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Tasar World Championship in Gamagori

by Jenny Sorensen on 18 Aug 2017
The fleet in picturesque surroundings in Gamagori Japan – Tasar World Championship Junichi Hirai/ Bulkhead magazine
What a week it was for sailors at their recent 21st Tasar World Championship, held in Gamagori, three hours south of Tokyo, Japan.

More often than not, there was a call by the helm for `more vang, more cunningham, more jib tension!!’ as the 97 boat fleet reacted to freshening winds and heightening waves making for exhilarating upwind planing and fast screaming reaches. In amongst it all was the occasional `man overboard’ and capsize, as well as broken halyards, rudderboxes, and even a snapped boom!!

The five race day event saw the outstanding North American crew from Seattle YC, former gold and bronze medal Olympians in the Flying Dutchman and 49’er Classes, Jonathan and Libby Johnson McKee, take out their fourth World Tasar Title! Behind them was `defending World Title holder’ Australia’s Chris Dance sailing with past National Junior Helms champion Jeremy Elmslie, then two times ex-Worlds Champions, `Australian father and daughter team of 20 years’ Rob and Nicole Douglass in third.

As Libby said after the first race day of three races and five hours on the water, it was one of their toughest days she’d ever experienced in a Tasar Regatta. The long lengths of each leg, the intensity of the breezes, the duration of each race (leaders finishing in 60 mins), set the norm for the first three days of nine races, testing not only sailing abilities but endurance. Together with exhaustion, swollen hands, and impressive hiking bruises, came big smiles and endless stories, all discussed over festive Japanese food platters and beverages during each day’s Post Race Presentation and Happy Hour.

With the gradient winds dissipating later in the week, day four with races 10 and 11, was sailed in softer breezes, enhancing opportunities for the `lighter’ Japanese crews to excel. Finishing fifth overall, with two `heat wins’ were Hiroshi Takahashi and Hiroyuki Sugiura. Japan’s `Sailfast’ team Hiroaki Sato and Yasuaki Muragishi also achieved many top 10 heat wins to finish 10th.

With just Heat 12 to be raced on day five, and leaders Jonathan and Libby clearly securing their first place on the podium, there was a mere two points separating second and third, and 14 points separating fourth to ninth. Consequently, chances were high for positions to change in this leading group comprised of two American and five Australian boat teams plus Japan’s `Hiro crew’ above. It was not to happen however, as the race was abandoned due to insufficient breeze and subsequently the Series was concluded based on overall results from day four.

The Awards Presentation `Party’ that evening recognised all age category and divisional winners, from junior to super grandmaster (ranging from eight to 79 year olds), to ladies helm (Australia’s current Fireballs National Champion Heather Macfarlane, eighth overall), and the final top six boats which included Australian Navy’s 1986 Tasar World Champion Rick Longbottom sailing with Darryl Bentley in fourth, and multi Australian Nationals champion Craig McPhee sailing with Gill Berry in sixth. Two highly acclaimed Nth American teams secured the balance of the top 10 positions, being US Multi Nationals Champions Michael Karas and Molly Jackson seventh, and 1992’s World Title holders Jay and Lisa Renehan in ninth.

Traditionally Tasars have honoured their `older sailors’ with perpetual trophies for combined age categories for over 80-Masters, over 100-Grand Masters and over 120-Super Grand Masters. This year was no exception! In fact the competition was so high that to win the Masters or Grand Masters trophies you had to finish in the top three overall.

Awards went to:

First - Rob/Nicole Douglass
Second - Rick Longbottom/Darryl Bentley
Third - Hiroaki Sato/Yasuaki Muragishi

Grand Masters:

First - Jonathan/ Libby Johnson McKee
Second - Craig McPhee/Gill Berry
Third - Heather Macfarlane/Chris Payne

Super Grand Masters:

First - Kym Widdows/Melissa Crawford
Second - Ken/CJ Waller
Third - Takumi Ozawa/Kenji Okamoto

This Regatta was Japan’s third hosted Tasar World Championship, which brought together not only 97 representative crews from five different countries, but also five former Tasar World Champions. In addition, the Event attracted many ex Olympic, World and National Title holders in other Classes, a list suggestive of the popularity Tasars are experiencing around the World! Sporting their credentials in Australia’s 33 boat representative fleet, were Women’s former Laser Radial World Champion and twice Women’s Hobie European and World Champion, Krystal Weir (15th), National multi-class Champion plus ex-World’s Open Laser Radial runner up, James Burman (11th) and ex multi 29’er Nationals Champion James Sly (12th).

So, a brilliantly hosted Regatta, from offshore race officiating and media footage, to fantastic traditional Japanese food, refreshments and entertainment. How lucky it was that Typhoon Noru held off on the coast of southern Japan, only to strike Gamagori with heavy rain and gale force winds the morning after Presentation. `Origatou gozaimasu’ Japan and wishing the organisers of Gamagori’s forthcoming 2018 World Cup Series and 2021 World Masters Games, great success!

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