2018/2019 Racing Season Report
By Chris Thompson, Race Director, NESC.
The last season was a great one at NESC. While we are still a very small club, we are getting new members, new boats and, most importantly, people who are new to sailing. The best thing of all is that everyone seems to be having fun together.
To give an idea of the club's position, I have run some comparisons of fleet size compared to the previous season. These do not include the regattas, the casual visitors we have had, our friends from Lake Keepit who did so much to make our season fun and challenging, or some of the members who started and did not finish.
The average fleet is up 151% from last year. The biggest fleet that completed any one race is up 167% from last season. The biggest fleet of club boats to finish any one race was 10, up from six a year ago. The most popular series, with an average fleet of seven NESC finishers, was the Rear Commodores Plate. While numbers dropped as the weather cooled down, we still had fleets of six and seven boats into May, after the normal season had ended.
In some ways, the reality is even better than the figures; firstly, because there are some experienced and committed members who have not raced much this season, possibly because they know they are no longer need to keep the numbers up. Jude, Deb, Bruce and Mike, we hope to see more of you next season! Secondly, our fleet is more diverse in terms of age, gender and experience than most other clubs - a very healthy sign for the future. Finally, the rate of growth appears to be increasing. At the start of the season we only averaged about one more boat than in the previous season, but by autumn the fleet was about twice as big as that of last autumn. Much of the credit must go to our friends from Keepit, who did such a good job teaching Sally and Adam, and to Armidale Council and Andy for organising the “Get Active” day.
The two regattas that were sailed on Malpas both had great fleets, including our local Olympic medallist and world champion and strong teams from coastal clubs. The visitors were very enthusiastic about the friendliness of the club and have promised to come back next year and bring their friends with them. We are now involved in arranging a Northern NSW Laser Interclub series to spark even more interest in regatta sailing.
The level of sailing seems to have lifted with the larger and more competitive fleets. We saw an early sign when Andy Sawyer won the biggest class in the record fleet at the Keepit Kool regatta over the winter. That was followed by NESC victories in the Bridge to Breakers Regatta at Harwood, the Mediumweight Course Racing and Overall Freestyle in the 107-strong fleet at the Windsurfer One Design nationals, and against our Keepit friends in the Thunderbolt Cup and both Zone regattas.
Finally, I must give my personal thanks to Mike Williams for the handicapping and to Chris Wilford, Paul Reader, Kieth Martin and Geoff Allen in particular for their work as OODs and with the rescue boat.
RECENT RACE ALTERATIONS
The major changes this year were to handicapping and Sunday race formats. For some time, we had been using a handicapping system that Mike had created which used average times and did a fantastic job at giving very accurate results when the fleet was largely Lasers of similar speed. However, the club's growth has introduced beginners in 4.7s and Toppers at one end of the fleet and an Olympic medallist world champion catamaran racer at the other.
The increasing variety in the fleet and Malpas' fluky winds meant that Mike was no longer happy with the system. It has now been replaced by a simpler system of changing handicaps based on places. Early indications are that while it is not as precise for the Tasars and the faster Lasers, it may be more accurate for the other sailors and a widespread fleet.
The other major change was to have two or more races each day, normally over a shorter course. This has been very well received, as were the experimental handicap starts. The fleet is staying closer together so that everyone can get closer racing and learn more.
We have had some lovely twilight sails this season, concentrating on practise and occasional short course races. A further alteration was to name some events after our sponsors to show our appreciation for their support.