World Laser Radial Men’s Championships 2014 Report
By Tristan Brown
The 2014 World Laser Radial Men’s Championships were recently held in Dziwnow, Poland from the 19th – 25th July. Brad Utting, Conor Nicholas, Lachy Gilham, Ben Gunther, Finn Alexander, Alistair Young, James Burman, Jeff Loosemore and myself represented Australia in this event.
I contested two Europa Cup events as warm up events (in Warnemunde, Germany and one at the regatta venue in Poland) and placed 2nd and 1st respectively. After winning the Europa Cup at the regatta venue against three time Polish World Champion Marcin Rudawski I was feeling confident and following this had an extra weeks training in Dziwnow in preparation for the main event.
Dziwnow is very new to sailing with the marina only being built six months prior to our arrival at the World Championships, however, the regatta staff were very friendly and even helped us arrange new accommodation after the local caravan park was not suitable due to its condition and loud music each night!
The weeks training prior to the event was all done in very light winds, however, once Day 1 of the regatta came around it was a completely different story. The wind was back to the same direction as the Europa Cup and was regularly hitting 20 knots. I struggled to round the top mark in the front bunch and consequently ended up with an 8th and 5th place to start the event.
The 76 boat fleet was all started in one fleet and this meant that there was big potential for gains or losses from the start of the event as opposed to the normal Qualifying and Finals format where the fleet is split into two. This resulted in many general recalls each start with all races started under the black flag.
On Day 2 we were presented with very similar conditions 15-20 knots and a reasonable sized swell. This resulted in the heavier sailors who had dropped down from the Laser Standard rig dominating the leaderboard. I had my worst day of the event getting stuck on the wrong side of the course, scoring a 21st and 7th. After this day it was quite clear that it was going to be hard for me to defend my World Championship and I just had to try and remain positive and continue to fight for every position.
Day three I finally managed to string together two good races to end the day with an 8th and a 3rd. I was really happy to finally make some inroads into the top five sailors after struggling to round the top mark in the first group. As always, if you have good speed and can round the top mark in the top group the race becomes a whole lot easier in clear air with a bit of space!
Day four started in lighter winds of about 12 knots. I had a good start and continued to chip away at the top group throughout the hour-long race. Going into the final downwind I was in 2nd place and managed to overtake downwind to claim my first race win of the regatta. About time! Unfortunately a poor start in race two cost me and I could only get back to 12th place.
This left me in 5th overall going into the final day however this wasn’t really realistic as with the 2nd drop (which came into play after Race 10) I would slip back to 6th overall. I knew if I had a good final day and things fell my way that I could sneak up onto the podium.
My final day didn’t get underway how I had planned with a terrible first upwind. After fighting my way through the fleet the entire race I ended up finishing 10th. This meant that I could not beat the Belgian sailor overall as he had managed to get back to 3rd in the race after also being deep in the fleet.
The final race of the championships was one of my best, with a really good start and the ability to cross the fleet off of the line, I was tussling for 1st position the entire race with a Spanish sailor. Unfortunately I was not able to get past, eventually finishing the race in 2nd by one metre at the finish line!
This good result in the final race meant that I finished 4th overall and 2 points off of 3rd! Polish sailors Jonasz Stelmaszyk and Marcin Rudawski claimed 1st and 2nd respectively, whilst Belgian sailor William De Smet finished third overall.
Congratulations to the other West Australians competing on their results:
13th – Alistair Young
21st – Conor Nicholas
35th – Brad Utting
45th – Lachy Gilham
In the end I was happy to salvage a respectable result out of an event that didn’t really go my way, but still very disappointed to relinquish my World Championship title. I learnt a lot from the event and look forward to working on the weaknesses I have identified and will be even more determined to try and get the title back next year wherever that may be!
Competing at these events is not possible without a tremendous amount of support. I must thank Belinda Stowell for her input coaching throughout the regatta and to Arthur Brett for his advice from home, my parents for their ongoing support, Fremantle Sailing Club, Royal Freshwater Bay Yacht Club, the Ron Tough Yachting Foundation, WA Laser Association, Optimum Time, and Monkeyfist Marine for their continued support.
I now look forward to coaching the Australian team at the World Laser Radial Youth Championships also in Dziwnow, Poland starting tomorrow!