By Michelle Slade
San Francisco, CA - August 4, 2011 - With 25 knots registering on the committee boat the Laser Slalom 2011 fleet hit the water for the wildest ride on the Bay, the St Francis Yacht Club’s Heavy Weather Slalom event, sponsored by Laser Performance/Maclaren and Svendsen's Marine. Racing began about 1pm in a flood tide and white caps. Not quite perfect but good enough, noted Don Trask, event founder.
Of the final four, Peter Shope and Ben Richardson (both USA) went head to head, with Shope prevailing and taking the overall first place trophy after four exhausting races. “I don’t know where that came from,’ said an elated Shope. “I tried to stay in the moment and not to look forward too much. I made sure that the vang was in the right position for the run at the beginning of each reach because I didn’t have time to deal with it going into the reach. That really helped me.”
This regatta is all about the spills and Scott Ferguson took first prize for a phenomenal crash in his last race that catapulted him some two boat lengths off his stern. “I needed to jibe, I got a huge puff and was just not going to make the gybe. I got pretty zapped especially after I crashed in the third race. Making the gybe is the difference between staying in the race - or not! It was a lot of fun.”
Ferguson (USA) took third prevailing against Mike Matan (USA). This year's top three in the competition are incidentally all from Laser District 7.
The talent-stacked fleet included international competitors from 18 years to 70-something, with anything from 40 years Laser sailing experience to six years. An elimination ladder saw yesterday’s winners advance and for those who lost two races, it was game over. With no room for error, spectacular - and frequent - crashes throughout the fleet made for tense moments on and off the course.
LaserPerformance Ambassador and Team Maclaren skipper Anna Tunnicliffe made it through to the final six. She said she was a little nervous going into the event as it’s been a while since she’s sailed a Laser (she’s been busy campaigning the Elliot 6m for the 2012 Olympics). “The upwinds were hard because I’m a good 30 pounds lighter than the others racing but I liked the downwind.”
The Laser Slalom proves wrong beyond doubt anyone who argues that sailing’s not a sport because it’s not a workout. Watching competitors’ rapid fire maneuvering and hiking in the bigger breeze today demonstrated just how intense the job is in the Slalom to make it around the course unscathed (even the top guys - and gals - capsized). Racers cited gym workouts and aerobic exercise as a key part of their training for the event, and on the water, competitive drill sessions. “I usually finish my race training with a 20 tack/20 gybe drill,” Ferguson said.
And that’s what Laser sailors love about it. Said Tunnicliffe, “I really like the physical aspect of the boat and how you have to work really hard to make the boat do what you want to do it. I had to consider every move I had to make and I had a great time.”
That’s the end of the Laser Slalom for 2011. When it’ll next take place, no-one really knows. It worked out well to hold the event at St FYC this year because it slotted in between the Laser Youth and Master World Championships. Ideally it’s the perfect event to hold on a weekend to encourage greater spectatorship and most definitely when at a time when a howling breeze is guaranteed. Maybe it can become a stand-alone event going forward - there’s certainly no shortage of enthusiasm:
Said Ryan Nelson (USA), “It was a blast, I can’t wait to do it again, I was just so bummed to go over when I did.”
* John Bertrand was the winner of the first Laser Slalom event held in 1974.
ABOUT THE LASER
The Laser is a single-handed racing dinghy with a waterline length of 12.5 feet. The biggest attraction of the Laser dinghy is that is protected by the One Design class rules, which means that no changes are allowed to the boat unless they are specifically permitted in the rules. So in theory all Laser boats are the same whether they are new or 10 years old, making it the sailor who wins the race, not the boat. The Laser is a challenging boat that rewards athleticism, subtle steering and trimming techniques, as well as tactical excellence. It is a singlehanded Olympic class boat, also sailed at club, national and international levels. With nearly 200,000 boats in 140 countries, it is clearly the world’s most popular adult and youth racing sailboat. www.laserperformance.com
ABOUT THE ST FRANCIS YACHT CLUB
Founded in 1927, the St. Francis Yacht Club is steeped in over 80 years of yachting and racing traditions. From the beginning, the St. Francis Yacht Club’s membership roster has included many of the Bay Area’s most prominent citizens and greatest sailors. Early racers for the St. Francis included such champions as L.A. Norris, Mark Fontana, Myron Spaulding, Arthur Rousseau, Painless Parker and Lester Stone. Today, it is names such as Paul Cayard, John Kostecki, John Bertrand, Stan Honey, Morgan Larson, John Heineken, Genny Tulluch and Russ Silvestri who continue to keep the St. Francis name in the forefront of world-class sailing.
The annual regatta schedule at the St. Francis is one of the most active regatta calendars in the world. Part of the attraction of racing at St. Francis Yacht Club is the excellent and challenging racing conditions unique to San Francisco Bay. Both physically beautiful and naturally demanding, the Bay provides a racer with the ultimate in wind, current and weather conditions for truly competitive, exciting sailing. The St. Francis Yacht Club prides itself on being able to provide members and guests to the Club with every comfort and amenity while dazzling them with its surroundings. www.stfyc.com
MEDIA CONTACT: Michelle Slade, firstname.lastname@example.org +415 215 1521.
Updated on May 20, 2013, 11:40pm