Moderate to fresh winds and some well proportioned waves to surf down provided an outstanding final day of racing at the Laser Masters World Championships in Hayling Bay
Two races were held in each of the classes within the giant fleet of more than 350 boats, split between the Laser Standard and Laser Radial and then into fleet based on age groups: the ‘Apprentices’ – 35-44 year olds, Masters – 45-54 year olds, Grand Masters – 55-65 years and for the Radials the Great Grand Masters (65+).
While New Zealand’s Scott Leith had the Laser Radial Apprentice title sewn up yesterday, so today Australian Brett Beyer came out first in the Laser Standard Apprentice class. Despite posting two bullets today he still only managed to finish five points ahead of Greece’s Adonis Bougiouris.
Perhaps the hardest class, being the biggest at this Championship was the Laser Standard Masters where the USA’sScott Ferguson clinching honours with a race to spare. His final tally of 15 points puts him 21 ahead of the Netherland’s Arnoud Hummel, in turn just a point ahead of 1984 Olympic Finn silver medallist, American John Bertrand. Ferguson, who heralds from Rhode Island where his company designs masts for leading America’s Cup and Volvo Ocean Race boats, was the defending champion in the class following on from his victory in hurricane-swept Halifax last year.
With four bullets and discarding a sixth going into today Ferguson said he was concerned that in the wavy conditions that he might wipe out. In fact the margin between first and second may have been closer had his principle rival Arnoud Hummel not suffered a ‘death roll’.
Winner in the Radial Master class was local man Steve Cockerill, the well-known proprietor of Rooster Sailing. This is his fourth Laser Radial World Championship title, his first coming in Cork in 2001.
Cockerill posted a 1-2 today leaving him 16 points clear of second placed Brazilian Joao Ramos, in turn a further 18 adrift of New Zealander Hamish Atkinson. After a dismal set of results yesterday including a DNC and an OCS, the other star act of the day was Brazilian favourite Eduardo Carlos Wanderley who redeemed himself by posting a 2-1, hoisting him from 13th place yesterday to go home fourth overall.
Cockerill might have posted two bullets today had it not been for a unique incident in the second race, when wondering why he was going slowly up the first beat, discovered the impediment to be a woman’s bra wrapped around his Laser’s centreboard.
Otherwise this week Cockerill has been sailing on familiar waters – his home club is neighbouring Stokes Bay – and his worst discard was a 16th, scored yesterday when he was caught out on the wrong side of a shift.
Perhaps star of this year’s Championship, if not all time in the Laser Masters class, was Keith Wilkins who won his 11th Laser Worlds title today having this year been forced out of the Standard and into the Radial as a Great Grand Master, following his 65th birthday.
Wilkins who heralds from distinctly land-locked Shropshire where he normally sails on a lake, has raced out of Hayling Island Sailing Club on several occasions in his long illustrious career. He particularly enjoyed today’s more boisterous conditions as he admits he is a little heavy for the Radial. He also admitted that racing in class bands, as occurs at these championships, favours the young and being the nipper in the Great Grand Masters certainly benefitted him. His last Worlds win in 2001. Today with the slightly strong winds the fleet was well spread out in the Great Grand Masters class with Wilkins ending the regatta 10 points clear of the USA’s Peter Seidenberg, in turn 13 ahead of the Netherland’s Johan Stam.
The only leadership change today came in the Radial Grand Master fleet where two bullets today allowed Brisbane anaesthetist Lyndall Patterson, a mother of two grown up daughters who won the IYRU Women's World title on the same waters of Hayling Bay 33 years ago, to finally overhaul the strong American male contingent, in particular yesterday’s leader Alden Shattuck, who ended the regatta six points out of first. Patterson's success once again underlines her outstanding prowess and sheer tenacity and is believed to be the first time a female sailor has won the overall title.
Like Scott Ferguson another to defend his title successfully this year was German former Olympic Finn sailor and Finn Gold Cup winner, Wolfgang Gerz in the Standard Grand Master fleet. From Munich, the meticulous Gerz posted a 3-1 today to finish on 18 points. However American Peter Vessella, a newcomer this year into the Grand Master fleet, also posted 1-3 and this allowed him to overhaul Britain’s Peter Sherwin to claim second with the help of a second discard, 10 points from Gerz. The German winner spent most of today covering the potent Vessella, who next year will have the advantage of sailing on his home waters in San Francisco.
While two days of racing were lost this week due to excessive wind conditions, otherwise the regatta has provided a challenging mix of wind strengths from light and shifty to verging on the nearly-too-strong.
International Class Secretary Jeff Martin commented: “On Monday it was up on the limit and then we had two days where we couldn’t sail and had to convert it in to the rest day and since then they have had a bit of everything and today was perfect to finish off with: glorious sailing, Hayling Bay waves and steady breeze of 15-17 knots occasionally gusting up to 20. I don’t think there can be any complaints about today. I would have liked to have been sailing myself. It’s been a great event. I think the sailors are happy. There won’t be many people not sleeping tonight.”
The next Laser Masters World Championships are to take place in 2011 in San Francisco.
Standard Apprentice: Brett Beyer 1, Stuart Holdsworth 15, Darren Gilbert 24.
Master: Stephen Gunther 14, Andrew Simpson 41.
Grand Master: Jack Schlater 7, Robert Lowndes 11, Michael O'Brien 21.
Laser Radial Apprentice: Steven Harland 7
Master: Christine Bridge 8, Vanessa Dudley 10, Alastair McMichael 15, Greg Kemp 30, David Collecott 45, Elizabeth deegan 48.
Grand Master: Lyndall Patterson 1, Janet Kemp 12, Christopher Meech 17, Ken Hurling 25, Clive Humphris 28.
Great Grand Master: Kerry Waraker 5, Lew Verdon 10, Allan Stuart 19, John Dehlin 23, Geoff Lucas 27, Fran Hillier 30.