A record 52 full rig Lasers competed for the Jan Werner memorial trophy at the 2010 Queen Mary Laser Open, making this easily the best attended Laser UK club regatta this year. The club welcomed Lasers from Weir Wood, Grafham Water and an impressive team of 11 from Wembley SC. The event even had an international entry with Ronan Kenneally travelling from County Cork for an event which is fast becoming a cornerstone of the UKLA calendar.
With beautiful spring sunshine, but almost no breeze, it appeared that RO Martin Pride would have his work cut out. After a short postponement however, the wind arived from the south and a steady (but shifty) 8-10 knots settled in for the day. The starting line competition was frankly no different to a UK Laser qualifier and RO Pride was quick to bring the black flag into use in an attempt to get the fleet away.
Local Master Tim Law made the early running, pursued aggresively by Orlando Gledhill in a bid to retain his title from 2009. Both sailors are showing excellent recent form and will no doubt be at the sharp end of the fleet at the Masters Worlds later this year. Law held out for the win, with the pair being followed home by Irishman Kenneally. The top 10 were flooded by QM sailors (many of them Laser masters) reflecting the growing powerhouse of Laser sailing that this West London club is fast becoming.
The capricious winds continued into race 2 and after a tight first beat, the returning Michael Hicks showed that absence makes the boat go faster as he emerged at the front of the fleet. Hicks is somewhat of a local legend given his incredible ability on the reaching legs and he used this to great effect on the first lap to open up a lead which would not be caught. Behind him, a pack of QM regulars jostled for position with 17 year old national youth squad sailor George Spedding taking 2nd place.
With everything to play for, race three was a tight affair, with 2006 QM Open Champion Tony Adams fighting his way to the gun in continually shifting conditions. The breeze had picked up a little, and the offwind legs began to get interesting with boats in packs of up to a dozen arriving at some marks. Had someone been screaming hysterically for water in Spanish, it would have appeared as if the Laser Worlds had arrived in Sunbury. Upwind, getting a tack wrong could mean losing up to 5 places instantly, so paying attention to the boats around you was paramount. Gledhill was in the right place to follow the leader home in second, but notably Tim Law was still hanging in there with a third place. Behind them Nedyalkov of Bulgaria and Michael Hicks also had top 6 finishes, meaning they were all in contention for the title going into the final race.
The last race of the day had a sting in the tail for some, with a hefty shift 2/3 the way up the beat, but local sailor Mark Barnes was on hand to capitalize and get around in first place. Having scored a 44th earlier in the day, Barnes wasn't about to relax and did everything right to win the final regatta race for the second year in succession. QM class captain Dave Freeman had another strong race to take 2nd and salvage a very impressive regatta. The real battle was going on between Law and Gledhill for the title however. With 2 points separating them going into the race they were snapping at heels across the top 10 throughout the race, with Gledhill 6th and Law 8th over the finish line, meaning they were equal on gross points. With the bigger discard however, the result was enough to give Law outright victory. Freeman was highly relieved to finish third overall, discarding a 29th place from race 3. The top 10 placings were dominated by Queen Mary sailors, with Chris Ellyat, Tony Adams, Val Nedyalkov, Michael Hicks and George Spedding filling the places behind the podium.
A sweet moment for Law then, who has been contesting this regatta for something like 36 years without success. There was a poignant moment at the prizegiving when the sailors remembered Jan Werner, a former member of the Laser fleet at QM who was tragically killed a few years back, and to whom the trophy of this regatta is awarded in honour.