Saturday, 18 September 2010

Laser Masters World Championships: Day 5 - Leith Making his own Sunshine

Kiwi in command at the Laser Masters Worlds

Scott Leith (NZL). Image copyright Paul Wyeth/RYA.

by Andi Robertson

With another pair of well won first places today, Aucklander Scott Leith extended his lead in the Radial Apprentice Masters division at the Laser Masters World Championships off Hayling Island, England.

Now counting four wins and a second place from the six races sailed to date, discarding a second, Leith is pleased to be matching the very high standards he set himself since finishing second last year in Halifax, Nova Scotia. He leads his 24 boat fleet by six clear points.

His investment of significant time and resources in a pretty comprehensive training and preparation programme in the lead up to these World Championships is centred on his desire to make sure that he does not finish as title bridesmaid again.

In mainly light, difficult shifting winds, which kept the race management teams busy trying to stay in step with the sometimes radical changes, Leith was the day’s best scorer, the only sailor of the 350 helms in seven fleets to take two winning guns today.

His programme has included sailing five days a week, sometimes training with some of the established and up and coming women’s Laser Olympic talent at home, complemented by a planned strength and conditioning programme, and here he appears to be reaping the consistent dividend that is seeking.

An alumni of the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron’s youth programme run by Harold Bennett, Leith did a 470 Olympic programme in 1976. After a spell sailing big boats in England, although he rode on the back of his father’s Laser as a three year old, he really got in to the Laser when he returned to New Zealand in 2003.

While Leith stayed supremely consistent, in the white hot Laser Standard Masters fleet, which today split into Gold and Silver divisions, Holland’s Arnoud Hummel clings on to a slender one point lead over defending champion Scott Ferguson.

Arnoud Hummel (NED). Image copyright Paul Wyeth/RYA.

The American kept up the pressure today with 1,3, whilst series leader Hummel could still smile, only just, when he returned ashore having sailed his discard, an 11th, in the second race, which slightly perversely came from his best start of the regatta so far.

Such was the shifty nature of racing in the two conflicting breezes out to sea on the Standards course, further out to sea which was perhaps more influenced by weak, late season thermal effect out on the Solent and a cross-offshore gradient.

Hummel leads Ferguson, but the Standard Masters leaderboard ascent of Olympic silver medallist John Bertrand continued today, with a fourth in the first race, and then his first win of the regatta, on the day when it starts to get serious.

He lies third now, but has ten points to close to his compatriot in second. But with a very light forecast for Saturday and predictions of a windy climax Sunday anything can happen.

In the corresponding Masters age-range on the Radial course, Brasilian Joao Ramos scored a first and second to draw closer to Hampshire local Steve Cockerill.

The three times Radials masters world title winner was just one of the many sailors who could not return equally good results. After his third in the first race, Cockerill now has seventh as his current discard, only just missing his target for the day of two top fives but staying two points clear of Ramos whose strength is certainly the light and shifty conditions.

But Cockerill has experience on his side and leads by two points.

Steve Cockerill (GBR). Image copyright Paul Wyeth/RYA.

There was a fearful symmetry to today’s pattern at the top of the Standard Apprentice Masters where the three sailors paired one good result to their discard. After series leading Greek Olympian Adonis Bougiouris was flagged from the course for excessive kinetics, his second offence, Sydney’s five times title winner Brett Beyer was unable to capitalise after winning the first race of the day.

His throwout 12th means both are tied on 11points and the Greco-Australian wrestling match which was won last year by Bourgiouris, continues.

Top scorer in this Apprentice Masters fleet was Skandia Team GBR Laser coach Chris Gowers who posted two second places.

Apprentice is not a prefix usually associated with Gowers – who finished 11th here at the Laser Europeans in 1994 - now lying fifth in class at his second Laser Masters Worlds.

The Standard Grand Masters only got Race 5 of their series away at the fifth attempt but Germany’s defending title holder Wolfgang Gerz made his mark by winning the first race. The fleet which seemed to have most trouble getting away to clean starts today saw Black Flag DSQ’s for both the USA’s Peter Vessella and Sweden’s Peter Sundelin.

