the water. Does WhaleX ever stop thinking about racing? “Really looking forward to the nationals in a couple of weeks’ time,” Sam said in the build-up. “As always the competition is going to be super tough but with pretty much all the top GB guys here, mixed with a 50-boat standard fleet, the racing is going to be pretty exciting.”
Laser Gold for Daniel Whiteley at the RYA Youth Nationals – photo © Paul Wyeth / RYA
Dan has been training hard over the last few years while completing his Mechanical Engineering degree at Bristol University. The Ice Man has been training with the British Sailing Team down in Weymouth over the last few weeks, but will home advantage help these boys? Dan, definitely more of a glass half full type of sailor, has no doubts. “I’m coming for you all – be scared,” he told me. Sounds like he means business.
Eliot Hanson at the Aarhus Sailing World Championships – photo © Richard Langdon / British Sailing Team
The biggest favourite has to be Elliot, who came 5th at the 2020 World Championships in Melbourne earlier this year, in the process securing his spot for the Olympic Games in 2021. We know he is in great form at the moment, but it’s only a three-day competition now, so there is not much room for error in such a short series.
Michael Beckett – photo © Paul Wyeth / British Sailing Team
Another serious favorite to become national champion, Micky is also in fighting form after finishing 13th at the Worlds in Australia. “This is the most prepared I’ve been for any regatta… ever,” he said. “I’ve lived on Portland for the last four years, I’ve sailed out of WPNSA every week since lockdown ended, so hopefully I’ll have some clue what I’m doing!”
Duko Bos – photo © Klaas WiersmaK
One of the handful of foreign sailors venturing to the UK to get a piece of the British racing scene. Duko is a Dutch athlete who showed serious promise at the Worlds earlier this year, finishing just two points behind Micky in 14th. Will we see another grudge match between these two?
Many thanks to WPNSA for hosting the Nationals and to all the UKLA staff and volunteers who have put in a huge shift to make racing possible this year.