Extreme conditions test sailors

Hugh Ashford, winner of best placed local sailor trophy in the Hastings & St Leonards Laser Open, at full speed

Hugh Ashford, winner of best placed local sailor trophy in the Hastings & St Leonards Laser Open, at full speed

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Fifteen sailors entered the Hastings & St Leonards Sailing Club Laser Open on Saturday.

Sea state and wind conditions were extremely challenging, leading to numerous retirements as the day progressed.

The event produced two broken masts, a broken boom, a broken rudder and a sheered traveller rope. Most of the damage was caused launching or landing through waves that grew in size and power during the day.

As sailors returned ashore during the fourth and final race, the south westerly wind had reached force 5-6. Only eight sailors entered the final race, and of these, only Simon Barrington (Weirwood Sailing Club) and local sailor Steve Clark had the skill and strength to make it to the finish. The remainder retired, some completely exhausted.

The overall winner was Barrington, who won all four races. Racing in a brand new boat, and preferring strong wind conditions, Barrington was well ahead of the rest.

The trophy for best placed Hastings sailor went to Hugh Ashford, who was fifth overall, and best placed Laser Radial sailor went to Clark.

The extreme conditions led to a heightened sense of adventure and exhilaration among the participants and the race support staff.

The beach party pulled together to assist with launching and landing, including wading into the surf to pull people and boats ashore as breakers impeded sailors heading out to, or back from, the race area.

On the sea, David Gain and Margaret Blurton, in the safety boat, were kept busy assisting the fleet. The whole event was overseen by race officer Don Bowles. It was a day of racing attrition that reminded everyone of the physicality and excitement of sailing.

See Friday’s Hastings Observer for more pictures.