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10 March 2008, 10:36 am
Australia And South Africa Win Hobie Tiger and Dragoon Worlds
The Dragoon Champs celebrate with Tracy WHITEHEAD

Hobie Tiger and third Hobie Dragoon World Championships 2008
Langebaan, South Africa

Australia's Mark LARUFFA and Daniel SIMS and Matt WHITEHEAD and Megan DU PLESSIS of South Africa won the 2008 Hobie Tiger and Hobie Dragoon Worlds respectively in Langebaan, South Africa.
It was a nerve-wracking morning for the leaders in both fleets, as the lack of wind kept them waiting. The first attempt on the Dragoon course was cancelled after the wind died completely. At about 13:00, the race committee dropped the postponement flag and all teams left the beach. When the Tigers finally managed to start clean, Mark LARUFFA and Daniel SIMS (AUS) lost initially their golden position, but they fought back and won the title. Today's scheduled final race for the Dragoons could not be sailed anymore, due to the long postponement. That meant that at the time limit of 15:00, Matt WHITEHEAD and Megan DU PLESSIS (RSA) were declared the new Hobie Dragoon World Champions.

As the clock ticked on Saturday morning, sailors sat inside the party tent and played cards or socialized. Beach volleyball seemed to be popular amongst the youth. Meanwhile, LARUFFA and SIMS were close to their first World title ever. Mitch BOOTH and Tiffany BARING-GOULD, representing the Netherlands, were only one point behind, so they were very keen to go. They got their chance in the afternoon, but patience was still needed. The wind was not stable enough, so the 62 Tigers floated for another hour. This was followed by two general recalls.

LARUFFA explained, "That was nerve-wracking, because I knew we were running out of time. They hoisted the black flag and it was pin-end favoured, so that was tricky. It could be all over at the start. Mitch was right at the pin and was leading at that moment."

BOOTH and BARING-GOULD came first at the top mark, but had a problem with the spinnaker hoist. LARUFFA and SIMS rounded in tenth position, so at that stage the Dutch team was winning the regatta. BOOTH said, "Unfortunately, the spinnaker halyard got stuck behind the spreader, so we lost three boats. Near the bottom mark, we dropped the spinnaker sheet, so that cost us another three boats. We went from first to seventh and it was all over after this downwind."

Duncan ROSS and Rick NANKIN (RSA) took the lead and the last bullet.

Emotional Win

According to LARUFFA, they had a good first spinnaker hoist and caught two boats. SIMS said, "Everybody went to shore and we were just behind Shaun FERRY. We did not want to go over him, because that would limit our options. We slowed down and gibed away. Mischa HEEMSKERK did the same."

Halfway down the run, the Australians gibed back to cover on BOOTH. They gained another three competitors at the gate and rounded the left hand mark. SIMS explained, "Mischa chose the other side and Mitch followed us, which was good. We just had to keep him behind us, so we tacked when he tacked. We actually wore different shirts today, so Mitch would not recognize us on the course."

LARUFFA and SIMS finished third and won the Hobie Tiger World Title 2008, LARUFFA's first win in 27 years of trying.

"I had to be careful not to cry at the finish. My partner at home is in tears," the Australia skipper commented.

Although LARUFFA has finally achieved his goal, he does not speak about retiring. "It is only starting. This time I did not party during the championship," he said.

BARING-GOULD, crewing for BOOTH, won silver at her first multihull event ever. "I am very happy with our result and I will be definitely back in the catamarans," she commented.

Robbie LOVIG and Lachlan GIBSON (AUS) had never sailed a Hobie Tiger World Championship before, but they go home with a bronze medal. "We are pretty pleased, because it was really tight with close racing. Mark was exceptional this week. We have exceeded our own targets, because we wanted to be in the top five. We have only started 12 months ago," said LOVIG.

Big Youth Party

"I am so nervous", said WHITEHEAD this morning. Despite his domination throughout the whole Hobie Dragoon championship, he was still thinking of the best strategy to secure the title. But in the end, he did not need it, as they run out of time.

"The wind was perfect, but it was already 3 pm," explained WHITEHEAD. His dream came true: he and his crew MEGAN DU PLESSIS became the new Hobie Dragoon World Champions.

"I just sat there and couldn't believe it. It will sink in. This week has been great fun with awesome sailing and it was well planned," WHITEHEAD said.

His mother Tracy WHITEHEAD did a wonderful job organizing the event. His father Colin WHITEHEAD, Hobie 16 World Champion 1978, finished 15th at the Tiger Worlds. As soon as he came back to shore, he gave his son a big hug and a champion's bath in the Langebaan Lagoon. WHITEHEAD junior said, "It will be a big party tonight. My whole family is here, which is cool. They have been a great support for me. My dream was to win these Dragoon Worlds in my home town and it has come true."

His crew DU PLESSIS seemed to be overwhelmed as well. "It feels awesome. In a way I am happy, but I am also disappointed that it is over now," she said.

Ewald ERASMUS and Riccardo SUTTNER-SCALCO (RSA) won silver. ERASMUS said, "It is a great experience to meet all these people. I definitely enjoyed it."

Geert and Thomas SCHOUTEN (NED) won bronze in the open class and Petrus SMITH and Ewie LOUBSER (RSA) in the junior class. SMITH said, "It feels quite nice. I will be probably up all night, together with Matt."

Most of the South African youth sailors will meet each other again in two weeks at the qualification for the 2008 Volvo Youth Sailing ISAF World Championship, taking plaice in Århus, Denmark this July. That means they will switch to the Hobie 16 with spinnaker.

Results - click here
Hobie Tiger and Hobie Dragoon World Championships - click here

Diana Bogaards
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