"It's not over 'til it's over" - Day 4 of the Laser Masters
By Paige Brooks
With the ebb tide going against the 15 to 20 knot westerly wind, the wind and waves are up again, making for great downwind surfing in the Laser Masters Worlds in San Francisco. Thirty sailors, 65 years and older, make up the Great Grand Masters Fleet , started their first race a little later today, in hopes of bigger breezes, which they certainly saw. Great Britain’s Keith Wilkins is in an enviable spot: In eight races, he’s had six firsts, a tenth, which is his dropped race, and a fifth in his last race today. He’s 21 points ahead of James Quinn (NZL) in second place. “My goal,” he said, “is to arrive at each regatta happy, relaxed, and confident.” To achieve his wins he practices meditation and yoga, which keeps him relaxed and focused. Wilkins, a sailing coach and owner of a holistic office in Shropshire, has been in the Laser since he was 29 and won the Masters Worlds a staggering 11 times.
While the surfing was great, the downside of bigger breeze and waves is the higher risk of a capsize, and there were more than a few today. Paul Heineken (StFYC), another Great Grand Master with loads of sailing under his belt, laughs, as he’s lately come be known as the father of Kite Board World Champ, John Heineken. He said while the conditions were fantastic, he capsized in his first race missing a potential third place finish, and then again in his second race. “There were plenty of opportunities today,” Heineken said, “but I didn’t keep the bottom under the top.”
In the Grand Master fleet, the racing started really tight today with American sailors Bill Symes and Bruce Martinson just one point apart. After the first race, they were tied and by the second race Symes edged out over Martinson. “Bill (Symes) is truly fast upwind,” Martinson said, “and he extended on the downwind, which is exactly what he’s supposed to do.” “It’s a virtual tie between Rob (Lowndes, GBR), Bruce and I,” Bill Symes said, “and it’s not over ‘till it’s over. It is nice,” he said, ”to have a day where everything just goes your way.” It certainly did for him, with two wins today among a tight fleet.
Correction from the Day 3 report: Al Clark (CAN) was reported as changing to the radial due to the depth of the standard fleet, but in fact, he is sailing with two broken ribs he sustained in a sailing accident and felt he could better manage the radial in the forecasted San Francisco breeze and current. Clark had a great first race today with a second place finish, putting him back on top yet again.
In the Standard Masters, leader Arnoud Hummel is just three points ahead of Brett Beyer, so the next four races will be key for them and defending champ, Scott Ferguson who is 11 points behind first. Scott Leith (NZL) and Benjamin Richardson (USA) are at the tops of the leader boards in the Radial and Standard Apprentice fleets.
A special thanks to Svendsen’s Marine, Exclusive Onsite Retailer of Laser Parts for the 2011 Laser Masters Worlds.
Racing continues through Saturday and results are posted here: http://www.sflaserworlds.com/page/Laser-Masters-Worlds
Photos from Chuck Lantz at www.chucklantz.com
1st shot is Keith Wilkins in GBR 198913
Great Rides and Close Match Ups in the Laser Masters World
By Paige Brooks
August 12, 2011: San Francisco Bay delivered again today with big wind and waves in the second to last day of the Laser Masters Worlds. Today is the day where he competition hopes to lock in their leads, but it’s proving difficult, which will make for a number of battles for the lead tomorrow.
In the Grand Masters Standard Rig, the leads have been switching daily. Colin Dibb (AUS), and Peter Vessella (USA, StFYC) both have a shot at the trophy tomorrow, just one point apart. In the first race of the day, Dibb, Mark Bethawaite, and Worfgang Gerz were ahead of the pack and Vessella worked his way through the pack to finish in third. In race 2, Dibbs said “We - Peter and I - marked each other really closely, and were overlapped the whole way up.” They never lost touch during the race and on the last beat, “We duked it out,” Dibbs said. “We must have tacked 20 times and kept on fighting till the end.” Dibb ultimately won that duel. Tomorrow’s going to be exciting for them.
The battle for the race officers with the San Francisco Bay current is a daily struggle. In the Laser Masters Worlds, the upwind legs cannot be more than 25 minutes, with the goal of getting approximately 60 minute races. The races are extremely hard work for the sailors, using their quads and core to hold the boat flat (ish) upwind, and then squatting down inside the boat on tip toe downwind to keep it stable. With an ebb tide and 20 knots of breeze, the Race Officers can afford to make long upwind legs, thanks to the dinghy’s ability to surf downwind in sometimes surprisingly short - time wise - legs.
The Standard Masters and Standard Apprentice Masters had an upwind leg today that started near Alcatraz and went upwind with the ebb current to the Golden Gate Bridge. Fleet leader Arnoud Hummel said, “We had the longest beat ever today, and I was hating the race officer, until I finished the downwind leg.” He was beaming. Running downwind from the Golden Gate Bridge to Alcatraz was “the best downwind leg I’ve ever sailed in a Laser,” How long has he been sailing? “Thirty years. It was the best in 30 years, and I thank the Race Officer for doing that.” Hummel said he started deep in his first race and worked his way back to 12th (which in this writers opinion, is pretty incredible) and won his second race by a hair against newcomer to the Masters, Brett Beyer (GBR). They are now tied for first, again making for a showdown tomorrow.
