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13 February 2008, 09:27 am
SLINGSBY Declared 2008 Laser World Champion
Tom SLINGSBY
Double World Champion Tom SLINGSBY

Laser World Championship 2008
Terrigal, New South Wales, Australia

Defending champion Tom SLINGSBY was declared 2008 Laser World Champion after nasty southerly winds and whipped up seas forced race organizers to abandon all attempts at racing this afternoon.
Principle Race Officer Tony DENHAM and his crew made their way out to the race track in Terrigal this morning and waited for any sign that either of the two remaining races in the finals could be sailed. At one stage around 13:30 NSW time, the AP flag was dropped, but winds increased again and racing abandoned.

Tom SLINGSBY, who finished on 27 points, has won the championship from Argentina's Julio ALSOGARAY by two points, the Argentinean not having the opportunity to turn the tables. Javier HERNANDEZ from Spain finished third with 39 points.

"It hasn't sunk in yet," said SLINGSBY in the boat park, where sailors were readying to make their way out to the race area. "It's a weird feeling when they [race committee] pull up the AP flag - it's a strange way to win a championship, but I'm over the moon, especially to win on my local waters."

SLINGSBY has not sailed at Terrigal, where he is a member of championship host venue Gosford Sailing Club, since November. "The weather was very different then," he said.

Conditions for most of the 2008 Worlds has been mostly windy. "Fresh is my preferred conditions," SLINGSBY confessed, "but I am getting there in the light winds. Yesterday [he scored two from two wins] was my perfect conditions, but I've had good speed all week. Sometimes speed can take you the wrong way though, as it did day before yesterday and I have to be careful of that," he said.

The 23 year old from Frederick's Point on the Central Coast also paid tribute to second place getter ALSOGARAY. "Julio did a great job here; he didn't finish any worse than ninth place. He will be a big threat at the Games in China. He sailed awesome.

"He has all the tools to win in any conditions, but in China, it will be whoever can perform best that week."

SLINGSBY was surprised his greatest rivals Paul GOODISON (GBR) and Andrew MURDOCH (NZL) did not do better (GOODISON finished seventh, MURDOCH 14th). "I thought they would do better, but the first day of racing was a hard one for a lot of sailors."

Agreeing that he knew he had a good chance of successfully defending his 2007 World title, SLINGSBY nevertheless admitted: "While you feel confident, you never know in a great fleet of sailors like this." He will now get on with the job of training for the Olympic Sailing Competition to be held in Qingdao, China, in August.

"My diet for China started 10 minutes ago. I have a goal weight of 74-75 kilos which I think is achievable,"
he said referring to the renowned lighter conditions expected at the Sailing Competition venue.

Arthur BRETT, SLINGSBY's coach of over four years and a world sailing champion himself, was feeling very emotional. "Winning is always emotional for me, because of the athlete/coach relationship. Things have to be said sometimes and we have a terrific relationship and can talk openly and honestly," said BRETT, who won the 2001/02 Contender World Championship.

"I'm a pretty lucky guy to coach someone like Tom. He's a pretty special talent - and I knew that four and a half years ago when I started coaching him."

BRETT revealed how his own brother has helped him understand the role of a coach and the coach/athlete relationship. "My brother coached top German tennis player Boris BECKER for five years - and he has given me a good insight into coaching.

"I have also been helped a lot by my mentor Fletch [Mike FLETCHER whose Olympic coaching duties will tally nine come the Beijing Games], and Lex BERTRAND [brother of America's Cup skipper John BERTRAND] who coached me for 25 years. Victor KOVALENKO too [Olympic coach who coached Australia to two gold medals wins at Sydney 2000]. They took me under their wings."

BRETT conceded: "If there wasn't Olympics this year, you wouldn't be thinking of anything but the ecstasy of winning, but with the Games coming up, you tend to feel conservative in your thoughts."

SLINGSBY's win will be celebrated at the official closing ceremony this evening starting from 19:30 at the Terrigal Trojan Rugby Club which has made all welcome this week.

Ten Nations Qualify For Beijing Games

SLINGSBY may have retained his World crown as the Laser World Championship came to a close at Terrigal today, but there was more at risk for many others who were aiming to qualify their nations for the ten remaining places into the Beijing Games.

A happy Jeemin HA (KOR) qualified Korea when he made it into the gold-fleet finals two days ago. The remaining countries had to wait it out until today.

There was a fair amount of nervous tension as competitors in this Olympic men's one person dinghy class paced the boat park waiting for Race Officials to announce one way or the other whether racing at the ISAF Grade W Worlds would be possible. By afternoon, excessive seas, caused by huge southerly winds, had put to rest any thought of racing.

"It's too dangerous," said Principle Race Officer Tony DENHAM, "We have a duty of care," he said.

That pronouncement suited some, but ended the Olympic hopes and dreams of others.

The remaining nine nations making the cut from the silver fleet are: Switzerland (Max BULLEY finished fifth), Japan (Yoichi IIJIMA, tenth), Malaysia (Kevin LIM, 15th), Singapore (Seng Leong KOH, 23rd), Venezuela (Jose Miguel RUIZ, 26th), Dominican Republic (Raul AGUAYO, 31st), Hungary (Zsombor BERECZ, 32nd), Russia (Igor LISOVENKO, 35th) and Guatemala (Juan MAEGLI, 45th).

Qualifying ones nation does not necessarily mean an automatic entry to the Games for the competitor who qualified. A number will have to sail off against their compatriots in other regattas to claim their Beijing selection or prove to their national authorities that they are up to the job.

A point in case is Germany. qualifying at the 2007 ISAF Sailing World Championships, five German competitors came to these Worlds. Of the five, four remarkably made it through to the gold fleet Finals. Alexander SCHLONSKI was best placed, finishing sixth overall - a fantastic effort. But now he will have to go home and plead his case to his national authority, who will make a decision.

Various other countries have as many as seven sailors in contention for one Olympic place. Canada is one of those; with six in contention. One, Michael LEIGH, is World Ranked #5, but will have to sail of against six others to claim his place in Beijing.

In Australia, SLINGSBY was selected late last year, so to a degree, the pressure was less at this Championship. His next goal is to bring home an Olympic medal from Beijing in August.


Masters

While the Laser World Championship is over, regatta management now has the final planning for the Laser Masters World Championships with racing set to get underway on Sunday from 14:00.

Results - http://aus08.laserinternational.org/results.php
Laser World Championship - http://aus08.laserinternational.org/

Di Pearson
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