Gosford Sailing Club’s Tom Burton, currently the No 1 ranked International Laser sailor in the world, heads a fleet of 139 boats heading for the Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania to the contest the Audi Laser Australian championships on Hobart’s River Derwent from 28 December to 4 January.
Burton was the training partner for gold medallist and world champion (and fellow GSC member) Tom Slingsby in the lead-up to the London 2012 Olympics and has maintained his form back in Australia this summer. Slingsby has presently moved on to other classes, including the America’s Cup and foiler Moths.
Burton won Laser men’s division of the ISAF World Sailing Cup at Sail Melbourne and followed this with a close second to New Zealander Sam Meech at Sail Melbourne. At Sail Sydney, Burton won three of the ten races as did Meech, but the Kiwi was more consistent overall.
The Australian championships comprise the three Laser divisions – Standard Rig, Radial and 4.7 and within those groups there will be youth, women and masters champions racing for the much coveted Laser cubes, the traditional trophies for the class.
The entries include sailors from Singapore, Switzerland and Finland. The championships open on Friday, 28 December with competition starting on Saturday, 29 December.
Burton’s strong competition in the 29 strong Laser Standard Rig fleet are expected to be Ashley Brunning, Ryan Palk, Matthew Wearn, Jared West and the Finnish sailor Fredrik Westman.
With 71 entries, the Radial fleet is the biggest with a strong line-up of women sailors as the Radial is women’s Olympic single-handed class.
There is a great depth of talent among the mainly young women and teenage boys and girls in the Laser Radial class, headed by World champion Mark Spearman from WA, and Queenslander Ashley Stoddart, who was the topscoring woman at Sail Sydney,
Among the men sailors expected to sail well in the Radials is Tasmanian Rohan Langford who sailed impressively at Sail Melbourne, Christopher Anderson from NSW and Ryan Palk from Queenslander.
While Ashley Stoddart has been the outstanding woman sailor this summer, other than Olympian Krystal Weir, who is not competing in Hobart, there are many talented young women in the fleet, including Queenslanders Louise Evans and Madison Kennedy, Victorians Anna Philp and Natasha Van Rennes, Tasmanians Sophie Chesterman and Anna Vaughan, and the Swiss sailor Manon Luther.
A fleet of 39 boats will line up in the Laser 4.7 class, with a mix of boys and girls. Australian champion Jack Felsenthal has shown his skill with an outstanding win at the Audi Showdown on the Derwent in early November. He followed this up with further overall wins at Sail Melbourne and Sail Sydney.
At Sail Sydney, Felsenthal won the regatta ahead of Sam Hannah (Vic) in 2nd and Brodie Crossman (NSW). Connor Nicholas (WA) placed 5th at Sail Sydney behind fellow West Australian, Richard Maher, in 4th place.
All five of these sailors, along with a handful of others, should be racing at the front of the fleet at the Laser Nationals and also at the Australian Youth Championships in Hobart.
Gabriel Morrison and Ed Hargreaves should be the most competitive of the Tasmanians.
Many of the teenage sailors competing the Laser Radial and 4.7 divisions are expected to remain in Hobart to contest the OAMPS Australian Youth Championships which follow the Laser Nationals, also at the RYCT.