At the Laser Master World Championships, competitive urges sharpened by a full blown Olympic campaign are proving to be a blessing and a curse for two former Olympians competing in Oman.
For 65 year-old Australian Mark Bethwaite, the Flying Dutchman sailor who finished eighth at the Munich Olympic Games in 1972 and ninth at Montreal four years later, some Olympic honed impulses, translating into five wins from six races, are keeping him at the front of the Laser Standard Great Grand Master fleet. And pretty happy he is about that too.
Wolfgang Gerz (pictured above), the 61 year-old German who campaigned a Finn at the 1982 Los Angeles Olympics to fifth place is having a less happy time of it, lying in fourth place overall and still without a win.
Having retained a level of competitiveness that saw him work his way into contention for an Olympic medal, being off the podium does not sit well with the former Finn World and two times Laser Masters champion. He is being beaten fair and square by new kid on the Standard Grand Master block Greg Adams from Australia.
‘I was well prepared because I came to Oman in March for Mussanah Race Week so I knew what to expect but I just don’t have the capacity to go fast upwind compared to Greg and I’m not getting the shifts right.
‘I am not sailing well enough. I am up there but am making mistakes like all the others except for Greg. This is the first time I’ve raced against him because previously he’s been in the Radials and has just moved into the Grand master age group but he is sailing well.’
Back home in Munich, Gerz he is a doctor who was the first in Europe to use muscle strength testing to diagnose ailments using Applied Kinesiology. He first learned about the technique when he was being treated during the Los Angeles Olympics and is now Germany’s leading authority in the field.
But he doesn’t let his work interfere with his Laser racing and he is a regular at the Laser Masters Worlds and the Europeans and having enjoyed 2013 Mussanah Race Week in March where he finished 28th in a fleet of national Laser champions and Olympics medallists, he is set to return in 2014.
‘I came in March because it was cold in Europe and we could charter the boats for free. It was my first time in Oman and I loved it. All the people are friendly and relatively open to western lifestyles. Now people know about it, they will come back.
‘This venue at Mussanah Sports City is perfect. The race office is perfect, the organization on the water couldn’t be better and the wind is the wind.’
The wind was the wind all day – up to around 10 knots – as the Laser Masters reached its half way stage with potential winners already surfacing in some fleets and battles intensifying in others ahead of a lay day on Wednesday.
Bruce Martinson of the USA has one of Australia’s top woman sailors Vanessa Dudley snapping at his heels in the Radial Grand Master fleet with both showing a superb consistency in the light airs. Dudley took two second places while Martinson posted a third and a win to top the leaderboard with a two point advantage over Dudley to set up an exciting climax to the week.
Dutchman Arnoud Hummel and Al Clark from Canada have locked horns in the Standard Masters with four points separating the top two and the same margin is keeping the Standard Apprentices on their toes with Kiwi Scott Leith and Niklas Edler from Sweden engaged in some fearsome battles.
One of the oldest competitors at the regatta Peter Seidenberg from USA had a bad day by his standards with a fifth and an 11th while British rivals Michael Kinnear and Keith Wilkins look set to crank up the pressure after improved performances today.
Another Brit Ian Jones is paving the way for an overall win in the Radial Masters though Joao Ramos, one of the two Brazilian brothers competing at Mussanah, clawed back some late ground with a first and a third to sit six points behind Jones.
Edmund Tam from New Zealand might be worried about the advance from Britain’s Jon Emmett in the Radial Apprentices. Emmett, who coached Chinese Laser Radial sailor Xu Lijia to an Olympic gold at London 2012, has the bit between his teeth, a first and a second today serving as a loud warning bell to Tam.
Story by Sailworld