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GBR sailors at the Laser Masters World Championships at Port Zélande, Netherlands - Overall

by Guy Noble & Kevin Pearson 26 Sep 2019 08:37 PDT 7-14 September 2019

This year the Masters Worlds was held from the 7th to 14th September on the salt water Grevelingen Lake that used to be part of the Rhine estuary but is now controlled at a fairly constant level with massive dykes and sluices.

In fact Marina Port Zélande is situated on the inland lake side of an island approximately in the middle of the Brouwersdam, which is an enormous dam (or dyke) extending 6.5 kilometres and the lake, at 140 square kilometres, is the largest salt water lake in Europe. Being as it is a lake, and quite shallow in places, sailors did not experience the size of waves we would usually expect in a championship held on open seawater.

Standard Fleet Report by Guy Noble

I have now done three World Championships with the Laser Masters fleet so have two other events to compare this one to: 2017 Split Croatia, 2018 Dun Laoghaire Ireland and 2019 Port Zeeland Netherlands. To be perfectly honest this event had some quite serious and fundamental problems although was not a disaster. The two most significant problems were that there were not enough volunteers (we know in the UK how difficult it is to get volunteers) and a venue that was essentially a lake, albeit a large one.

Any criticism has to be prefaced by the observation that the vast majority of the people that make these things successful are volunteers and should be recognised and applauded. With the 2019 event this really was very noticeable. Last year the event was held in Ireland in Dun Laoghaire at the Royal St. George Yacht Club and rumour has it that for every three competitors there was one volunteer (over a hundred volunteers!). This year the event was so bereft of volunteers that the promised two courses, one for the radials the other the standards, were not possible.

It was quickly realised that all the races would have to be done consecutively on one course. Not only did this mean a long day for the offshore race committee but either early or very late starts for the fleets. On two days the standard fleet didn't get ashore until about 7:30 in the evening.

The second problem was location. As soon as the location of the event was announced a sizeable group of competitors expressed dismay. Why was a major World Championships being held in what is essentially a lake? A World Championships should make possible a variety of conditions in order to find the best sailors across the board.

Of course ultimately no one can control the weather and we have to sail in the conditions on any one day. As the majority will probably only do one or two of these big events each year it is really important to get the venue right - getting the venue wrong can easily put people off. During the course of the week I spoke to several people for whom this was their first World Championships and it's important they come back again and compete with us at future events

So what did work? Certainly accommodation was not a problem with Center Parcs providing a range of cottages for those who wished to share, extensive camping areas and a rather brutal car park for competitors with motorhomes. Everyone seemed to be near to the venue and reasonably happy. There were three really good beach restaurants a short walk from the marina that supplied reasonably priced food but astronomically expensive alcohol. The marina itself had what was called the yacht club - not actually a yacht club but a restaurant. This supplied good simple food after each day's racing. The rather strange thing about this place was it would only take cash! Many competitors seemed to be eating at their accommodation, however this meant venturing into what was christened 'the village of the damned', a term referring to the Center Parcs village and supermarket.

Sailing Centre, who were supplying the charter boats and sponsoring the event had a good chandlery on site. There was also a very well equipped chandlers by the marina that would get pretty much anything one needed for the following day.

The race officer did a fantastic job in getting the races off on time considering his team were having to do a minimum 12 starts a day (one day there was nearly double that number because of general recalls). A good number of the starts lines were reasonably square which was difficult to achieve when the wind tended to shift around considerably. For the standard fleet majority of the races were sailed in 7 to 10 kts of wind with very few waves.

The standout performance in the standard fleet has to be Stuart Hudson's fifth in the very tough Masters fleet. For much of the regatta he was lying in third place and considering only Serge Kats (fourth Laser in the 2000 Olympics) and Adonis Bougiouris were ahead of him he had much to be pleased with. Only Brett Bayer (14 times World Masters Champion) and Christoph Marsano managed to overhaul him. In the Grandmaster fleet we have to my knowledge at least four ex-Olympians, three of whom have won gold medals - only one finished in the top ten in the other two just managing the top 20. However many familiar names were in the front of most fleets. Alan Davis led the Brits in this fleet but his 13th out of 55 included a wide range of results reflecting the previously mentioned variable conditions. Alan's fleet was convincingly won by Carlos Martines of Spain.

Unusually GBR (if you don't count Roger O'Gorman IRE) had no representation in the Apprentice Masters - as the song goes "Where have all the young men gone"! Dave Ridley from New Zealand won on count-back from Edaudo Van Vianen from Holland. Peter Sherwin was our most successful Standard rig sailor and, in the Great Grand Masters, he gained a second place cube with three wins but he could not emulate the success rate of winner Wolfgang Gerz of Germany with seven firsts! Mention should also be made of Mike Hicks coming third out of the ten entrants in this category.

This event could have been better but the team on the ground did a fantastic job with the resources they had, for all those that did volunteer and help put on the 2019 Laser Masters world Championships in the Netherlands a very big Thank You.

Standard Results:

Radial Fleet Report by Kevin Pearson

For the competitors, the weather varied from blustery breezes for the practice race and first days racing to racing being abandoned for the radials last race on the Saturday due to there being a lack of a fair wind. In between we encountered medium to light and often shifty winds that could catch even the most experienced out as evidenced by the variety in most competitors' results. These result disparities were particularly noticeable in the bigger fleets. Fortunately the lay day on Wednesday was extremely windy with, on occasion, horizontal rainfall.

For the Brits, our representation was slightly depleted with one or two noticeable absentees from previous events who could have featured highly in the results. Nevertheless we were not completely absent from the podium and with some near misses and some race wins to show for our efforts.

For the Radials, the fleet starts were split into three but this time the Apprentices and the Masters combined to start first. Grand Masters started second and the Great Grand Masters and Legends combined to start third with results calculated out in the same way as before. Again, like in the Standards, only two cubes were won by the Brits in the Radial fleet.

Jon Emmett dominated the ten strong Radial fleet, counting six first places, with Tullock Priest coming a creditable fourth. The other cube was awarded to fifth placed Ian Jones competing in the Radial Masters. You can see how strong the competition was in that fleet of 40 boats when taking into account that Ian's discard was an 11th and the winner, Scott Leith from New Zealand, discarded a black flag and counted a 13th!

UKLA Chairman Rob Cage was the highest placed Brit in the Grand Masters but did not do his cause much good when he had to count his last race second black flag in his results knocking him down to 16th. Finally, as we had no Legend to represent the UK, Kevin Pearson topped the Brits in the Great Grandmasters coming 7th and counting two 1st places in his results.

Altogether there were 23 sailors representing UKLA in a total fleet of 296 Lasers split very nearly equally between Standards and Radials. The regatta organisation, despite the difficulties presented to the race committee of running twelve races back to back each day and coping with unruly sailors causing a considerable number of general recalls and black flag re-starts, was impeccable. Competitors also enjoyed two evenings social gatherings at the Yacht Club were they were able to consume considerable amounts of free alcoholic beverages and plentiful food. It was also pleasing to have confirmed during the event that the Laser was once again to be the men and ladies single hander class for the next Olympics.

Radial Results:

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