Defending world champion Tom Slingsby was declared the 2008 World Laser Champion after nasty southerly winds and whipped up seas forced Race Organisers to abandon all attempts at racing off Terrigal this afternoon.
Principle Race Officer Tony Denham and his crew made their way out to the race track this morning and waited for any sign that either of the two remaining races in the Finals could be sailed. At one stage around 1.30pm NSW time, the AP flag was dropped, but winds increased again and racing was abandoned.
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 World's has been mostly windy. "Fresh breeze is my preferred condition," Slingsby confessed, "but I am getting there in the light winds. Yesterday (he scored two from two wins) were perfect conditions for me, 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 Julio 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 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 Olympics to be held in Qingdao, China, in August.
"My diet for China started ten 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) who coached me for 25 years. Victor Kovalenko too (Olympic coach who coached Australia to two gold medal wins at Sydney 2000). They took me under their wings."
Brett conceded: "If there were not 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 7.30pm at the Terrigal Trojan Rugby Club which has made all welcome this week.