by Craig Heydon
After five days of the Laser World Championships in Boltenhagen, Germany, Australian sailors Tom Slingsby and Tom Burton sit first and third respectively. On Tuesday, the 168 competitors split into gold, silver and bronze fleets with it being the first time that the leading sailors have had the chance to face off against each other at this World Championships.
Slingsby on the start line in Germany
Slingsby took a 20 point lead into the first two final races and had mixed results with a win and a 23rd, with his lead over second placed Tonci Stipanovic of Croatia cut to 12 points. Fellow Australian Tom Burton finished with a second and a sixth to shoot up from his overnight 11th to end the day third overall, eight points behind Stipanovic.
'Today wasn’t such a great with a first and a 23rd,' said Slingsby. 'Both races were extremely shifty with 10-12 knot pressure differences, in my view it was borderline raceable, just because boats could be 50 metres apart and have a wind difference of 10 knots.
'In race one I had a bad start and went up the centre of the course, got a good shift at the end and rounded 11th,' he said. 'On the first downwind I got a bit lucky and had a nice gust which I took up to third and was able to pass the next two boats to win.
'In the final race of the day I had a great start at the pin end, went a bit left and tacked and crossed the fleet,' said Slingsby. 'I played it too conservatively and got passed by boats from both sides. Throughout the race I moved up and down 20 positions at each mark and eventually finished 23rd, ended up with more points than I would have liked on day one of finals.'
While Slingsby still has the overall lead he can’t afford another high score from the final four races as he can only drop one result from the finals series.
'I have a lead on the scoreboard but not in reality, I can’t afford any bad results from here on,' said Slingsby. 'The way I look at it, I scored 24 points today and the Croatian scored four, so my lead is gone. I just have to go out tomorrow and have some low scores.'
Tom Burton raced up the ladder on the first day of gold fleet racing with his second and sixth moving him forward eight positions.
'The first day of gold fleet was very tricky,' said Burton. 'The forecast was for stronger breeze but the wind was still off the land and the breeze had some stronger moments, but was very patchy and would go from five to 15 knots in seconds and then would be gone in a matter of minutes, making it very hard to have a consistent day.
'Both races for me were pretty good, I had some really nice starts and was able to get on the shifts straight away but I also think everyone at the front of the fleet needed some luck so it was good to finish with a second and a sixth.
Following four days of qualifying the competition stepped up a level for the first two gold fleet races.
'The gold fleet today looked a lot tougher,' said Burton. 'Starts were key to be out the front with more room, looking back on the reaches and every boat was nose to tail, it didn’t look like a nice place to be and made it much tougher to make any gains.
'At the end of today I’m feeling pretty good, although I had a good day in qualifying and followed it up with a shocker the next day, so I’m very aware of what can happen tomorrow,' he said. 'Although at the moment things are looking pretty good.'
Ashley Brunning is currently 16th overall after a 32nd and a 22nd with Ryan Palk five places further back in 21st following a 38th and a 33rd.
James Burman is 47th with Matthew Wearn 56th in his first appearance in the gold fleet of a Laser World Championship.
In the silver fleet Jared West had a 34th and a ninth to be 24th overall while Ki-Raphael Sulkowski is 38th in the bronze fleet, ahead of Kade Hauschildt in 55th.
Two days of racing remain at the 2012 Audi Laser World Championships with the champion to be crowned on Thursday 10 May.
Laser World Championships website
Australian Sailing Team website