At the Laser Masters World Championships, the idea that sailing without a hat under a blistering hot sun was harmless, left Jon Emmett sick and languishing deep in the Radial Apprentice fleet, but with one day’s racing to go, he is on the brink of an overall victory after a remarkable recovery.
The 36 year-old British sailor, who coached Chinese Laser Radial sailor Xu Lijia to a gold medal at the London 2012 Olympic Games, decided to forego a hat on the opening day of the regatta having spent three days training in Mussanah prior to the start without dropping a bead of sweat.
Then he was struck down by heat stroke.
It forced him out of the day’s second race when he left the race course to seek treatment and although he returned on Monday, his eighth place in a fleet of 11 suggested all was still not well.
'The silly thing was it was all avoidable - didn’t do the things I should have done and learned the hard way,' he said.'I sailed three or four days here before the regatta and had no problems but you only need to go slightly over the edge and you pay the price.'
Drinking enough water and taking plenty of rest restored his energy levels which effectively turned the fleet on its head with Edmund Tam from New Zealand and Brazil’s Fabio Suyama Ramos suddenly facing a super strong challenge from the resurgent Emmett.
He has been on a roll ever since, with seven podium places from seven races including three outright wins which has put him at the top of the leaderboard with a seven point lead over Ramos. If he wins, it will be his first ever victory in a Laser Master World Championships.
Being coach to the 26 year-old ‘Lilly’ as he calls the Chinese sailing star has reinforced his belief that Olympic medals are won not just by talent alone but with a level of commitment and hard work that extends beyond most people’s understanding.
'All the top sailors are talented but one of the reasons Lilly is so successful is that she is such a hard worker. The sacrifices for Olympic sailors are huge – unless you’ve campaigned an Olympics, it is difficult to understand just how big a commitment they are.
'There is no such thing as overnight success – you are probably talking at least eight years of relentless training and racing before you can think about a medal.
Oman Sail Youth Program - © Lloyd Images
Emmett had a word of advice to the youngsters who are setting out on Oman’s Olympic journey as members of Oman Sail’s Youth Programme.
'The key thing for me when I’m looking at youth sailing is character,' he said.
'If there is enough time, most people can reach the required fitness levels but among the elite sailors, there is something else, an extra ingredient they all share and it is this ingredient that dictates how far they can go.'
Emmett’s fight for honours continues today to make sure of victory but with a day to spare, three fleets have already been decided and three champions crowned.
Vanessa Dudley from Australia has had her best Laser Masters ever and her second place in the final race yesterday ensured that she could not be beaten in the Radial Grand Master fleet.
'I am so excited because I had no expectations coming into this regatta,' she said.
'My downwind speeds have been good and they have got me out of some scrapes on a few occasions and I have managed to stay consistent all throughout the week so I am really pleased.'
Scott Leith from New Zealand also sealed his win in the Standard Apprentice class after an outstanding week where he finished on the podium in every single race. This is his first year racing with a full rig and to win with a day to spare was something he set out to achieve at the start of the week.
British sailor Ian Jones has proved even more dominant in the Radial Master fleet recording six straight wins in ten races and he too cannot be beaten. Jones, Leith and Dudley will all receive their awards tonight at a special prize giving ceremony at the Mussanah Sports City.
A late but strong wind shift towards the end of the day meant three races had to be scrapped leaving three fleets scheduled for three races on the final day but Aussie veteran Mark Bethwaite is favourite to take the crown in the Standard Great Grand Masters while his American colleague in the Radial Great Grand Masters Peter Seidenberg should add another trophy to his burgeoning World Championships cabinet.
Another Australian Greg Adams is hoping he has done enough to win his first Standard Grand Masters title but the battle between Al Clark from Canada and Dutchman Arnoud Hummel looks set to go down to the wire with Clark starting the day with a tantalisingly slim one point advantage.
The final day’s racing starts on Saturday at 12.00pm with two races scheduled.
by Daphne Morgan Barnicoat
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7:00 PM Fri 6 Dec 2013GMT
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