My first day in Oman happened to be His Majesty's birthday and the customs fellow at the airport said that I should be very happy. He was right, but perhaps for a different reason. I got to the hotel at 5:30 AM local time, having taken more than 50 hours to get to there. It was great to see Brett again, meet the fellows from Norway and Ireland he's coaching, check out the hotel (very nice), food (excellent), and start to get settled in.
Coach boats are extremely rare and Brett was unable to get his own, so he is sharing one with the Japanese coach. Everyone was a bit shocked when I was offered my own tiny boat by simply asking. The offshore breeze dies before the sea breeze kicks in, so there was a delay. We headed out just after noon.
So, here's my first Oman trivia question: what's the one thing that should never be hard to find in this part of the world?
Answer: Gas!! My boat had perhaps a liter and the coach from Tunisia had none and, get this, they stop selling gas at the marina at noon!!
It was one of those we-didn't-come-this-far-to-sit-on-the-shore moments, so I asked my new Tunisian friend if he would like to jump in, go 2 km upwind, drop the anchor, watch the starts and finishes, and then come (drift?) back to the harbor. He had no other option.
There's a joke amongst Laser sailors that the conditions for the Worlds are never what's expected. It only rains here 5 days a year and, sure enough, the outdoor opening ceremonies gala on Saturday was marred by, you guessed it, lots of rain. And the winds here have not been above 12 for the last month, so the first day was "fresh" as the Aussies like to say.
This second day was also windy - perhaps building to 15. But it's shallow so some the waves make it feel stronger. The waves reminded me a little of the Melbourne Worlds that was also in shallow water.
A rule is that no coach/media/spectator boat is permitted within 100 meters of where a competitor could sail, so getting good pictures is always a challenge. Add to this the bouncing around in our little boat, using a hand-held camera, using the zoom, and the sunlight reflecting off the tiny screen all made it hard to imagine what I was capturing ... but then I was having trouble seeing anyway.
We limped out to the starting area where all of the coach boats park behind the starting line. There were none at the pin so I suggested we park there, so here's the pin-end report.
The 120 competitors are split into 2 fleets for the first few days, so there are 2 starts.
Robert Scheidt (BRA) is back in Lasers and he has a very predictable starting sequence that I first noticed at the Ireland Worlds. He stands up with 2-3 minutes to go at the pin (part of the reason I wanted to be there), watches for about 20 seconds, and only then makes his final decision about where to start. No ones else does this.
The first fleet had 4 recalls and under a black flag about a dozen were disqualified including leader Nick Thompson (GBR). It's interesting to note that the middle of the line is where a lot of boats started early - there was no line sag. I also got a video of the end of the run of the second fleet, and you'll see Robert in the lead. He went on to win his race which is the second-to-last part of this video. On the way in, the fleet converged at the harbor entrance and a sailor beside was sailing hard by-the-lee, so I grabbed the camera and got a few seconds of that as well.