At One

Occasionally in sailing, just occasionally, everything clicks. We’ve all had races or regattas where everything just goes right. You head up the beach dialled down on a header that gets worse and worse to find that the returning tack is a stairway to heaven that everyone else missed. That layline call from half a mile back that looked fanciful, pays off beautifully as you squeak round the top mark feeling like John Bertrand in his prime. Or that touch and go port tack cross one minute off a crowded line that you just get away with and filter into cool fresh breeze far from the madding crowd, knowing that starboard control is yours on the way back on a lifting shift. Glorious. It does happen.

©ILCA Class

Far too often though, the layline call was daft, the header up the beach whipsaws back into a lift and you’re karate-chopping your way up the course like Bruce Lee with thoughts that golf might be more fun than this…and don’t talk to me about that port tack call. That wasn’t my fault. You just can’t get decent staff these days in one-designs. You know what I mean. We’ve all been there.

Well, go sail a Laser and there’s literally nowhere to hide. There’s no-one to blame but yourself. It’s brutal. It exposes you. You realise that you’re not quite as fit as you thought you were and your tactics are akin to something from the Dark Ages of mankind, or worse. Kinetically you’re up there with a baby elephant. And luck certainly isn’t your friend. Don’t even think about Monte Carlo. The bar looks inviting. There’s always next year.

©ILCA Class

Well it’s snakes and ladders down in Barcelona at the Laser Worlds (can we please stop calling it the ILCA?) and for seasoned campaigner Tom Saunders he’s playing a blinder and flying the flag for Kiwi dinghy sailing high and proud. How about this for a quote:

“It was a great day for me today, Mike Bulot (coach) and I had a great game plan. We managed to get the critical decisions right all day, which set me up for some low scores. It’s always a bonus getting a race win. That feeling will never get old. I feel like I’m sailing with a lot of freedom. It’s a nice mindset to have and something Mike and I have worked hard on. I’m pretty excited going into tomorrow. It’s a position I’ve never been in before. It’s also a lot of fun. I will try to get some sleep, keep my presence and hope my legs turn up tomorrow.”

What I absolutely love is the phrase: “I’m sailing with a lot of freedom” – what a super feeling that is. You’re in your prime, totally at one with the boat and things are falling for you. Man and machine in perfect symbiosis. The roll tacks are flowing, you feel fast up the work and downwind it’s gliding. Majestic. You and I however have more resonance with the last sentence about hoping our legs will turn up tomorrow…I’m still waiting. And whilst we’re at it, where did those abdominals go?

©ILCA Class

Tom’s leading the fleet after a truly, utterly disastrous day for the Brits yesterday with Eliot Hansen forced to retire after an incident up the first beat with fellow Brit, Micky Beckett, who was left unconscious…yes unconscious! (And I don’t use exclamation marks often). Quite what happened is unclear but Eliot did the right thing in retiring as the rules dictate but poor Micky is, so reports say, forced to end his regatta – I just hope he’s well and recovering. Must have been one hell of a ding.

Tom Saunders though, goes into the final day with a pretty commanding lead over Ireland’s Finn Lynch and you have to say that this World Championship has been all action despite the winds being all over the place. Jim Saltonstall used to have several good expressions for fluky winds – if you know, you know. But it’s been a tremendous showcase for the Laser class who are well into the Olympic cycle now with the clock ticking down to Paris 2024 (or Marseille really) and the big teams starting to look very closely at who can handle the pressure and manage the big time.

©ILCA Class

The British Olympic Team is strong this cycle. The money is there after the medal-hauling success in Tokyo and the coaches have a big headache in selection with the massive talent that they have at their disposal. Training is relentless and it’s clear that the top Brits have the speed – it’s just that final elixir of putting it together when it matters. Becket and Hanson are the stand-out names, Sam Whaley are Daniel Whitely are the coming forces. You can throw a blanket over them in training but who’s got it in them to medal? Tough question.

Tom Saunders looks untouchable now for the 2021 title but with this regatta, anything, and I mean anything can happen. The Trofeu Internacional Ciutat de Barcelona has been one testing, teasing, marauding venue for one of the greatest prizes in world sailing. Whoever wins after this week, thoroughly deserves it. And if it goes to New Zealand then I’d be happy for them after a torrid time in yachting news recently.

Great regatta. Brilliant to watch. More intrigue than an Italian Cup challenge, more drama than Netflix and one heck of a prize at the end.

The Laser is still the one-design of one-designs.

4 thoughts on “At One

  1. A good summary Magnus. The Laser really does expose your weaknesses and highlight your strengths without prejudice or remorse. With not much in the way of fancy widgets to add it’s all up to you, helm, trimmer, tactician and shore crew all wrapped up in one aging body. But what great fun and comradery after you get back to shore and the swell and wind speed increase with every telling of the story over a favourite beverage.

    Let’s meet up at a Masters Worlds some day, I will buy the first round.

    Cheers, CAN 199766

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