This year, the Laser World Championships were a special event hosted by ISAF and included all of the Olympic Classes. It was held in Santander, Spain from September 8-21 and included 1,250 sailors and 83 countries. The opening ceremonies entertained a crowd of 30,000 local people, tourists, family and friends with gymnastic performances, an air show, and various musical performances.
Opening ceremonies crowds
The first day was delayed by heavy fog, but racing eventually got underway in a 5-7 knot northeast wind. I knew from training that when the sea breeze is light, it tends to shift from the north to northeast as it builds. As well, we knew from current models that there would be some current relief on the right hand side. In the first race, I had a decent start and found a tight lane going right. I put myself right of the lead group and managed to round in 7th place. After a good downwind, I was able to maintain my position, even after getting slam tacked multiple times on the second beat, through to the finish.
First beat in Race 1
In the second race I still wanted to go right, but this time had a bad start and could not find an open lane going right. I lost enough leverage on guys so that when a big right shift came I was forced to arrive at the mark on a header, rounding in about 35th. After making a handful of boats back on the second upwind, I lost big after hitting the second windward mark and doing a 360 right in front of a pack of 5.
Start of Race 2 – notice how you cannot see me?
On Day 2, I knew I needed about 30 points to guarantee myself a place in Gold fleet. After my comfortable 7th place the day before, I was confident I had the speed and tactical prowess for a successful day. What hurt me on the second day were my starts, in neither race did I get off the line in decent shape with the ability to look around the course and sail my race. Both races I found myself moving up the ranks after the top mark, but too far behind to begin with. You can only move up so much after a bad start in a World Championship fleet.
In the first day of Silver fleet (Day 3), three things happened in the only race we tried: the wind shifted 90 degrees, there was lightning all around us, and a massive ship drove through our course, splitting the fleet in two. It was of course abandoned and we were sent in for the day.
Party crashing ship and Canadian sailor Tom Ramshaw
Day 4 there was not enough wind to race.
Day 5 we were delayed but got to the course by 3pm, finding anywhere from 5-15 knots and massive wind shifts. Eventually we got one race off in very tricky conditions. I started at the boat, seeing pressure on the right, but immediately the wind shifted left and the fleet wound up on me. Confident that the breeze would come back right, I hung on until close to the layline when a big right shift and puff hit me. I made it to the mark in the top 15 and sailed a tricky race from then on – always looking for pressure. Finished in 15th after losing a couple boats on the last downwind when caught out of a wind line.
Day 6 – too windy to race? What? Last day of ‘racing’.
It’s hard not to feel disappointed when you travel to Spain and only complete half the scheduled races, but even in the few races completed I was able to match myself up against the top sailors in the world. The biggest takeaway is the need to work on starts, especially in crowded lines and with current affecting your perception of where the line is. I was happy with my ability to stay cool, stay ahead when doing well and work through the fleet when behind. The next major event is ISAF World Cup Miami OCR in January. Until then, I will be training out of Toronto and Florida depending on what the thermometer reads.
Arial shot of 49ers racing on course Somo
The ruler of spain, King Philipe VI visits the event site
All too familiar sight – waiting for wind