Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Unqualified!

Regular readers of this blog (all three of you) will know that I have occasionally sailed in the Laser Masters World Championships. I've done it five times in the last eight years, most recently in Spain in 2007 and in Australia earlier this year.

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.
Let me clarify what I said above. It's not entirely true that the entry to the Worlds is totally open. There is always a practical limit on the number of sailors that the host site can accommodate, usually in the region of three or four hundred. But these events are so popular that often the demand for slots is even higher than that. So the system has been first come, first served. Sign up on the web and when the entry limit is reached you go on a waiting list and hope.

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:

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.
Hmmm. Interesting. My immediate reactions are...
  1. 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?

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

7 comments:

Derek said...

The proposal does not seem fair for people that are in their first year of eligibility. How is someone who turns 35 in the year of the regatta supposed to qualify and make the necessary travel arrangements?

In Terrigal the regatta was in February and you had to turn 35 before the start of the event. Had the qualification system applied to this event, it is highly probable that many people would not have been a Master for ANY of the qualifiers, but still would have been eligible for the regatta. It sounds like the new system will exclude these people from participating.

tillerman said...

Great point derek. I guess the only loophole for folk in their first year of eligibility would be to qualify for a Senior or Radial Worlds some time in the previous five years, but that's tough and most 30 to 34 year-old almost-masters are not going to be able to do that.

Of course the other possibility is that even once all the people who have qualified and want to go have signed up, there may well be plenty of other places left.

Derek said...

Other than rumors, how do you know where the 2010 and 2011 events are? I cannot find anything on www.laserinternational.org. Based on my prior comment, I will obviously be joining the fun of Laser Masters sailing soon. That is a reason to look forward to getting older!

tillerman said...

I can't remember how I know. I just do.

Once you pass the magic age of 35 you will be initiated into the secret society of Laser Master sailors and learn our secret ways of finding things out and our secret ways of conveniently forgetting how we found them out.

Seriously I think I must have been told the future locations at one or both of the last two Masters Worlds by "usually reliable sources" who were at some of those secret event planning meetings at secret locations.

If you insist on using the internet for your source of such information then try Googling "laser masters worlds 2010". First hit is this post. Scary.

PS Is this how internet rumors get started?

Team Gherkin said...

Gees... all I thought you'd need was one of the old regatta t-shirts or something! Sheesh!

Litoralis said...

I also thought about the "turning 35" problem, but it seems that you would almost always have an the opportunity to sail and qualify in an event major North American Master's event (i.e. a North Americans, US or Canadian Nationals, MMWE, etc.) before the Masters Worlds of the same year in which you turn 35. The worst case is that you just wait until the next year.

Tillerman said...

Aaah - but derek and litoralis seem to be unaware of the "great debate" that raged in the Laser Masters world a few years ago about the crucial definition of "what is a Laser Master?"

Those sleazy Euromasters with their garlic and wine and snails decided that you became a Master/Grandmaster/SuperGreatGrandmaster in the year you turned 35/55/75. This was so you were in the same age group all year for their European Master Series where sailors who had the inclination could drive from Croatia to Finland to Spain to Iceland in order to sail in Masters events all over aforementioned continent of snail eaters and garlic breath.

The rest of the world (aka as USA and Australia plus that guy from Japan) stuck to the original definition that your age at the start of each regatta decided whether you were a master and what age group you were in. Our Antipodean cousins pointed out that their summer season spanned two calendar years so a definition based on calendar year was of no help to them.

Debate was strong and hot on the forums and in the showers after racing. Heated words were exchanged. Even the odd Canadian got emotional. (Are all Canadians odd?)

In the end the garlic eaters and the rest of the world agreed to disagree.

So where does this leave us? If you happen to turn 35 in February of 2013 say and you live in the USA and the Masters Worlds are in the last few months of that year then you probably can qualify, assuming that the rules haven't changed by then which they probably will.

Otherwise you're screwed derek.

Post a Comment