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23 September 2005, 09:17 am
STEYAERT And ARAPOV Make The Early Running
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Laser World Championship 2005
Fortaleza, Brazil

It was a tough opening day for the big names at the ISAF Grade W Laser World Championship in Fortaleza, Brazil with Olympic gold and silver medallists Robert SCHEIDT (BRA) and Andreas GERITZER (AUT) and European Champion Paul GOODISON (GBR) all picking up double figure scores. After two races Jeremie STEYAERT (FRA) and Mate ARAPOV (CRO) are tied at the top of the leaderboard, with a bullet and a fourth place each.
The opening parade of the Championship for the 137 sailors from 37 countries in Fortelza was both colourful and moving as all the sailors hoisted their national flag to the sound of the Brazilian National Anthem. Following this a sailor from each country poured a flask of water, symbolizing their home water, into a collecting vase. This vase was then poured into the sea by the three Olympic medallists from Athens, SCHEIDT, GERITZER and Vasilij ZBOGAR (SLO) to symbolize a joining of the waters of the world.

The ceremony over, an otherwise perfect day one was spoilt by the sad withdrawal of the talented young Australian, Tom SLINGSBY, because of stress injury to his leg. Coincidently Brazil's number one soccer team was in town, staying at the regatta hotel, and SLINGSBY was kindly attended by the club's doctor who broke the sad news to him. SLINGSBY is one of the new group of rising stars looking to take over from seven times Laser World Champion SCHEIDT and has come of age this year, winning four events including the ISAF Grade 1 Semaine Olympique Française and the ISAF Grade 1 Holland Regatta and last month finishing fifth at the ISAF Grade C1 Laser European Championship in Spain.

Out on the race course a ten to 14 knot oscillating southeasterly wind, tested the World's best Laser sailors under bright blue skies. Split into two fleets of 68 it was important to get a good start and hit the first shift. In the first fleet a group bunched at committee expecting the right to be favoured as it had been in training, but yesterday the leaders came from the left hand, seaward side of the course. Amongst these was 2004 Olympic bronze medallist ZBOGAR who took a yellow flag penalty 200 metres after the start but recovered from last to round the first mark in 30th.

Argentina's Diego ROMERO recounts the battle for the lead, 'I rounded the first mark with Luca RADELIC [(CRO)] and ZBOGAR and we all made places on the downwind. Luca caught and passed Adonis BOURGIOURIS [(GRE)] and Aron LOLIC [(CRO)] to take the winning gun.'

In the second fleet, sailing the inner loop of the trapezoid course, Roope SUOMALAINEN (FIN) held the lead at the halfway stage. The Finnish sailor explained, 'I started at the pin and sailed for 200 metres and the got a shift to cross the fleet. It was a great feeling but I am not sure if I can do the same in stronger winds.' SUOMALAINEN was passed by another member of the strong Croatian team, European bronze medallist, ARAPOV on the next downwind leg, who went to take the winning gun.

In the second race for the yellow fleet got away at the first attempt. Again the pin end boats came out on top which included, Andrew MURDOCH (NZL), RADELIC, ZBOGAR, and 2005 Volvo Youth Sailing ISAF World Champion Giles SCOTT (GBR). MURDOCH rounded first and stretched his lead throughout the race to finish 100 metres ahead of SCOTT.

The Race Committee struggled to get the blue fleet second race away as the shifting wind favoured first the pin and then the committee boat. Eventually it was a clean start under a black flag with Christian STEIGER (SUI) port tacking the fleet. However left was the way to go as explained by STEYAERT, 'I started in the middle of the line and played the shifts on the left. I had a good downwind and took the lead but I was watching Robert SCHEIDT who had moved up to second. We both went right on the next windward leg and I am pleased I was able to stay ahead of him until the finish.'

STEYART is tied with ARAPOV at the top of the leaderboard on five points, but there is a long way to go in the 14 race series. Defending champion and leader of the Laser ISAF World Sailing Rankings, SCHEIDT, was one of a number of established names who had a mixed day and he currently lies 13th overall. The Brazilian star reflected, 'I had a bad start in the first race and made a few mistakes and my start in the second race was not much better but I got the shifts right.'

Of the other Olympic medallists, ZBOGAR is fairing best with two fourths putting him fifth overall, tied on points with SCOTT and two points behind third place RADELIC. It was a tough first day for Athens silver medallist GERITZER who lies 25th overall after finishes of 19 and 10, whilst European Champion and number two in the Rankings GOODISON also struggled with a 17th and eleventh place putting him 22nd on the leaderboard.

Top Ten After Two Races

Pos Nation Helm R1 R2 Pts
1 FRA Jeremie STEYAERT 4 1 5
2 CRO Mate ARAPOV 1 4 5
3 CRO Luka RADELIC 1 5 6
4 GBR Giles SCOTT 6 2 8
5 SLO Vasilij ZBOGAR 4 4 8
6 GER Alexander SCHLONSKI 7 3 10
7 GER Tobias SCHDEWALDT 5 6 11
8 ARG Diego Emilio ROMERO 5 7 12
9 CAN Bernard LUTTMER 9 5 14
10 POR Gustavo LIMA 8 6 14
Jeff Martin (As Amended By ISAF). Image, Mate ARAPOV made a great start in Fortaleza yesterday:© Clive Mason/Getty Images
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