At the Laser Master World Championships, Vanessa Dudley is one of only eight women competing in Oman, yet her performance in the Radial Grand Master fleet could create one of the biggest upsets of the regatta.
Dudley, a talented amateur sailor from Sydney Australia, is engaged in a fascinating duel with American Bruce Martinson. Before yesterday, she was lying two points behind him with the rest of the fleet some ten points adrift and waiting, like everyone else, to see who emerges as 2013 champion.
But over the course of two races yesterday, she overhauled the American beating him in both and went top of her fleet to lead by three points. She is without an outright win but her consistency in posting seven podium places in eight races looks set to reward her with a career best result.
If Dudley, 55, can continue her inspiring form – and hold her nerve - to earn an overall victory, it will not be the first time Martinson, a dentist who sails out of the Minnetonka Yacht Club in Minnesota, will have been ‘chicked’ as male sailors describe the business of being beaten by a woman.
Twice before at the Laser Masters in 2004 and 2010, he was beaten by a woman. Lyndall Patterson, also from Australia is not competing in Oman but is known as a formidable competitor who understands how things work on an open race course. When a guy looks up and sees a red triangle (female sailor) on the sail, they work twice as hard, she once said.
Dudley has her work cut out to stay ahead of Martinson but a win would be regarded as a brilliant feather in the cap for women’s sailing and a real inspiration for other women looking to participate, not just in the Laser Masters but at any level of competition.
'There is no reason why women shouldn’t compete equally and I reckon we will see more women competing in the future,' she said.
'When I first started sailing in Australia at the age of nine, there were hardly any women but now there are a lot, not just in the Olympic classes but in the bigger boats too. I will be doing my 17th Sydney Hobart race this year and there will be women on around 40% of all the boats.'
Dudley, 55, has been impressed by the women’s sailing programme launched in 2011 by Oman Sail and sees no reason why the programme shouldn’t flourish when there are so many facilities and opportunities throughout the Sultanate.
'I've read about Oman Sail's women’s programme and it sounds really interesting,' she said.
(10th October 2011) Oman, Muscat - The launch of the Oman Sail 'Womens Sailing Program'. Head of Media and marketing Salma Al Hashmi presents the 30 women with their certificate - Oman Sail
'They've had some really good local women involved here at the regatta and it is great to see them getting involved in the sport.'
'It is difficult to work sailing around an education but it is a sport that offers a lot if you want make that choice. I have travelled to some amazing places and met some great people through sailing. I don’t normally win anything, am more used to coming second or third but I still love it.
'I never thought I’d be sailing in Oman, that’s for sure. It has become a really popular tourist destination for Australians – in the top six I think – because people are interested in the Arabian culture. So it is really good to come here and experience it.'
There was a change in the leaderboard in the Radial Apprentice and Standard Master classes too with British sailor Jon Emmett, who coached Xu Lijia to a Laser Radial gold medal at the London 2012 Olympic Games, hitting his straps to leapfrog Edmund Tam of New Zealand in the Apprentices.
Emmett, who has never won a Laser Master Worlds before made a slow start to the regatta since he omitted to wear a hat on Sunday, the first day of racing, and suffered heat stroke which he admits was extremely foolish.
The sun was even hotter today but after a lengthy postponement while the sailors waited for the sea breeze to fill in, race management were able to complete two races with the wind reaching 11 knots at one stage.
Dutchman Arnoud Hummel surrendered his lead in the Standard Masters to Canadian Al Clark who is acclimatizing to the light airs after a tricky start.
Australians Greg Adams and Mark Bethwaite continue to dominate their fleets with Adams now with a resounding 11 point lead in the Standard Grand Masters and Bethwaite nine points ahead of Robert Blakey of New Zealand in the Standard Great Grand Masters.
Racing continues on Friday at 12.00pm with two races scheduled.
by Daphne Morgan Barnicoat
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4:38 PM Thu 5 Dec 2013GMT
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