Laser Masters Worlds sailors rock into Terrigal

Lock up your grandmothers, mothers and daughters – the Laser Masters World’s sailors have come to town - and although the locals may have been impressed by the 160 boats that sailed in the Laser World Championship at Terrigal this past week, they won’t know what has hit them when the 367 sailors in the Masters event take to the water tomorrow for the 12 race series.

Sailors from around the globe have once more converged on The Haven at the Terrigal Trojan Rugby Club; the Club’s oval again being used to house a Laser fleet in what competitors are referring to as ‘the real World’s’!

Apart from Australia; Canada, Dominican Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Ireland, Japan, New Zealand, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, United Kingdom, USA and Zimbabwe are represented.

The fleet is broken into Laser Standard; Apprentice (35 years plus), Master (45 plus) and Grand Master (55 plus). Laser Radial; Apprentice (35 plus), Master (45 plus), Grand Master (55 plus) and Great Grand Master (65 plus). The Standard Master makes up the most entries with 102, so will obviously be the most competitive.

Amongst the newcomers is Radial Master competitor Sally Gordon (AUS), a yachtswoman who picked up Laser sailing six months ago. Gordon has 14 Sydney-Hobart races with an overall win under her belt, but weighing in at under 60 kilos, she is likely to find sailing at her first world championship tiring.

“My parents live at Avoca and they’ll be sitting at the Skillion (overlooking the course area) every day watching me. “I’m really looking forward to it, as are all of us from Double Bay. We came up here in convoy and have been training in the lead-up to the World’s,” she said.

Matthias Bruehl (GER) is back for another go after his Apprentice Radial fourth place finish at last year’s World’s. “I’ve done two Masters World’s. I finished better than I expected last year,” said Bruehl continuing “This is my first time here. It will be interesting – the high waves and swell. I’m more used to light conditions.”

New Zealander Ian Wallace is a newcomer to the Masters World’s. “I simply haven’t the time. I sail three to four times a week at home in Auckland; I do all of the competitions there. We regularly go out in 20-25 knots plus and we tend to get a lot of high winds. We’re not used to the big swell though,” the Standard Grand Master entrant said.

“The venue looks very nice and it is a very well organised regatta. I am absolutely looking forward to these Championships. There’s quite a lot of people from Auckland sailing here and around 55 from New Zealand in total. I’ll get some revenge from the National’s we had in January,” laughed Wallace.

Urban Hagelin (ESP) is here after competing in Spain last year. “I ended up ninth in the Apprentice Radial. I’ve never sailed in Australia before. It’s been a long time since I sailed in waves like they have here in Terrigal. It will be interesting, especially downwind; I think you could make big gains there – or big losses. We will see,” Hagelin commented.

“I’m originally from Sweden, so I sailed in these sorts of conditions there, but I’ve lived in Spain for a while now, so I will have to get used to them all over again,” he said.

Martin Lodge, an Englishman living in and representing Hong Kong is having his first Australian competition. “I sailed the World’s in Spain last year and in Korea in 2006. We don’t get very strong winds or big waves in Hong Kong.

“It’s a bit of a learning curve here. I went out yesterday and today to loosen up a bit. I watched Brett Beyer (the winner) last year – at a distance,” Lodge laughed. “That’s one of the best parts of the World’s – the level of competition and watching the good guys and learning from them. I’m learning all the time.

“I wasn’t happy with my settings yesterday and Brett helped set me up. I’m really looking forward to the racing, but a few of us will struggle if it gets to the 20-25 knot range,” lamented Lodge.

Reigning champion Beyer (AUS) heads the line up in the Standard Apprentice fleet after dominating with an unsurpassed record five World’s wins; the last four in succession.

A supremely fit Laser Olympic coach, Beyer spends much time training offshore “it suits me,” he says. He will be right at home in the tough conditions with big swell and waves Terrigal is renowned for.

Of the 20 women entered in the Radials, six-time Women’s Radial Masters world champion (’99, ’03, ’04, ’05, ’06 and ‘07) Lyndall Patterson (AUS) is the standout. Competing against her is second placegetter from 2007 Jan Kemp (AUS) and 2006 Women’s Radial Apprentice winner, Christine Bridge (AUS) who moves into the Masters category this year.

Recently returned to Laser sailing after a 20 plus year absence, Vanessa Dudley (AUS), better known these days as an offshore helmswoman, joins the three. The Australian Sailing editor put in good practice time at the Sydney International Regatta in December and at Sail Melbourne in January. Many will have read her recently added amusing column about her return to the class.

On paper, Greg Adams (AUS), the reigning champion and 2006 Radial Master winner is the one to beat. The Queenslander puts in plenty of practice time and was an early arrival at this event, out practicing to get things just right during the coming week.

Renowned skiff and sports boat sailor Peter Sorensen (AUS) has signed on. A winner of IRC yacht Division 2 at Skandia Geelong Week in January, ‘Sorro’ is entered in the Radial Great Grand Master division. He will go head to head with 2006 world champion Kerry Waraker (AUS) who was defeated for the title by Peter Seidenberg (USA) last year. The American is in Terrigal to defend his title.

Tracy Usher (USA), the Standard Master 2006 runner up is competing here at Terrigal, hopeful of bettering his seventh place last year, and countryman and 2006 bronze finisher Mark Bear will compete too. They will be joined by the 1979 Laser World’s runner-up Peter Conde, the first Australian to make it to a podium finish in the class.

Olympian and four-time Standard Grand Master world’s winner (’03, ’04, ’05, 07) Mark Bethwaite (AUS) will defend his title against the 1997 and 2006 winner Doug Peckover (USA) and second placed Michael Nissen (GER) .

Peter Heywood (AUS) is here to defend his Radial Grand Masters crown and 2007 Standard Grand Master fourth placegetter, Jack Schlachter (AUS), is back for another try.

Other ‘Aussies in the mix include Radial Apprentice Sean Kirkjian (AUS) a yachting, keelboat and Laser Radial champion. Holder of Radial titles during the 1990’s, Kirkjian wants to better his previous best Worlds fourth finish. Yachtsman of note, Jan ‘Clogs’ Scholten, recently seen getting in valued practice at Sail Melbourne, is in the Standard Masters along with Mark ‘Freddy’ Phillips, Larry Kliest and Simon Grosser, all from Australia.

Rob Lowndes, the Laser World’s chairman is also entered, having finished seventh in the Standard Grand Masters at Spain’s 2007 World’s last September. He is aiming for a top five finish this time and will face-off against fellow committee member Colin Cain.

From the international group, watch out for the top performers from last year’s event: Orlando Gledhill (GBR), second in the Apprentice Standard, second Women’s Apprentice Yvonne Malmsten (SWE), sixth and seventh placed asters Standard Nick Harrison (GBR) and second, third, fourth and seventh in the Masters Radial respectively, Robert Cage (GBR), Martin Baltscheffsky (FIN), John Reay (GBR) and Bruce Martinson (USA).

Others to look for are second Grand Masters Radial Peter Whipp (GBR), fourth placed Ian Rawet (GBR), sixth placed Poopy Marcon (FRA) and the oldest competitor in the just finished Laser World’s, 46 year-old Patrick McCosh (ZIM) in the Standard Masters.

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