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Perfect Oman breeze benefits favourites at 2013 Laser Standard World Championships
British sailor Nick Thompson has never won a major Laser event but today he revelled in the superb breeze at Mussanah Sports City, Oman to get his 2013 Laser Standard World Championships off to a promising start after the opening two races.
Thompson, who missed last year’s world championships when he fell ill with appendicitis, followed up his second in the first race of the day with victory in the second to head the leaderboard overnight with three points, ahead of Sweden’s Jesper Stalhein (5) and Pavlos Kontides of Cyprus (8).
One of 64 sailors racing in the Blue fleet, Thompson had to fend off the challenges posed by a constantly shifting wind which caused long delays and a few minor bumps on the start. They were forced to wait while the Yellow fleet, due to begin ten minutes before them, were recalled when a large number of competitors were seen to be over the line as the gun was fired.
A black flag start subsequently resulted in eight disqualifications but eventually, after a half hour delay while the Race Committee reset the course, they got underway with Julio Alsogaray from Argentina wasting no time in his getting upwind sprint to the first mark off to a rapid start.
The winner of the first race in the Blue fleet was Germany’s Philipp Buhl who has an affinity for breezes that build and today, with racing getting underway at around 11.00am GST, the wind strengthened from eight to around 15 knots in a little over an hour.
In the Yellow fleet, Tonci Stipanovic of Croatia, one of the favourites to win the world title, drew first blood while Tom Burton, number one ranked Laser sailor in the world languished in eighth.
But the Australian fought back in the second race to take his first victory of the regatta while Kontides hit his straps with a second and a sixth in a show of consistency that quickly hoisted him to second place with Burton in fourth on 9 points.
“As first days go, it couldn’t really have gone much better though it would have been nice to have won both races,” said Thompson who has finished on the podium in three previous Laser World Championships but has never held the title.
“These are my kind of conditions - I favour these sort of winds so if I’d come away with anything less, I would have been disappointed. I think the secret to winning on these courses might be to commit to whatever decision you make. It is not one of those venues where you can chase up the middle and niggle away. You have to pick a side and stay with it. I chose the pin end at both starts three minutes before we went off and they were decisions that paid off.”
The conditions, comprising brilliant sunshine with winds that topped out at around 16 knots and seas that started flat but grew choppy two hours into racing, were described by officials on the race boat as perfect and ideal for sailing.
This was a description that eight times Laser World Champion Robert Scheidt agreed with after posting a fourth and fifth to sit in seventh place overnight.
“It has not been an excellent day but a good one,” said the 40 year-old Brazilian sailing star who has returned to the Lasers after nine years in the Star class in order to qualify for the Olympic Games in his home waters of Rio de Janeiro.
“In the second race I lost a bit of speed in the last downwind leg but overall I was quite consistent. You cannot win a regatta on the first day, but you can certainly lose it so overall, it was a pretty good day.”
It was a pretty good day too for the team of Race Officials, comprising mostly Omanis trained by Oman Sail, who were complimented by the sailors for dealing efficiently with the large Laser fleet and tricky conditions.
This is the first time an Omani sailor has competed at a Laser World Championships and although Hussain Al Jabri, the highest ranked sailor in the Sultanate has only been racing Lasers for two years, his opening performances showed plenty of potential.
“The weather was great and the level of competition gives you an immediate feeling that we are competing with the best in the world,” said Al Jabri.
“It also great to see that there are quite a number of other Arab nations here. We had two races, with quite a long race course and I was pleased that I passed my colleagues Ahmed Al Balushi and Ahmed Al Hasni but it’s only the first day. I am aiming only to improve and to finish in the top 50.”
The qualifying races continue on Monday with two scheduled for each day until Wednesday. The finals series starts on Thursday with the last two showdowns set for Saturday.