December 08, 2015

Some Amazing Sailors

By Doug
The Laser Master Worlds is an amazing event. It's where top sailors from many classes like the Finns, FJs, Solings, J24s, and of course Lasers meet to compete - it's sort of like a giant all-star turnout. We get great people, great locations, and of course great competition.

What amazes me is that in spite of the intense competition, the same people keep on winning. Here's an interesting statistic: from 1991 to 2008, just three people shared a consecutive winning streak:
  • Keith Wilkins won the Master Worlds 9 times. Keith was fast in a breeze and also had great speed in some of the more difficult lighter conditions. I remember race 6 at the 1997 Algarrobo Worlds when it was light with choppy waves where you need to sheet out to keep the boat moving. Keith pinched and sheeted block-to-block without losing any speed. He did the same thing in race 8 at the 1999 Melbourne Worlds. It was a trick that I still have not learned... does anyone know how it's done?
  • Mark Bethwaite won it 6 times. The Aussies have always been fast in a breeze but they were vulnerable in the lighter conditions. That all changed at the 2007 Roses Worlds when Mark started winning lighter races, as described in detail in race 5. The Aussies getting fast in lighter conditions is bad news for the rest of the fleet! 
  • Yours truly won it 2 times, in Chile against Keith and Mark with a modified type of match racing, and in Korea when neither could make it by being in good shape.
Wolfgang Gerz is another Laser sailor with a great resume, which includes beating 109 other sailors to win the 1981 Finn Gold Cup (while discarding a 4th place finish!) If we include Wolfgang, the four of us share a winning streak from 1991 until today! I wonder how many sports have had that kind of consistency at the world championship level.

I recently turned 65 and will be joining Mark and hopefully Keith as a Great Grand Master to do battle again in Mexico (Wolfgang will join us in a few more years). What other sport helps you look forward to birthdays?

Unfortunately, we're too old to compete with Brett Beyer and too young to compete with Peter Seidenberg who have also dominated in their respective age groups.

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