August 6, 2011: The Laser is a one design, one person boat that requires strength, agility, and a mastery of sailing tactics in order to be competitive. Many of the sailors racing in Cascais in the America’s Cup World Series cut their teeth in these boats. The Laser Masters Worlds, starting this week in San Francisco, brings together a great group of men (230 entered) and women (10 entered) who have over their years, raced Lasers in all parts of the world and in all sorts of conditions. Many see each other annually at these events, so there’s a great sense of camaraderie off the water as much as there is competition on the water. Here at the St. Francis Yacht Club, the host for this year's regatta, it’s the last day of registration before the racing begins.
The Laser Masters fleets are broken down by age and by rig size (radial or full rig). There are approximately 40 boats (registration is not closed as of this writing) in the youngest age group, Apprentice, who must be 35 years old as of the first day of racing and cannot be older than 44. The Masters, aged 45 - 54, is always the largest group in the Masters Worlds, this time with 110 sailors. Many of the younger masters sailors look forward to the older ones “aging out” as they’ve been so dominant in their group. Grand Masters, this year with 55 boats in the fleet are aged 55-64, and finally, there are the Great Grand Masters, an esteemed group of 35 men and women entered who are 65 years of age and older.
The radial rig is approximately 1.3 square meters smaller than the full rig. After practice yesterday in medium breezes, several competitors have opted out of the full rig into the radial for the regatta in San Francisco’s notoriously big breeze. According to Jury Member and Radial Sailor Danielle Pascoe, sailing a full rig Laser requires about 40 pounds more weight, and most of that should be in muscle to manage the larger sail. Thus in the big wind, the lighter sailor may well be overpowered by his or her rig.
In these fleets, there are several accomplished sailors racing including Grand Master John Andron (former America’s Cup crew), Master Scott Ferguson (many time Master’s champ and AC wing designer), and Olympic Medalist Russ Silvestri (Master) to name a few, but the list of accomplished sailors who like to get back to the basics and compete against their peers in the Laser is quite long. With this deep of a fleet it’s hard to guess who will be in the top five at the end, but one can certainly expect that the competition will be tight and the work hard, to hold any of the top spots. Racing starts tomorrow, Sunday, and continues through Saturday, August 13.
About the Laser
The Laser is a single-handed racing dinghy. 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 brand 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.
One of the reasons the Laser is so popular the boat’s sheer simplicity. The two-part free-standing mast and sleeved sail make the boat easy to rig and its lightweight hull make it easy to carry and cartop.
The Laser Formula combines 1 hull with three different rigs: Standard, Radial and 4.7. Young sailors starting out in the 4.7 can move up in rigs as they grow physically and develop tactically, without the need to splash out on a completely new boat. The one-design protection also means that your Laser will never be outdated, which explains why Lasers have such a high resale value.
Finally, a strong class association which actively promotes and drives forward Laser sailing around the globe makes mass production of the Laser viable, keeping the cost of the boats and spares relatively low.
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.
Updated on May 20, 2013, 8:16am