Ben Richardson in the Standard Apprentice Masters continues to hold off his competition with a six point lead over Orlando Gledhill (GBR). Radial Grand Master Bill Symes (USA), now that the second dropped score has come into play, leads his competition by 10 points. Bruce Martinson (AUS) and Bob Lowndes (AUS) are tied for second and followed closely by Peter Heywood (AUS). Great Grand Master Keith Wilkins (GBR) continued his winning streak today with a third and and a first, keeping him 17 points ahead of his competitors. Radial Master Al Clark (CAN) worked hard on the downwind leg in his first race to go from fifth to first, and ends the day three points ahead of Brazilian Carlos Wanderley.
This evening, the tales are being told of the great rides, the capsizes and the tight roundings over adult beverages. Tomorrow, the battle gear goes back on and the racing begins at 1100 for the final day of the Laser Masters Worlds.
Old Guys (and gals) rule! Laser Masters Worlds wrap up
By Paige Brooks
San Francisco Bay’s classic current and wild wind made a final appearance for the conclusion of the 2011 Laser Masters Worlds. Competitors put on their warm gear and hopped on their boats one last time this morning in preparation for the day's races. The week was one of grinding upwind work, epic downwind legs, heartbreak with OCSs and forgotten parts, and lots of on shore camaraderie. The traveling party of Masters sailors and friends ends for this year here in San Francisco with closing ceremonies and a leisurely dinner at the St. Francis Yacht Club. These old guys and gals know how to make the most of a Worlds regatta.
In the Standard Apprentice Masters fleet, it was a not so old guy, 35 year old Benjamin Richardson (USA) who soundly won his class. Richardson trained with several accomplished Masters Worlds Champions, Peter Shope, Scott Ferguson and Brett Beyer in preparation for the racing here, watching the weather forecasts to find the biggest wind days in Marblehead, MA to go sailing. “I was well prepared,” he said. Just behind him, Orlando Gledhill, second, (GBR) and Kevin Taugher, third, (USA) had fantastic finishes, but in all not quite enough. “Orlando and Kevin definitely improved over the course of the regatta,” Richardson said.
In the Radial Apprentice Masters, New Zealander Scott Leith planned to go sailing today, even though he didn’t have to. Leith, who travelled here with a 16 -strong contingent from NZL, had an impressive 11 points going into the day. “I put too much into this regatta to leave without sailing the last day, and I’m not that good of a sight-seer,” Leith said. After a hip replacement in March, Leith has been slowly working his hip’s flexibility in order to get to this regatta. He said he still feels the aches from a 30 tack beat up the City Front on his first race of the regatta. But it evidently didn't hold him back. In a tight battle for second and third, Ian Gregory (GBR), Edmund Tam, another Kiwi, and Joe Burcar were all within four points of each other in advance of the final race, ultimately Tam and Gregory finished the week in second and third. Buff Wendt (USA) was the top female finisher.
Another competitor, Keith Wilkens, also had a great enough point spread between himself and the second place in the Great Grand Masters Radial fleet. In his case he decided to put his boat away and watch the racing from shore as a now five time world champion. Peter Seidenberg (USA ) finished in second with two bullets today, and James Quinn (NZL) finished in third.
Colin Dibb (AUS) locked in his win today in the Standard Grand Masters against Peter Vessella (USA) who was just one point behind him. “We battled it out both races,” Dibb said. “I managed to get the Dominican (Jorge Abreu) between us in the first race, and Lars (Hanson, USA) between us in the second, just to give me a few extra points. It was just a great day!” Dibb said with one of his ear to ear smiles. Vessella finished in second, and Malcolm Courts (GBR) in third.
Bill Symes finished his regatta in the Radial Grand Masters with two more bullets. “I won the last six races...I got on a roll and couldn’t seem to do anything wrong.” Still it didn’t come easy for him, “you had to be on your toes changing gears all the time.” With the sometimes flukey wind and big puffs, it required finesse to get to the top mark. Bruce Martinson (USA) and Bob Lowndes (AUS) finished second and third, respectively, after going into the day tied in points.
Canadian Al Clark, sailing in the Radial Masters, had to hold his top position today in the fleet and that he did. Starting the day three points ahead of Brazilian Carlos Wanderly, Clark was able to lead at the top mark and win the first race. Clark said he didn’t see the Brazilian and was “sailing with a different group of guys behind me so I could relax a little.” Wanderly did not have a good race compared to the rest of his week, finishing in 22nd, thus sealing second place for his regatta. Marcelo Fuchs (BRA) finished third overall. Diane Sissingh (AUS) won the women’s division in the Radial Master’s Fleet.
The Standard Masters, the deepest and largest fleet in the regatta proved to be a nail biter to the very end. Arnoud Hummel (NED) will leave the regatta as the winner, but it wasn’t without a fight. Going into the day, Brett Beyer (AUS) and he were tied for first and they never left contact with each other for either race today. “I had a bit better start, he’s a bit faster upwind and I’m faster downwind, so it all works out to be pretty close.” Hummel said. "At the leeward mark, I pushed him up causing him to have to gybe twice which gave me that first race.” Hummel then had no choice but to sail the last race, lest Beyer win it and then in a tie breaker, win the regatta. So in the second race, “I had to beat him, and I did, but just by a very little bit.” Scott Ferguson held his third place position with a sixth and seventh in the last two races.
“San Francisco has been exactly what they promised us last year: Big wind, steep waves, and challenging current,” Arnoud said. And he, along with all of the other winners here, leaves a world champion.
Final results are here: http://www.sflaserworlds.com/page/Laser-Masters-Worlds
Photos by Paige Brooks
More photos of the day from Chuck Lantz www.chucklantz.com and Chris Ray www.crayivp.com are available online.