Sun sand and sea are a certain thing in Cancun, but if conditions on the penultimate day of the Laser World Championships were anything to judge by, steady winds are not. Competitors arriving on the beautiful white sands expecting another day of trade-wind sailing were surprised to find that a front moving through during the night had pulled the wind round into the north east. By start time some sense of normality had returned with an unsteady breeze back in the east and blowing six to eight knots.
Championship leader, Robert Scheidt produced another solid day in difficult conditions to put the world championships easily within his grasp. With the second discard coming into play, Scheidt now needs to finish just one of tomorrow’s scheduled two races in the top fifteen to secure an unprecidented fourth Laser World Championships. Behind Scheidt, Michael Blackburn and Karl Suneson are now tied for second place with any one of four other sailors in with a realistic chance of medals.
First around the top mark in gold fleet race eleven was France’s Paul-Ambroise Sevestre, closely followed by USA’s Bill Hardesty. With all the top guys now in one fleet the pack behind came in thick and fast. China’s Sheng Shen was next around, overlapping as were most of the rest of the fleet, the boat ahead and the boat astern. For the regatta leaders this beat proved the sternest test of the regatta so far with Michael Blackburn down in the mid teens. Ben Ainslie and Robert Scheidt rounded overlapped in 21st and 22nd respectively.
By the end of the first run the order of the leading pack had not changed, though significantly, Suneson had pulled through into fourth. Another shifty beat saw Ainslie and Scheidt pulling up, though the biggest gainer was another British sailor, Paul Goodison who rounded the second windward mark fifth. By the finish Goodison had pulled through into an outstanding second just behind Suneson. Daniel Birgmark was third with the rapidly improving Cheng Chen in fourth.
Recognising that luck as well as skill had played a part in his victory, Karl Suneson joked about his tactics afterwards. “I decided not to change my winning formula from yesterday” he said, laughing “I just started at the boat and tacked. I tried to keep to the left side as much as I could but not get so far away from the fleet.”
Goodison too was prepared to admit to a bit of good fortune. “I just steadily pulled through the fleet” he said after racing, “and I got lucky a bit on the last little beat to pull up from fifth to second”.
In the second gold fleet race of the day Italy’s Deigo Negri pulled into an early lead closely followed by Greece’s Adonis Bougiouris. Jon Lasenby from Ireland had his moment of glory in third place at the top mark with USA’s Bill Hardesty close behind. Surprisingly given the shifty conditions, the order of the leading pack changed not at all on the first run. Behind them, Scheidt was on one of his customary charges, moving up from mid-teens at the windward mark to fifth, just one place ahead of Suneson at the end of the run. For Suneson good fortune in the first race of the day was balanced in the second. “I had a bit of bad luck as I caught a big bush on my centreboard. I lost Scheidt and a couple of other guys because of that”.
Another fine beat for Goodison saw him up into the top group for the final run back down to the finish, behind Negri but ahead of a rapidly improving Phillipe Bergamans from Belgium. At the finish, the order of the top three remained unchanged. Scheidt meanwhile had pulled through to fourth while Ainslie was having a shocker back in 44th.
Ainslie now recognises that his chances of retaining the championship are slim. “It was a terrible day for me” he said on coming ashore. “I had a good start in the first race but managed to get the first beat wrong again. In the second race I had a really bad start and got spat out of the port end and that was that.