Sailing: Masters of the laser take over Dublin Bay

If proof was needed that sailing is a ‘lifelong’ sport, a glance at last week’s Laser Masters World Championships at Dun Laoghaire is all that’s needed.

Sailing: Masters of the laser take over Dublin Bay

By David Branigan

If proof was needed that sailing is a ‘lifelong’ sport, a glance at last week’s Laser Masters World Championships at Dun Laoghaire is all that’s needed.

For a dinghy class that provides competition from youth level right the way up to Olympics, where Annalise Murphy won her silver medal at Rio 2016, laser still struggles for limelight.

Yet 302 competitors from 25 nations turned-up to race the Masters on Dublin Bay for over a week with the youngest category ‘Apprentices’ grouping those aged 35 to 45.

After that, in 10-year divisions, the fleet comprised classes from Master to Grand-Master to Great Grand Master and then Legend for the 75 year-plus age range.

The latter range might seem improbable to some but not to the pair of octogenarians that sailed away as equals all week.

For those still not convinced that any of this was not noteworthy, Dublin Bay also defied its reputation as a light airs venue and opened the 12-race programme with a robust 20-knot westerly wind complete with stronger gusts and windshifts. The breeze continued for the second and third days of racing before a well-earned rest day. Only from the middle of the week did conditions start to ease before Saturday’s final saw near calm conditions that only allowed a single race final day.

Hailed by numerous visitors as the best World Masters ever, the competition side of the event delivered standout wins in almost all the classes.

New Zealand’s Scott Leith added an 11th world title win in the Radial Rig Master class as the one-time Olympic contender maintained his form over the past two decades.

American Bill Symes delivered seven race wins to take the Radial Great Grand-Master class with ease while Ireland’s Christopher Boyd worked his way up the 37-boat class to take third overall thanks to winning the final race.

It was a similar story for American Peter Seidenberg in the Legends class but with eight wins to his credit in the 14-boat turnout. Ireland’s Denis O’Sullivan had a mixed regatta to finish mid-fleet including his strongest day last Thursday when the Cork championship veteran scored two second places.

Of the Irish contenders, the highlight was past-Olympian Mark Lyttle winning the Grand Master’s world title in the Standard rig that was arguably the most competitive class of the event.

With a turnout of 64 boats, the Atlanta ’96 Olympian moved steadily up the ranks after the first three days, moving from seventh overall into first place by day three thanks to back-to-back race wins.

Lyttle’s return to home waters led to him racing under his GBR sail-number as he qualified for the championship via the UK where he lives, and also recently won the British title in June.

The class went down to the wire with all hinging on the final day. A seventh place in the final was good enough to seal the win with just two points to spare, one of just two classes to have such a close result. In the other, Spain’s Leandro Rosado prevailed in a week-long match-race with Canada’s Gord Welsh amongst the Standard rig Apprentices. This class had one of the biggest Irish turnouts and was one of the most competitive as four boats duelled for third place.

Lyttle wasn’t the only competitor racing under an adoptive country flag. French coach Thomas Chaix, who coaches Ireland’s Optimist sailors, raced under Irish colours and took second overall in the Radial Apprentice class.

Although each had a turn as leader, Roger O’Gorman took the spot ahead of David Quinn, Pete Smyth and Damian Maloney.

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