Nice Starts get better with age

Published on December 20th, 2020

Following the story, Earning a start the old fashioned way, we got the idea to ask for ‘Nice Start’ stories. Much like the fish we catch, these get better with age…here’s one from Mark Lammens:

Back in the day, a very friendly young sailor from Brazil, Robert Scheidt had just won the 1995 Pan Am Games in Argentina (big winds) and the 1995 Laser World Championships in Tenerife (big winds), and was one of the two BRA reps at the 1995 Pre-Olympics in Savannah, Georgia.

The other Brazilian was past World Champion Peter Tanscheit, and all of the World’s best sailors were there setting up to win the first Olympic Gold for the Laser Class which would be introduced to the Games the next year.

In the last race of the day, dying breeze, big seas, Robert was OCS. While going back to restart, he fouled another sailor, and now was doing penalty spins and sailing downwind. Robert was very deep in last place. NOT a nice start.

He passed a few people on the first beat, and on the first reach Robert drives low and gets it going, surfs every wave, going fast and passing clumps of boats. On the first run he used all the space on the inside to do the same thing, keeping the boat on the backside of waves, working his way through the fleet.

After another good beat, the second run saw the breeze getting lighter but the sea state was still very lumpy, and he continued to pass many as well as catching up to the lead boats. All of the coaches were watching, some were filming, others laughing at how their sailors were in comparison.

Robert was fast on every point of sail in every wind speed, but this is simply the new athletic and technical standard to sail. Perhaps foreshadowing his great career.

Coming into the final leeward mark he was setting himself for the reach to the finish. There was no need to try to protect to windward, as Robert passes boats to leeward. There was applause and hooting as he crossed the line, another race win and eventually the overall win. Peter Tansheidt won silver, and perhaps saw the writing on the wall as he decided to try to qualify for the 1996 Olympics in Finn.

Robert won the Olympics the next year, followed by medals in the Laser at Sydney 2000 (silver) and Athens 2004 (gold). He has won the Laser World Championships 9 times, 18 years between the first win (22 years old) and last win (40 years old).

The Laser is a technically regulated “manufacture provided” Olympic class boat, and dominating a very physical and highly technique-oriented boat has to make Robert one of the best ever to sail.

Oh ya, and Robert also won the Star World Championships three times plus Olympic Silver and Bronze medals in the class (2008 and 2012), probably with better starts.

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