Laser Worlds: Legend Robert Scheidt returns to his roots
Published on November 12th, 2013
The return of Brazilian sailing legend Robert Scheidt to Laser competition after nine years in the Star class has raised the stakes among the 2016 Olympic Games contenders at the Laser Standard Men’s World Championships 2013 starting in the Sultanate of Oman on Sunday November 17, organized and hosted by the Ministry of Sports Affairs and Oman Sail.
Having won eight world titles and three Olympic medals in the class, the 40 year-old Scheidt is the most successful Laser sailor of all time. With the dropping of the Star class from the Olympic rota, he has now returned to Lasers to qualify for the Olympics on his home waters in Rio de Janeiro and is currently ranked number 71 Laser sailor in the world.
In his sights for the 2013 Laser World Championship title will be Australian national champion Tom Burton, who has been number one in the Laser world rankings for more than a year and who showed a fondness for the conditions in Oman when he won 2013 Mussanah Race Week (MRW) back in March.
The two champions have met just once in the heat of international battle when Burton won gold to Scheidt’s silver at the ISAF Sailing World Cup in Hyeres France in April 2013, paving the way for a tantalising rematch in what is a star-studded Laser fleet.
Of the 50 top ranked Laser sailors in the world, 46 of them will be on the start line at Mussanah Sports City in Oman, the world class sailing facility purpose built to Olympic standards, which is hosting its first ever sailing world championships.
Australia’s formidable Laser squad, boasting five sailors in the world’s top 20 are set for an intense week with Ryan Palk (5), Matthew Wearn (7) and Ashley Brunning (8) and Jared West (15) all at an advantage after finishing in the top 10 at MRW.
Britain, which since 2000 has produced two Olympic gold medal winners in Ben Ainslie and Paul Goodison, is also fielding a strong contingent with seven sailors in a team of eight ranked in the top 50 in the world. Both Alex Mills Barton (12) and Nick Thompson (17) will be keen to draw first blood at this early stage of their Olympic cycles.
Germany’s Phillip Buhl, the 2012 European Laser Champion, won Kiel Week in June beating Scheidt into second place and will be looking to use the Laser Worlds to hoist himself up the rankings from his current 20th place.
Scheidt may have his sights set on being the best in the world but first he has to prove he is the best in Brazil by fighting off the challenge from countryman Bruno Fontes who recently rose from 9th to 3rd in the rankings after winning the Central & South American Laser Championships Higuerillas in Chile in September.
Fontes also finished 5th at the ISAF Sailing World Cup Miami and also in Palma and was 6th in Hyeres so the battle of the Brazilians will most certainly be one to watch in the steady breeze of Oman where conditions could be similar to Rio.
Sweden’s Jesper Stalheim, ranked 4th, has had a stellar year, winning the recent ISAF Sailing World Cup Test Event in Santander, the ISAF Sailing World Cup Miami and the Laser Europa Cup while Croatian Tonci Stipanović, who shot up the rankings from 14th to 2nd after winning the ISAF Sailing World Cup Qingdao in China earlier this month is at the top of his game having come third in Hyeres and 4th in Palma.
Also in the running for the world title is Jean-Baptiste Bernaz who represented France at the Beijing and London Olympics, where he came tenth.
Closer to home, the exciting development of Oman’s young sailors will be propelled onto the world stage with the Sultanate’s only world ranked Laser sailor Hussain Al Jabri and team mates Ahmed Al Hassani and Ahmed Al Balushi all proudly flying the flag for Oman.
Under the tutelage of Oman Sail, their progress has been remarkable. Al Jabri, 25, who only learnt to sail in 2011 when he joined Oman Sail, was voted this year’s winner of Oman’s first ever Sailor of the Year Awards. Al Hassani sailed on board the Formula 18 (F18 catamaran) before joining Oman Sail’s elite offshore crew on board Oman Air-Musandam (MOD70trimaran).
The 39th edition of the Laser World Championships is one of the largest dinghy sailing sporting events and the first sailing world championships ever held in the Sultanate of Oman. Over the course of seven weeks, Al Mussanah Sports City will play host to 390 of the world’s best sailors from 51 countries across Africa, Asia, Europe, Oceania, North, South and Central America contesting for the highest honours.
Organised by Oman Sail and the Omani Ministry of Sports Affairs, the Laser World Championships 2013 are being contested in three separate consecutive events for the Laser Standard Men’s, Laser Masters and Laser Radial Youth classes over a seven week period from 14th November through to 3rd January 2014. Omantel, the pioneer provider of leading edge telecommunications services in the Sultanate of Oman, is the title sponsor of the Laser World Championships. Oman Daily and Oman Observer are the official media partners.
Daphne Morgan Barnicoat reporting