(Riviera Nayarit, Mexico) Great Britain’s Nick Thompson won his second Laser World Championship and has now joined an elite group of sailors who can claim back-to-back titles in what many consider one of the world’s toughest sporting events.
The wind on the final day was only a 15 degrees south of the typical direction but caused the biggest place changes seen during 14 race series in the waters of Riviera Nayarit, Mexico. Big gains and losses affected both the championship leader and those further down the leader board. As Thompson said, “It was definitely very stressful!”
Most of the top sailors started near the pin, but the wind shifted right and never allowed them to tack and cross to the right side of the course. It was not clear what had happened until the fleet rounded the first mark and Giovanni Coccoluto ITA led his teammate Marco Gallo out of the chasing group.
Thompson was back in 25th position but surprisingly his nearest rivals, Jean-Baptiste Bernaz of France and Croatia’s Pavlos Kontides found themselves in 41st and 50th places respectively.
But Thompson almost let his victory slip away when on the next upwind leg he dropped to 40th place while Bernaz amazingly clawed his way up to the top of the fleet. Robert Scheidt also dropped from the top-10 down to 30th on the leg.
At the finish, Coccoluto held on to his position to the lead Wannes van Laer of Belgium and Dutchman, Rutger van Schaardenburg, across the line. Bernaz held on for fifth place and with Thompson’s 41st place finish, it was all down to the last of the 14 races to decide the title.
“I had to do some quick calculations” said Thompson. “I worked out that I had to watch Jean-Baptiste and Matthew Wearn in the last race. That was impossible so I decided to sail my own race. I started near the committee boat and crossed off Matthew at the start and then had a close cross with Jean-Baptiste just before the first mark. At that point I felt back in control although there was still a long way to go. Jean-Baptiste was ahead of me until the second upwind when we split tacks and I was able to pass him and stay ahead.”
When Thompson pulled ahead of Bernaz on the second upwind leg, he had essentially sealed his victory as he successfully covered Bernaz to the finish.
Rutger van Schaardenburg won the final race, and combined with his third in the first race of the day promoted him from an overnight position of tenth to third overall, showing how close the racing was in the gold fleet.
Bernaz held on to his second place overall position and with the regatta win, Thompson became only the fifth person in 42 years to successfully defend a Laser World Championship title.
Final overall results after 14 races and 2 discards.
Another day of champagne sailing in Riviera Nayarit, Mexico saw defending champion, Nick Thompson of Great Britain, extend his lead in the Laser Standard Men’s World Championship. Thompson not only posted the best result of the day by 8 points, but more importantly he put 15 points on his nearest rival, Jean-Bapiste Bernaz of France, to solidify his position on top of the leader board.
Once again Thompson chose the pin end of the start line for the first race in an 8-10 knot wind. As the start gun approached he decided to bail out early, gybe round and come back to the line on port tack. He found a hole with clear wind and worked the middle of the course as the fleet spread wide to round the first mark 5th in a tightly packed fleet led by Kristian Ruth and Francesco Marrai of Italy. Marrai passed Ruth on the reach to the outer loop and then extended throughout the race to take the winner’s gun as the wind continued to increase. Thompson unusually had a bad downwind and dropped to tenth place, a position he protected for the rest of the race.
The wind increased to 15-18 knots for the start of the second race. As the fleet spread along the line a confident Thompson chose to start at the committee boat end. He tacked early on to port and then skillfully worked the right side of the course. Meanwhile Marrai was not so lucky – receiving a yellow flag kinetics penalty from the jury, which required him to retire from the race.
Thompson, fighting hard, worked his way back from the right hand side of the course to meet the rest of the fleet converging on the first mark. This time another Italian, Giovanni Cocculuto, led around the mark followed by Argentina’s Julio Alsogaray, Thompson and a very tight chasing pack.
The reach was alive with waves and spray as they raced down the first reach. Thompson seemed in his element. Comfortable in the knowledge that the sea breeze had stabilized, he set about attacking the lead. By the end of the next upwind leg Thompson had achieved his goal and led to the finish to score his fourth first place of the championship.
