by Paige Brooks
Laser Masters World Championship, held at St. Francis Yacht Club, San Francisco started on 6th August and finished on 13th August. San Francisco Bay’s trademark current and wild wind made a final appearance for the conclusion of the event.
Laser Masters Worlds 2011
Competitors put on their warm gear and hopped into their boats one last time Saturday morning in preparation for the day's races. The week was one of grinding upwind work, epic downwind legs, heartbreak with OCSs and forgotten parts, and lots of camaraderie on shore. The travelling party of Masters sailors and friends ends (for this year) here in San Francisco with closing ceremonies and a leisurely dinner at the St. Francis Yacht Club. These old guys and gals know how to make the most of a Worlds regatta.
In the Standard Apprentice Masters fleet, it was not an old guy, but 35 year old Benjamin Richardson (USA) who soundly won his class. Richardson trained with several accomplished Masters Worlds Champions, Peter Shope, Scott Ferguson and Brett Beyer in preparation for the racing here, watching the weather forecasts to find the biggest wind days in Marblehead, MA to go sailing. 'I was well prepared,' he said. Just behind him, Orlando Gledhill, second, (GBR) and Kevin Taugher, third, (USA) had fantastic finishes, but in all not quite enough. 'Orlando and Kevin definitely improved over the course of the regatta,' Richardson said.
In the Radial Apprentice Masters, New Zealander Scott Leith planned to go sailing on the final day, even though he didn’t have to. Leith, who travelled here with a 16-strong contingent from NZL, had an impressive 11 points going into the day. 'I put too much into this regatta to leave without sailing the last day, and I’m not that good of a sight-seer,' Leith said. After a hip replacement in March, Leith has been slowly working to improve his flexibility in order to get to this regatta. He said he still feels the aches from a 30 tack beat up the City Front on his first race of the regatta. But it evidently didn't hold him back. In a tight battle for second and third, Ian Gregory (GBR), Edmund Tam, another Kiwi, and Joe Burcar were all within four points of each other in advance of the final race, ultimately Tam and Gregory finished the week in second and third. Buff Wendt (USA) was the top female finisher.
Another competitor, Keith Wilkens, also had a great enough point spread between himself and the second place in the Great Grand Masters Radial fleet. In his case, he decided to put his boat away and watch the racing from shore as a now five time world champion. Peter Seidenberg (USA) finished in second with two bullets today, and James Quinn (NZL) finished in third.
Colin Dibb (AUS) locked in his win in the Standard Grand Masters against Peter Vessella (USA) who was just one point behind him. 'We battled it out both races,' Dibb said. 'I managed to get the Dominican (Jorge Abreu) between us in the first race, and Lars (Hanson, USA) between us in the second, just to give me a few extra points. It was just a great day!' Dibb said with one of his ear to ear smiles. Vessella finished in second and Malcolm Courts (GBR) in third.
Bill Symes finished his regatta in the Radial Grand Masters with two more bullets. 'I won the last six races...I got on a roll and couldn’t seem to do anything wrong.' Still it didn’t come easy for him, 'you had to be on your toes changing gears all the time.' With the sometimes fluky wind and big puffs, it required finesse to get to the top mark. Bruce Martinson (USA) and Rob Lowndes (AUS) finished second and third, respectively, after going into the day tied in points.
Canadian Al Clark, sailing in the Radial Masters, had to hold his top position in the fleet and that he did. Starting the day three points ahead of Brazilian Carlos Wanderly, Clark was able to lead at the top mark and win the first race. Clark said he didn’t see the Brazilian and was 'sailing with a different group of guys behind me so I could relax a little.' Wanderly did not have a good race compared to the rest of his week, finishing in 22nd, thus sealing second place for his regatta. Marcelo Fuchs (BRA) finished third overall. Diane Sissingh (AUS) won the women’s division in the Radial Master’s Fleet.
The Standard Masters, the deepest and largest fleet in the regatta proved to be a nail biter to the very end. Arnoud Hummel (NED) will leave the regatta as the winner, but it wasn’t without a fight. Going into the day, Brett Beyer (AUS) and he were tied for first and they never left contact with each other for either race. 'I had a bit better start, he’s a bit faster upwind and I’m faster downwind, so it all works out to be pretty close.' Hummel said. 'At the leeward mark, I pushed him up causing him to have to gybe twice which gave me that first race.' Hummel then had no choice but to sail the last race, lest Beyer win it and then in a tie breaker, win the regatta. So in the second race, 'I had to beat him, and I did, but just by a very little bit.' Scott Ferguson held his third place position with a sixth and seventh in the last two races.
'San Francisco has been exactly what they promised us last year: Big wind, steep waves, and challenging current,' Arnoud said. And he, along with all of the other winners here, leaves a world champion.