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Challenging conditions fail to deter top class sailors from competing in east coast contest

PUBLISHED: 08:39 18 October 2018 | UPDATED: 08:41 18 October 2018

The Laser UK World and European Qualifiers at Lowestoft. Pictures: Mick Howes

The Laser UK World and European Qualifiers at Lowestoft. Pictures: Mick Howes

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It was described by a number of keen onlookers as “the strongest fleet of Laser sailors assembled this year.”

The Laser UK World and European Qualifiers at Lowestoft. Pictures: Mick HowesThe Laser UK World and European Qualifiers at Lowestoft. Pictures: Mick Howes

And as Olympic hopefuls descended on Lowestoft at the weekend, about 100 of the UK’s best young sailors battled it out in a prestigious contest.

Dedicated competitors and their families travelled from as far away as Finland, Ireland, Scotland and all over England and Wales for two days of top quality dinghy racing as the International Laser Class Association’s World and European qualifier was held with the prestigious event hosted by the Royal Norfolk and Suffolk Yacht Club (RN&SYC).

Joe Drake in action. Picture: RN&SYCJoe Drake in action. Picture: RN&SYC

Top sailors were in action including Alison Young – a two time Olympian in the Laser Radial fleet; double world champion Nick Thompson, who competed in the 2016 Olympics and Elliot Hanson who won a gold medal in the Laser World Cup series event in Japan last month.

Local sailor Georgina Povall, a member of the RYA squad from Hickling Broad SC, also featured along with Olympic hopefuls Lorenzo Brando Chiavarini, from Scotland, Jack Weatherall, Hannah Snellgrove and Clementine Thompson.

The Laser UK World and European Qualifiers at Lowestoft. Pictures: Mick HowesThe Laser UK World and European Qualifiers at Lowestoft. Pictures: Mick Howes

The RN&SYC managed to put on the event despite the challenging conditions of Saturday and the aftermath of storm Callum.

With the sea conditions making launching off the beach at the Claremont Pier a test of seamanship, Peter Sabberton and Mark Drake had their work cut out to get the boats away into the force 4-5 breeze through the swirling surf that was pounding onto the beach.

The Laser UK World and European Qualifiers at Lowestoft. Pictures: Mick HowesThe Laser UK World and European Qualifiers at Lowestoft. Pictures: Mick Howes

But the “can do” attitude of the RN&SYC ensured they did get away with some fierce and competitive racing. Charlie Stowe was appointed Principal Race Officer for this prestigious regatta by the UK Laser Association, with Richard Fryer – Commodore of the RN&SYC – his assistant Race Officer.

The weather on Sunday was a complete contrast as sailing had to be postponed for over an hour while waiting for the wind to arrive and when there was enough breeze to get the fleet afloat it died again giving the race officers no alternative to abandon the first Radial Race.

The Laser UK World and European Qualifiers at Lowestoft. Pictures: Mick HowesThe Laser UK World and European Qualifiers at Lowestoft. Pictures: Mick Howes

The wind did pick up later on, and the standard fleet did manage to complete two races in the remaining time left for racing, whilst the radials only completed one race.

In the three races the Radial fleet completed on Saturday, Alison Young showed her skill and experience with two first places to winn overall, with Ben Elvin second overall, while Hannah Snellgrove achieving a third, second and fourth for third overall with Hickling Broad sailor Georgina Povall in a very creditable fourth overall.

The Laser UK World and European Qualifiers at Lowestoft. Pictures: Mick HowesThe Laser UK World and European Qualifiers at Lowestoft. Pictures: Mick Howes

In the Standard Fleet sailed by the men and the larger boys, the racing was extremely competitive with Olympic sailor and double World Champion Nick Thompson having a real fight on his hands.

Michael Beckett, from Solva SC in Pembrokeshire was the overall event winner with Lorenzo Brando Chiavarini runner up. While Elliott Hanson had a first, second and third his overall result of ninth was dictated by his DNF in race three and his black flag disqualification in the last race.

The Laser UK World and European Qualifiers at Lowestoft. Pictures: Mick HowesThe Laser UK World and European Qualifiers at Lowestoft. Pictures: Mick Howes

Nick Thompson was third overall, but in the fourth race sailed on Sunday he was beaten into fifth place by local RN&SYC sailor, 17-year-old Joe Drake, who is a member of the RYA Youth Squad.

Joe then went on to win the last race, as he came first overall in the youth squad and completed a stunning weekend for himself - winning his first major competitive race in a very strong fleet, and finishing in sixth place overall.

A RN&SYC spokesman said: “We wish him well for the future and in his aim to represent his country and his club, the Royal Norfolk & Suffolk Yacht Club, at the 2024 Olympics.”

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