April 22, 2014

2014 Easter Laser Regatta

by Pam
As always, Fred's Easter Laser Regatta draws the biggest turnout in Laser District 15 and has some of the best talent in the area. What is interesting is that trends in the district can be seen from the attendees at this event. 

There were 54 Lasers in all, 33 full rigs and 21 Radials. The average age in the Radial fleet was 15 and the average age in the full rig fleet was 40. Overall, 63% of the sailors were not Masters. The event was used as the Area F qualifier for US Sailing's Junior Singlehanded Championship (the Smythe trophy). Fred and Austin Yacht Club had to jump through a lot of hoops to accommodate US Sailing's lengthy requirements. Fred isn't known for jumping through hoops for anyone but he's all about supporting the game so he stepped up and hop, hop, hopped. He has even posted the results and annual picture already.  Unprecedented!

In recent years, the local junior programs, especially in the Houston area, have been gaining momentum. The junior girls are just as talented as the junior boys. The coaching and parental support is fantastic. Some of the support trailers these kids travel with would make a sailor drool.  One trailer carried eight Lasers and a rib. 

The adult sailors are getting older and this year seemed to be a bit of a changing of the guard. Scott Young has been the favored winner of the event for years but this past February he went to the Laser Masters Week in Florida, checked it off his bucket list, sold his boat to a friend before the last event began and retired his Laser hiking pants. There were several other regulars that were also absent from the event and in their place was the beginnings of a new generation. Usually the top sailors are at least Masters but this year, if you combined the ages of the top three finishers, it was about the age of the 4th place finisher … Doug. 

The racing was the usual for the Easter Regatta. Wind, less wind, puffy, shifty and fun. I sailed passed Doug in the first start sequence and he was in the water with a hand on the centerboard. I looked back again and he was sitting on his boat chatting with a coach and pointing at the committee boat, not looking like he was in a hurry to start. I didn't see him again until the start of the second race and he was pretty far off in the distance and clearly going to miss the second start. He started about three minutes late, caught up to me and sailed with me for a leg or two and in the last half of the last leg he said we can pick up 10 boats here and he tacked. I got pinned by someone who wanted to sail me to the other side of the course and by the time I broke free, Doug had put 8 boats between us.

So, what had happened with Doug in the first race was that in the start sequence he pulled on his Cunningham and the sail came down.  He tipped the boat and checked the damage.  The strap at the top of the sail was shredded so he had a very long sail back to shore, a frantic search for a spare sail, and he was back in business but still late for the second start. 

By race three, he should have been on his game but he just wasn't.  His finishes on day one were 31, 14, 10, 6, 7.   In race three, I tacked in a puff and went straight into irons.  I uttered some four letter words and the boat fired back with a wappity, bap, bap … with the boom hitting me with a left, right, left.  I uttered some more four letter words and the boat promptly started sailing backwards rather rapidly.  Uncle!  I finished the race sailed back to the start with Doug and asked him to tell the committee boat I'd retired.  I had a leisurely sail back in, had a shower, some cookies and returned just in time to bring Doug his dolly. I'd had a wonderful day and Doug had decided he was a washed up has been and his glory days were over.

I've always known that Doug sails significantly better when I'm not on the course with him.  He isn't worrying about me in the back of his mind.  Am I having fun, are people being nice to me, am I being picked on, did I make it back to shore okay, etc.?  The Laser isn't my race boat. I'd met my goal of not being last and not having the committee wait for me and not having the Radial fleet catch up or pass me. So, on day two I opted not to sail and had a relaxing day getting ready for the long drive back home. 

The boats started coming in and Doug was one of the first to return.  He was faking a dejected look of disgust but I can read him like a book and said, 'three bullets, huh?' 'No' he said, 'it was 1, 2, 1'.  He was higher than a kite.  In the last race, he'd gotten into a tacking duel with the leader who was 45 years younger than him and they tacked about 20 times in the last leg and the young 18 year old clearly out sailed him but Doug out experienced him on the finish line and protected the right and forced the guy to duck him and Doug won by a few inches. Doug then decided he still had it in him.  It just takes him longer to get warmed up these days. He can't wait to meet Keen on the race course again soon. 

I bought a new camera a couple of weeks ago and had a blast playing with it. It beautifies people's faces. I tried to sneak shot after shot of Fred but the camera wouldn't recognize his face with his beard and glasses.  Finally, Doug got him to take his glasses off for a second and I grabbed this shot and beautified it. Sort of an angelic Fred.


  1. Good to see a new generation of young Laser sailors coming through. The challenge is to keep them in the sport.

    1. They seem to go off to college and then we never see them again. No one seems to know what happens to them.

  2. Actually this regatta seems to have a good number of age 25-35 sailors.

    1. Yes, it's great to see lots of younger-than-masters racing.

    2. About 9 out of 54 in the 25-35 age group - 17% of the turnout. I guess that's not too bad but I think the future of sailing needs more.

    3. I prefer to see the glass half full. I think it's a very positive sign to see that many sailors in the 25-35 age group. That's when a lot of people drop out of sailing altogether. Hopefully most of these will stay with the sport and be joined by others of their cohort in a few years time when they have got past those 'get a job get a spouse get a house get some babies' years. I didn't even start sailing until I was nearly 35. Didn't really have the disposable income to prioritize buying a boat until then.

    4. You have a point. We've been kicking around ideas at the last few regattas. If the 25-35 age group is a target then we have to recognize that they might have all sorts of energy but limited time and money.

      One idea is to make all circuit regattas one day regattas instead of two days. It's harder to set aside an entire weekend when you've got spouse, babies and jobs competing for time, not to mention travel costs.

      Another idea is to create some unique yacht club memberships for those who might not be able to deal with the complications or owning, maintaining, storing or transporting a boat. The membership would come with a right to use a club boat and possible reciprocal benefits at other clubs. It wouldn't be the best equipment but it might put sailors on the water that might not otherwise be there.

      Fred would like to see a knock off Laser for sale at Walmart for $1000 that would be like an Intensity or APS sail that isn't class legal but good enough for local sailing. I don't know if it's even possible to make and sell a Laser for $1000 but if it is, someone should go after that market while LP runs the class legal market into the ground.

  3. A few years ago there were some people in our district arguing that one-day regattas were the way to go for the reasons you state. Now some of the same folk are arguing that we should group the one-day regattas into pairs close together geographically so they can do "double-headers" i.e. two one day regattas on the same weekend. It's only a matter of time before some bright spark comes up with the idea of combining a pair of nearby one-day regattas into a two-day regatta at one location.

    I think fleet boats are a great idea. The two strongest frostbite Laser fleets in our district both do offer that. One is at a community sailing center but the other one is at a traditional yacht club and essentially they are offering a stripped down membership for winter members of the Laser fleet.

    I don't know if we'll ever see a $1000 Laser clone. Even if someone did try to market one, Bruce Kirby would probably tie them up in legal battles for several years and drive them out of business. Apparently you can't build a "Kirby sailboat" without his blessing.


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