To guarantee the defense of his title, Thompson has to finish second or better in one of the two remaining races. Not the easiest of tasks in this talented fleet but at least he now has proved to himself and his rivals that he is more than capable of delivering!
Overall Results after 12 races with 2 discards
(Riviera Nayarit, Mexico) Challenging conditions today at the Laser Standard Men’s World Championship as the wind went from 9 knots at the start of the day’s first race, to 20 knots during the second. Only two of the top-ten sailors avoided adding a discard race to their score line today as the Finals Series got underway in Riviera Nayarit, Mexico.
Nick Thompson of Great Britain remains on top of the leader board, but the day belonged to the 2012 Olympic silver medalist Pavlos Kontides of Cyprus who mastered the widest range of conditions seen so far in this championship. Starting near the pin in today’s first race in 9 knots of wind, Kontides quickly got clear and was able to cross the fleet early and pick his way up the beat to round fifth.
A very happy Kontides said, “As the wind started to increase it went right and I was able to get through to first place on the second windward leg. In the second race I went middle right and hiked hard as the wind increased to over 18 knots. I rounded the first mark with Philipp Buhl and we had a great race in the full planing conditions. I passed Philipp near the end of the reach, extended a little downwind then I had to work hard to keep him behind on the second upwind leg.”
Championship leader, Nick Thompson, also chose the pin in the first race, a tactic that nearly backfired as he struggled to keep clear of the pin boat anchor line. That small delay meant that he did not have the same advantage as Kontides and had to hold the left side longer. But as soon as Thompson was clear to tack he could sail his own race up the middle.
Tompson’s 7th in that race was a championship saver for him as he tried the pin again for the second race but could not tack across the fleet this time. Thompson rounded the first mark in the twenties and in the stronger wind could only recover to 18th by the finish.
Thompson keeps his overall lead since his two nearest rivals, Jean-Baptiste Bernard of France and Robert Scheidt of Brazil, each had a bad ninth race, scoring a 22nd and 25th respectively. Unlike Thompson they each posted a single figure 6th and 5th to keep themselves in reach of the lead.
With four scheduled races to go, at this point it’s still anyone’s regatta to win. Racing continues tomorrow with the forecast calling for another spectacular day in Riviera Nayarit, Mexico.
Overall Results after 10 races with 2 discards
(Riviera Nayarit, Mexico) Nick Thompson of Great Britain had another good day at the races to close out the qualifying series in first place overall in the Laser Standard Men’s World Championship in Riviera Nayarit, Mexico. Thompson’s 2nd and 4th place allowed him to increase his advantage over Jean-Baptiste Bernaz of France to five points, a margin by which Laser Championships can be won or lost. Tomorrow the sailors will be split into gold and silver fleets to begin three days of finals series racing.
Celebrated Laser World Champion and Olympic medalist, Robert Scheidt, moved into third place with two more top-ten results while the previous third place holder, Croatia’s Tonci Stipanovic, scored an 8th and 25th. Stipanovic now has to count a 14th (his previous discard race) but holds on to fourth place overall.
The top-3 sailors at the end of qualification have all, so far, maintained single figure results excluding their discard races. However, a close look at the score cards reveals that several sailors are starting to find the consistency that was missing at the beginning of the championship. These include the best sailor of the day, Wannes Van Laar of Belgium, who posted two second place finishes today to jump five places into fifth overall.
Today’s slightly lighter winds from a more southerly direction provided another mix in the results on this final qualification day. Changes in the wind strength and direction were minimal, between 215 and 230 degrees and 9 to 12 knots during the three hours of racing. However, these variations were enough to keep things interesting for the sailors and proved sufficient to provide significant changes in positions from one race to the next.
With three days of Finals Series racing to come, the sailors are certainly aware that the coming days of will be long and twice as hard, as the world’s top sailors now go head-to-head. Sailing skills need to be at a sailor’s best. Places will be won and lost by a meter or a second. A cool head under the hot sun and maximum concentration will be needed to stay consistent over the upcoming six scheduled races – even more so if the weather changes.
Overall Results after 8 races with 1 discard