Brett Beyer (AUS). Image copyright Paul Wyeth/RYA.

Laser Masters World Championships

Standards standings after 6 races one discard

Grand Masters:
1 Wolfgang Gerz (GER) 10pts,
2 Peter Vessella (USA) 23pts,
3 Peter Sundelin (SWE) 37pts.

1 Arnoud Hummel (NED) 8pts,
2 Scott Ferguson (USA) 9pts,
3 John Bertrand (USA) 19pts.

1 Brett Beyer (AUS) 11pts,
2 Adonis Bourgiouris (GRE) 11pts,
3 Jykri Taiminen (FIN) 19pts

Great Grand Masters:
1 Keith Wilkins (GBR) 11pts,
2 Peter Seidenburg (USA) 23pts,
3 Stam (NED) 24pts.

Grand Masters:
1 Bruce Martinson (AUS) 14pts,
2 Alden Shattuck (USA) 17pts,
3 Lyndall Patterson (AUS) 19pts.

1 Steve Cockerill (GBR) 10pts,
2 Joao Ramos (BRA) 10pts,
3 Hamish Atkinson (NZL) 27pts.

Apprentice Masters:
1 Scott Leith (NZL) 6pts,
2 J-C Leydet (FRA) 12pts,
3 Ian Jones (GBR).

Scott Leith (NZL), overall leader Radial Apprentice Masters:
“It’s all a bit of a ‘bluer’. I can’t remember too much about the day I was concentrating so hard. The first race I was third round the top mark and the French guy had a good lead on me. I just dug deep, stayed calm and tried not to get rattled. I just slowly but surely gained in him downhill and got round the bottom gate just ahead of him. I went round the top mark with a little lead, cleared off downwind and won by about 30 seconds.
“The second one I started at the boat, pin end favoured and banged out to the right, came across to the top mark in second and sailed away, keeping between the mark and the guy behind and won by over a minute. And the French guy didn’t have a good second one, and so a little daylight now.
"It was a day for keeping fast and keeping your head out of the boat and not getting pinged (OCS). I have not got any yellow flags, staying very still in the boat.
“I have sailed my whole life, sailing the back of my dad’s Laser when I was three, went through some two handed boats, Opti’s, Starlings and Lasers, 470 campaign in 1976, to Olympic level at the time of Murray Jones and Jon Bilger, Dave Barnes and Hamish Willcox and spent some time in the New Zealand youth programme under Harold Bennett, at RNZYS after the 1987 America’s Cup in Fremantle and so that was a good training ground.
“I came to the UK from 1997 to 2003 and sailed big boats with Alex Thomson, did two Fastnets on Hugo Boss, went back to NZ in 2003, bought myself a Laser and got better and better over time and put in a serious training programme for this over the last four months, along with the Olympic girls, with the guidance of Andrew Murdoch, and Mark Howard (GBR) the Yachting NZ coach has helped me out a little as well.
"It has been this year because I came second last year and I did not want to come back and finish second again.
"Fitness has been pretty intense: I have sailed five days a week, I go to the gym three days a week, run, cycle and row. And go to the physio twice a week to look after my hip and shoulder, they are falling to bits.
"I structure my work so I can do it at night. I am in business consulting, helping people buy and sell businesses and do finance operations for them and I own a roading construction business. So that helps bring in some money.
"I am really happy with today. I felt solid, a bit more confident and smooth and relaxed in the shoulders.

Laser Masters Worlds at Hayling Island SC, England. Image copyright Paul Wyeth/RYA.

Steve Cockerill (GBR), overall leader Radial Masters:
“ It was a very interesting day. The shifts were quite extreme. On the first beat on our second race we went from almost laying the mark on port, three quarters of the way up the beat, to almost laying the mark on starboard. Which was interesting. I got a two and a seventh.”
“ For me the key today was trying to get two counting results so I have a series. If we do ten there is two discards. If we sail tomorrow, and I think tomorrow could be horrible, I need to say I can count both races today. And if it blows hard on Sunday I just wanted to get two top fives. I rounded the top mark in first in that first one, then was second, and then managed to sail from second to 12th on that run. You were quite capable of doing that. Anything was possible. My brain is scarred by that second race!
"On the first race I was half way up the course and they had decided to change the course and there was an orange mark in RIB going left, then it went right, and finally it was a yellow one! That was a little frustrating.
"Generally speaking the fast track was up on the left but you had to commit on the biggest gust to get to the right. So to not know where the mark was, was taxing.
I won in 2001 in Cork, 2002 in Hyanis and South Korea in 2006. I had a go in the full rig in Cadiz in 2007 and was second.”

