by Di Pearson
The weather bureau has predicted big winds and seas for the early stages of the 2008 Olympic class Laser World Championship that starts off The Haven at Terrigal on the NSW Central Coast on Wednesday.
Tom Slingsby (AUS) Slingsby has already been selected to the Australian Sailing Team for the Beijing Games.
One hundred and sixty sailors representing 56 nations will face the starter's gun in a Practice Race at 2.30pm on Wednesday before the real deal starts on Thursday with racing set to commence at 1.00pm each day.
Forecasters say to expect up to 25 knots of north-easterly winds tomorrow, when many competitors will be out practicing on the offshore courses. Competitors can expect a southerly change on Wednesday morning of up to 25 knots throughout the day on a four metre swell, which will favour the heavier sailors who enjoy surfing down waves in offshore conditions.
A south-easterly change has been forecast for Thursday in the 15-25 knot range, while Friday is predicted to be a south-westerly of 20-25 knots. In other words, no let up for competitors. Rain is expected all week too, until Sunday when the sun is supposed to shine for the first time.
The Central Coast is well represented, with recently turned 23 year-old Tom Slingsby, the reigning world champion. Slingsby has already been selected to the Australian Sailing Team for the Beijing Games.
He comes to the worlds having won the Australian Laser Championship and finishing second to Great Britain's best, Paul Goodison, at the Asia Pacific Series, both Sail Melbourne events.
Laser - Paul Goodison (GBR)
Goodison is expected to be Slingsby's greatest rival here, but in such a tough class, there are others to be wary of, including Michael Leigh (CAN) who beat him at the Sydney International Regatta in December.
For 26 nations there is more than the Championship to worry about. Only 10 Olympic places remain, with 26 countries fighting for them. These Laser Worlds are their final opportunity.
Then there are cases such as that of Michael Leigh. Although Canada has qualified, Leigh has to fight it out with a few others from Canada for the one Olympic place - and the competition is tough. Bernard Luttmar is perhaps Leigh's most dangerous opponent.
Michael Leigh (CAN) Laser Gold
'This is the toughest class because of the in-depth quality of sailors. For some of those attempting to qualify, they will have the added challenge of hitting targets set by their countries.
The fact that there are 56 nations here in Terrigal makes it a bigger mountain to climb,' said Jeff Martin, the Executive Secretary of the International Laser Association.
Rajesh Choudhary is one such sailor. Not only is he trying to qualify his nation, Choudhary will compete against fellow countryman Ajay Rau for the one prized Olympic place, provided he finishes well enough to qualify India!
'I made the Gold (top) fleet at the Laser Nationals at Sail Melbourne and I feel confident I can make the Gold fleet here and qualify. I have been in Australia one month now at regattas and training. I have trained hard, because it is so important to make the Olympic team,' Choudhary said.
'I saw the weather forecast for the next few days. I will have to change my technique, as I am used to sailing in lighter winds - I struggle a bit in big winds, but later in the Championship it looks like it will be light, so that is good,' he said.
Patrick McCosh from Zimbabwe is in a similar situation. 'I am the only one from my country here, but it's hard to tell if I will make qualification or not. I don't know a lot about the other guys trying to qualify, so I'll just have to go out and sail my best,' he said.
'I'll know more in four days time - ask me then,' said McCosh, referring to sussing out the competition during the early days of the Championship.
'I won the bronze medal at the All-African Games, so that gives me some hope. But I go better in light winds; that's what we get at home - and that coupled with the competition, will decide whether I qualify my country or not,' he added.
For all information on the Gosford Sailing Club hosted Laser World’s, including mark roundings, photos and more on the Laser World Championship go to: http:⁄⁄aus08.laserinternational.org/