Written by Dan Self
Worldwide, the Laser is known as one of the toughest, and most competitive fleets, and many great sailors have begun their sailing career in the Laser class. Being a strict One Design class, success in the Laser relies heavily on a sailor’s fitness, boat handling, and tactical and strategic knowledge. Despite the competitiveness of the class, there are a number of names which stand out amongst the Laser results sheets, and I’m going to list my top 10 here.
1. Robert Scheidt
It’s pretty hard to mention the Laser class without mentioning Robert Scheidt. The Brazilian has won 9 World Championships, 3 Olympic medals in the Laser (2 Gold + 1 Silver) and is an ideal for Laser sailors worldwide. Beyond the Laser, Scheidt has gone on to success in other classes such as the Star, and RC44.
2. Tom Slingsby
This number 2 spot on this list is a little contentious, but since we’re considering the top 10 Laser sailors, we will need to go off the achievements of each sailor in the Laser only. With that said, Tom Slingsby, with 5 World Championships to his name, is the clear number 2. Also boasting an Olympic Gold Medal, Slingsby changed the game with his aggressive, physical, ‘low groove’ sailing in strong wind. When the wind was up, Slingsby was said to have been virtually untouchable on the water.
3. Ben Ainslie
Known as the greatest Olympic sailor of all time, Ben Ainslie kicked off his streak of Olympic medals in the Laser class. Despite a long time rivalry with Robert Scheidt, Ainslie was still able to achieve incredible results including 2 Olympic, 4 World and 5 European Championship medals.
4. Nick Thompson
Although he never medalled at the Olympics, Nick Thompson has been one of the most consistent sailors of his generation at the Laser World Championships. Having 2 medals of each colour, Nick was known for his consistency across a range of conditions, and was never far off the podium in any regatta.
5. Glenn Bourke
This Australian sailor is a bit less well known then some of the others who were in contention for this list, but with 3 World Champion titles, Glenn Bourke is the 3rd most successful sailor at this event. Through the publication of his book “Championship Laser Racing”, Bourke surely influenced a number of Laser sailors beyond his time.
6. Paul Goodison
Alongside his Olympic Gold Medal, Brit Paul Goodison holds the record for the most European Championships won (5!), on top of his 2009 World Championship title. For me, Goodison had one of the biggest influences on my Laser career through his book; “RYA Laser Handbook”. I’ve read this book cover to cover at least 5 times, and many of my early sailing techniques were derived from Goodison’s tips.
7. Pavlos Kontides
Not only does Kontides hold 2 World Championship titles, he was also the first ever Olympic medallist from his native Cyprus. Add to those results two European Championship titles, and Kontides is well deserving of making this list.
8. John Bertrand (USA)
A man who has had a significant influence in my sailing career, John Bertrand (not to be confused with the Australian John Bertrand), was the first multi-winner of the Laser World Championships. Even in the early days of the Laser class, he was well known for his strenuous physical preparation, and attention to detail.
9. Tonci Stipanovic
With two Olympic silver medals, and 4 European Champion titles, Tonci Stipanovic has been at the pinnacle of the Laser class for well over a decade. Having raced in one of the most competitive periods in class history, Stipanovic’s results easily land him on this list.
10. Michael Blackburn
Not only a world class sailor, but also coach, Michael Blackburn has 5 World Championship medals alongside one Olympic Bronze medal to his name. Blackburn has also coached the last 3 Olympic Gold Medallists, and written the timeless book “Sailing Fitness and Training” - the most comprehensive book there is on physical training for sailing.