Lyndall Patterson (AUS), third in Radial Grand Masters:
“I won the first one and then had a bad one. I think I would rather have two seconds than a first and a feather duster. I got a poor start and made poor options. It was quite light with the breeze flicking about. We had a black flag start and I was very buried, very third row – maybe even fourth row.
"I had a reasonable start in the first race and the breeze settled in to be about eight to 10 knots for half an hour and that was the best of the day, that seemed to suit me.”

Joao Ramos (BRA), second overall Radial Apprentice Masters:
“ I had a first in the first race and a second in the second race. In both races I started and tacked for the right. I think I had a little luck, because the fleet started to fall behind me. The second race was similar. But the second race was much more difficult because the wind was more crazy.
“ In Brasilia on the lake I sail on the wind shifts a lot but not like this. I think it was nice for me today, small waves.
“ I sail on the lake with no waves, typically 6,7,10 knots, not 20.
"I went to Halifax in Canada last year. It was hard. I think the waves there were a little easier than here. I am still second.
“ I have sailed the Laser all together for about eight years, sailing in other classes in the Europe. I did one championship but was not very good, it was very windy.
"But the Laser is a very simple boat. Anyone who sails in another class can get in the boat and sail well. We have about 20 boats on the lake.”

Chris Gowers (GBR), two seconds today, fifth overall Standards Apprentice Masters:
“ It was that kind of day when you go 40-50 yards further and start cursing, and then you gain another 50 metres. I certainly was not the fastest out there, that is for sure. I got two big lucky breaks, on both beats when the left paid hugely. You could see them coming but not 100 per cent. It was an interesting day. It is good fun catching up with all the old timers!”

John Bertrand (USA). Image copyright Paul Wyeth/RYA.

John Bertrand (USA), third overall Masters Laser Standard fleet:
“ It was a good day. The first race was pretty tricky I kind of went up the middle, and it seemed that the left kind of came in and I was more to the right but I was able to on the second beat get right when everyone was going left because of the first beat. I just did not go far enough. Actually that gained me between five and seven boats. I go a yellow flag in the first race which I was a bit surprised a bit and that put me back a bit, so the second beat really made it for me.
"The second race was a nice jump for me out of the start with a bunch of guys, on to port early and we looked really good at first. We looked really good at first, and then get knocked. Then the right started to come good. And so I had a choice to make. I could have gone with them and that what Scott Ferguson did in the first race he went a little bit to the left a little bit and ended up winning. I was thinking do I do it? But earlier I had seen that the breeze on the beach was good, and when it was good it was really good.
"I decided I am just going to keep going right, and let a number of boats pass me, and the guys on the left were winding up a little bit, so I was thinking whatever comes, comes…and finally it came off the beach and we were over the guys on the left, I rounded second or third and got in the lead on the run.
"What I learned today is you can’t be in between the two breezes. But having said that Scott made an early move. So it is hard to know when to cut your losses. I felt like I had to make a commitment and it just worked out.
"It definitely does, but maybe it evens out because I have not had the time on the water. The kid I am coaching in the Finn, I am a little more aggressive in picking a side. He is more up the middle. So in a sense I have learned from him, learning to make it work.
"That is something I used to do when I was younger. When you get into big boats it is so precise. You kind of go to that perfect spot, where the X is on the water. But it is fun.
"I had the greatest start of all but I did not get the shift from the right. I tried to get there but it did not work. I got to the mark in 15 or 20th but it was very hard to fight back for there.”

Scott Ferguson (USA), from San Francisco, second overall Standard Master:
“It was a very pressured sort of day. Being in and finding the pressure was absolutely key upwind and downwind. I did always have great starts but I did manage to stay in the pressure. And that really helped me.”

Laser Masters Worlds