Just to explain, the designation Masters in the Laser class means the event is for sailors over 35 (old geezers by Laser standards) and we race against other sailors in our own 10-year age group... 35-44, 45-54, 55-64, 65+. Up until now the Laser Masters Worlds have been open to anyone who wants to sign up. No need to qualify in any way. But this is about to change.
I do confess that attending a Masters Worlds is very much an excuse for a superb vacation for my wife and myself. We only go if the event is being held in a country that we will enjoy visiting for reasons other than the championship and we usually tag on a few extra days (or weeks in the case of Australia) to explore that country. It's the perfect getaway for us... an interesting trip with a week or so of Laser racing thrown in for me. I suspect I'm not the only one who looks on the Masters Worlds in this light... and therein lies the problem.
There has been talk in the last year or so about introducing a qualification system for the Masters Worlds, and not allowing them to be completely open as they are now. There appear to be two reasons for this...
- Some sailors are treating them just as an excuse for a vacation. Shock horror! More specifically what apparently has been happening is that a few chaps with little or no Laser experience look at the location for the next Laser Master Worlds and think, "Hey, I've always wanted to go to Brazil. All I need to do is charter a boat and buy an air-ticket and I can sail in a World Championship. Wow. Count me in." Then they show up at the Worlds, get totally blown away in 25-30 knot winds, spend most of the time upside down, are a danger to themselves not to mention an unnecessary burden for the safety boats, and everyone else has to sit around and wait for them to try and finish every race within the time limit.
- Sometimes the entry is totally dominated numerically by sailors from the home country or region. This happened this year where the vast majority of the sailors were from Australia with relatively small contingents from other continents. There is a school of thought that a true World Championship should have an entry list more representative of all regions of the world.
This year the Aussies were very savvy to this and signed up for the Worlds in their own country in huge numbers in the first few days the entry was open. By the end of the first week, and before many sailors in other regions had woken up to what was happening, the entry was full. Regular readers of this blog (all three of you) will recall how I beat the system and got my entry in on time.
So our intrepid Laser Class leadership has decided to fix these problems. There are going to be quotas for each region to try and address the need for good representation from each part of the world. And if any region has more potential entrants than their quota then that region will have to decide how to rank its sailors to decide who will qualify to attend.
I must admit to mixed feelings about this...
On the one hand if more sailors want to attend a world championship than the host site is prepared to handle, then I think it's only fair that the best sailors should be allowed to attend. And we really shouldn't allow sailors to attend a Worlds who can't sail competently in the prevailing conditions.
On the other hand I was concerned that I could be one of the sailors squeezed out of the event by any qualification system. I'm not at the front of the Worlds fleet by any means. I was even DFL in a race at the last Worlds (once). Would I conclude that my life is worthless and give up Lasering if I am told I am unqualified to attend a Masters Worlds? No. But it is kind of cool to have the option to go.
So I waited with some trepidation to see what qualification/ranking system would be used for Masters Worlds entries from the North American Region. It was announced a few days ago on the class website. For the 2009 Masters Worlds in Canada next year the number of berths for North American sailors is apparently not yet known. But the qualification system for we North American sailors will be as follows...
1)To be eligible you must have:Hmmm. Interesting. My immediate reactions are...
a) Competed in a Laser World Championship (Master, Senior or Radial) in the past 5 years, or
b) Competed in a major North American Master's event (North Americans, US or Canadian Nationals, MMWE, etc.) AND finished in the top 75% of your fleet.
2) If, after satisfying the above, there are more applicants than spots available then entries will be taken in order of registration.
- You are in if you have sailed in any Laser world championship including the Masters in the last five years. This is good for me having sailed in the Masters Worlds in 2003, 2007 and 2008. But is this really a good test? Could folk who don't qualify under this heading see this as protecting the interests of the relatively small clique of sailors who always attend this event? Who's to say that other sailors who haven't been to a Worlds before aren't more worthy than an old duffer like me?
- You are in if you have competed in a major North American Masters event and finished in the top 75% of your fleet. It's not entirely clear to me if they mean you must have achieved this in the last five years (as per the first qualification) or whether this test has to be passed in more recent events. I haven't sailed many of these national masters events but if the five year span does apply to this rule then I am OK on this test too, having finished in the top 25% of the grandmaster fleet of the last such event I did sail, the US Masters Nationals in 2005.
- Apparently this is the system for the 2009 Worlds only. But I also have more than a passing interest in going to the 2010 event in England (if only for the chance to go and visit my mother during the trip) and the 2011 event in Perth/Fremantle Western Australia (birthplace of Tillerwoman and one of the most awesome places on the planet for sailing.) It's not at all clear what the qualification system for these regattas will be.
So what to do? Well, it seems that our esteemed North American leaders are favoring using results at major North American Masters events as a factor in the qualification. That seems as fair a system as any. So just in case anyone changes their mind about the "if you sailed a Worlds in the last five years you're fine" test, and just in case the five years rule doesn't apply to the "top 75% in your fleet at a major NA Masters event", and just in case that generous 75% bar gets raised higher in future years, it seems that if I want to keep my options open I should start sailing more of these major national Masters events and chalking up some results likely to pass any more stringent qualification rules that might apply in the future.
Let's see what's coming up... US Masters in New Bedford in a couple of weeks, Canadian Masters in Novia Scotia in September, Masters Midwinters East in Florida in February.
I will just have to sail in these regattas. It's a hard life but somebody's got to do it.