Stakes raised at 2013 Laser Standard World Championships in Oman as battle lines are drawn….
High stakes in the 2013 Laser Standard World Championships grew even higher in Oman today after a day of close and merciless competition produced five winners in six races and added substance to Robert Scheidt’s tireless pursuit of another Olympic gold.
The 40 year-old Brazilian was not daunted or weakened by the three race endurance test in a stiff breeze though he wondered at the start whether he might struggle.
“I was thinking that three races in heavy air would be really demanding and whether I would survive,” he said.
“But I found a good rhythm and made some decent starts with good first beats so it turned out to be a really good day for me. I am very happy.”
After Monday’s shortened race programme due to the lack of wind, race officials were anxious to run three races if time and conditions allowed. The weather gods obliged and delivered another day of near perfect conditions with wind speed reaching around 15 knots and one metre waves taking those expecting flat water by surprise.
Despite a number of general recalls at the start of the Yellow fleet’s Race 4, there were no disqualifications and it was Swede Jesper Stalheim who crossed the finish line first ahead of Tom Saunders of New Zealand and Croatia’s Daniel Mihelic.
Scheidt meanwhile battled with Pavlos Kontides of Cyprus and Britain’s Nick Thompson, who was determined to put his disqualification on Monday behind him to stand any chance of winning his first championship title. Neither could slow him down and Scheidt took his second consecutive win.
He was beaten into second place in Race 5 by Rutger Schaardenburg of the Nederlands but made a clean and fast start in Race 6 and capitalized on the advantage with another flawless performance to record his second victory of the day which lifted him to the top of the leaderboard with a three point advantage over Croatia’s Tonci Stipanovic.
“It is very important to have a clear start because it opens up some options and gives you the chance to play the shifts. If you have a bad start, you are forced to do what is left to do,” said Scheidt.
Kontides’s second left him in fourth place overall while Thompson’s third helped his rise up the rankings especially after the discards came into effect though a disappointing 40th place in Race 5 meant he continues to languish deeper in the fleet than he expected in 15th place overall.
“It was crucial to keep it clean in that breeze and not make any mistakes and I managed to do that so I am happy,” said Cypriot Kontides who won an Olympic silver medal at London 2012.
“I’m managing to stay consistent which is making me satisfied and I seem to have good speeds upwind and downwind. But with this pressure and the big waves, there can be a few knots difference because some boats will surf and others not but I had a nice battle with Robert.
“I am trying not to feel too much emotion at the moment because there is a long way to go.”
The Yellow fleet saw the emergence of three different winners with Stalheim’s blistering pace being emulated by Marco Gallo of Italy in Race 5 and by Sam Meech of New Zealand who finished Race 6 more than 100m ahead of the rest of the fleet.
But the nip and tuck, cheek by jowl nature of most the racing reflects just how closely matched the leading Laser sailors are, which is placing extra pressure on all the World Championship contenders
“This fleet is extremely tough,” said Scheidt.
“A mistake can cost you five boat lengths and it is so compressed at the leeward gate you have to be 100% focused all the time.”
Among the British team, Thompson posted two podium places while part-time lawyer Martin Evans had his best result so far with a 5th in Race 6 and Alex Mills-Barton, the highest ranked British sailor in the competition was delighted with a 7th in Race 5.
“This fleet is very close and we are seeing even the top guys run into trouble on the starts and in the upwind beats which just shows how tricky the conditions are but we had another great day on the water with some great conditions and I had my best day so far so I’m happy,” said Mills-Barton.
The final two qualifying races take place on Wednesday with the finals series starting on Thursday and the last two showdowns set for Saturday.
To follow racing, go to www.omanlaserworlds2013.com for live blogging from the race course. Results will be posted immediately after racing has concluded for the day.
Image credits: © Lloyd Images