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4 February 2008, 09:55 am
Big Winds To Herald Start Of Laser Worlds
Ajay RAU at the 2007 Australian Laser nationals
Ajay RAU will be aiming to qualify India for an Olympic spot

Laser World Championship 2008
Terrigal, New South Wales, Australia

The weather bureau has predicted big winds and seas for the early stages of the Laser World Championship, which starts off The Haven at Terrigal on the NSW Central Coast on Wednesday.
One hundred and sixty sailors representing 56 nations will face the starter's gun in a Practice Race at 14:30 on Wednesday before the real deal starts on Thursday with racing set to commence at 13:00 each day.

Forecasters say to expect up to 25 knots of northeasterly winds tomorrow, when many competitors will be out practicing on the offshore courses. Competitors can expect a southerly change on Wednesday morning of up to 25 knots throughout the day on a four metre swell, which will favour the heavier sailors who enjoy surfing down waves in offshore conditions.

A southeasterly change has been forecast for Thursday in the 15-25 knot range, while Friday is predicted to be a southwesterly of 20-25 knots. In other words, no let up for competitors. Rain is expected all week too, until Sunday when the sun is supposed to shine for the first time.

The Central Coast is well represented, with recently turned 23 year-old Tom SLINGSBY (AUS), the reigning World Champion. SLINGSBY has already been selected to the Australian Sailing Team for the Beijing Games.

He comes to the Worlds having won the Australian Laser Championship and finishing second to Great Britain's best, Paul GOODISON, at the Asia Pacific Series, both Sail Melbourne events.

GOODISON is expected to be SLINGSBY's greatest rival here, but in such a tough class, there are others to be wary of, including Michael LEIGH (CAN) who beat him at the Sydney International Regatta in December.

For 26 nations there is more than the Championship to worry about. Only ten Olympic places remain, with 26 countries fighting for them. These Laser Worlds are their final opportunity.

Then there are cases such as that of LEIGH. Although Canada has qualified, LEIGH has to fight it out with a few others from Canada for the one Olympic place - and the competition is tough. Bernard LUTTMER (CAN) is perhaps LEIGH's most dangerous opponent.

"This is the toughest class because of the in-depth quality of sailors. For some of those attempting to qualify, they will have the added challenge of hitting targets set by their countries.

"The fact that there are 56 nations here in Terrigal makes it a bigger mountain to climb," said Jeff MARTIN, the Executive Secretary of the International Laser Association.

India's Rajesh CHOUDHARY is one such sailor. Not only is he trying to qualify his nation, CHOUDHARY will compete against fellow countryman Ajay RAU for the one prized Olympic place, provided he finishes well enough to qualify India!

"I made the gold [top] fleet at the Laser Nationals at Sail Melbourne and I feel confident I can make the gold fleet here and qualify. I have been in Australia one month now at regattas and training. I have trained hard, because it is so important to make the Olympic team," CHOUDHARY said.

"I saw the weather forecast for the next few days. I will have to change my technique, as I am used to sailing in lighter winds - I struggle a bit in big winds, but later in the Championship it looks like it will be light, so that is good," he said.

Patrick MCCOSH from Zimbabwe is in a similar situation. "I am the only one from my country here, but it's hard to tell if I will make qualification or not. I don't know a lot about the other guys trying to qualify, so I'll just have to go out and sail my best," he said.

"I'll know more in four days time - ask me then," said MCCOSH, referring to sussing out the competition during the early days of the Championship.

"I won the bronze medal at the All-African Games, so that gives me some hope. But I go better in light winds; that's what we get at home - and that coupled with the competition, will decide whether I qualify my country or not," he added.

Minister Welcomes Laser World Championships To Terrigal

By Andrew Plumley/NSW Government

Minister for the Central Coast, John DELLA BOSCA, has welcomed the world's best singlehanded dinghy sailors to the region for 2008 Laser World Championship and Laser Masters Championships at Terrigal.

"I'm sure the region's residents will join me in welcoming our visitors and making their stay on the Central Coast a memorable and successful occasion," DELLA BOSCA said.

"Most of these sailors have been preparing and training for this event literally for years and they will be very excited about the start of the Championships, with registration starting today.

"They will enjoy very fair racing conditions offshore from Terrigal and the forecast shows they'll get a classic summer sea breeze building during the afternoon,"
he said.

The two regattas are being held from today, starting with registration until 13 February and 15-23 February respectively.

"The Iemma Government has assisted these major events to boost the region's economy," the Minister said.

"This is the first time these Championships have been held in NSW and it's an honour and an opportunity to host them on the Central Coast.

"Hundreds of sailors and spectators will attend the Championships and it helps showcase the region to the world.

"These two sailing championships will together inject over $4 million into the Central Coast economy and establish the region's reputation as a world class venue for international competitive sailing.

"The Championships will also allow local sailors to enhance their elite competition experience.

"The Laser is an Olympic class and many of these competitors will be vying for selection for the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games,"
he said.

DELLA BOSCA said the NSW Government provided $80,000 to help stage the sailing championships, comprising $50,000 funding by the NSW Major Events Board and $30,000 from NSW Sport and Recreation under its International Sporting Events Programme.

"The Iemma Government is committed to attracting major events such as these to showcase NSW internationally as an events and tourism location while leveraging benefits for regional economies like the Central Coast," DELLA BOSCA said.

"I'm sure this event will enhance NSW's reputation as a world class venue for sailing championships and attract future events to the state.

"I want to welcome the competitors and visitors and wish them best of luck for the Championships,"
he added.

Laser World Championship -

Di Pearson
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