The last day of the Laser World Masters Championship took place in the strongest winds of the week
The 2002 Laser World Masters Championship at Hyannis, Cape Cod, USA closed with the strongest winds of the championship and for the first time, sunshine. This put a smile on the face of the sailors who ventured afloat even though two of the four age categories did not get a start.
The weather forecast called for a front passing over Hyannis in the early morning and winds decreasing from a high of 30 knots throughout the day. At mid morning it was blowing 27 knots gusting to 30 and the front had clearly stalled although it could be seen on the horizon. The fleet were held on shore for an hour pending the passing of the front and then the Race Committee decided race the youngest two groups (Apprentices and Masters) in the hope that the wind would moderate further and allow the two older groups to be called out later in the day.
The 35-44 year old Apprentice division were first away and it quickly became obvious that this group would be dominated by sailors who had not long ago been keeping at senior world championship level. Series leader, Andreas John from Germany, made a very conservative start under a black flag rule at the committee boat end but was soon working his way through the fleet. John commented: “My starting has been bad all week as I am have not had much practice due to my recent 49er campaign.” Going down the last downwind leg the leading group of Russ Silvestri USA, Brett Bayer AUS, Mark Littlejohn GBR and John had a clear lead on the chasing pack with positions not changing on the last three legs. This tenth race meant that a second drop race was allowed which did not affect the series winner, John and runner up, Beyer, but did move Andy Pimental USA up to fourth overall behind Littlejohn at the expense of Juri Taimen from Finland.
In the 45-54 year old Masters division, Tracy Usher from USA scored his third win of the series in 20-25 knot winds that were more like his native San Francisco. He held off a strong challenge from renowned strong wind sailor and previous winner, Mark Bethwaite from Australia. Behind them all eyes were on the battle for overall honours behind the two overnight tied leaders, Ed Adams and Mark Bear from USA. Adams, the lighter of the pair, started at the committee boat end of the start line while Bear opted for the opposite end.
Adams showed good speed off the start line and at the half way stage was in fifth with Bear not far behind in 10th. Adams worked his way up to third by the end of the race and which was enough, with Bear still behind him to give him the overall title. Afterwards Adams said: “I knew that if I was to win the title I had to hike and work harder than I have ever done before.”
Mid way through the Apprentice and Masters racing the Grand Masters and Radial Fleets were called afloat. As they were on their way out the wind increased to a steady 28 knots and they were held under a postponement flag at the starting area waiting for a lull in the wind which never arrived before the cut off starting time of 4pm. Ironically, 16 miles to the south-west at Martha’s Vineyard, the Tornado fleet were completing the final race in their world championship in only 12 knots of wind.
Back on shore the Grand Masters and Radial fleet were happy that they at least had a chance of a sail even if it was only to the start area and back. Radial Apprentice champion, Steve Cockerill GBR, who successfully defended his title, said: “It was great sailing and great competition. Originally I was not planning to defend my title but when I saw the entry list containing, Adam French AUS, Wilmar Groenendijk Ned and Mark Orams NZL, all former champions, I knew I had to come. I now understand why Laser Masters sailing is so infectious and why sailors return year after year.”
Returning for his tenth year was Keith Wilkins from Great Britain who successfully defended his Great Grand Masters title (55 to 64 years)in a fleet of 63 sailors and in doing so won the Pussers Rum Best Overall Performance – a Pussers Rum swiss chronograph watch.