Saturday, November 08, 2008

Winter racing makes local Laser fleet attractive

One of the most exciting developments in Montreal sailing this year has to be the growth spurt of the Laser class. No, I'm not saying there is suddenly a huge fleet. But after years of limited or no Laser racing, this class shows real growth and viability. Readers of Montreal Sailing may know that this editor has yearned for the dawn of more single-handed dinghy racing here. Why?
  • We need inexpensive sailing in Montreal, where high club fees are an option, not a necessity. Venture SC is very, very cheap! Even storage in the backyard or garage is viable, though less convenient.
  • We need a class where you can go and race without always searching for crew first.
  • We need classes that practice the art, skill, and fairness of one design racing.
  • We need classes that can offer local, regular races and regattas,
  • and the chance to travel to away-regattas for more excitement and challenge.
  • Finally, we need classes where beginners and veterans, casual and highly-skilled can all find thrills.
Well, the Laser class is making good progress in fulfilling that criteria. The catches to sailing a Laser is that physical fitness helps in becoming a lot more more competitive, and you have to accept that getting upended and wet will happen. Still, there are many older guys ably sailing Lasers sitting straight up!

Now, the Laser class is facilitating yet another advantage over other classes, making the boat very attractive to racers. Winter racing down south! February can be a mighty tough month to take in Montreal. The temperatures can start to wear you down by that point. Well, the District 2 (Quebec) Laser blog is suggesting a trip to Florida in February for racing in up to three regattas, all between February 7-15. Wow! A week of warm weather and three regattas in February for the "Masters" class. The idea is that if four people go, then 2 can drive the boats down, two fly. Then they switch for the return trip. That way you only need to drive one way. Brilliant!

As far as I know, there are only two other fleets in Montreal racing that are part of classes with winter sailing in Florida. There is the Star fleet out of CNDM. As regular readers of Montreal Sailing know from the reports of Alain Vranderick, they attend the venerable, prestigious Bacardi Cup. There is also the Fireball fleet of which some do a smaller regatta that by reports has also been a good party. These are great classes. However, if the above criteria is relevant to you, the Laser becomes the only choice I know of.

The Laser regattas for which attendance is suggested are major events.
  1. Florida Master's Championship at the Palm Beach Sailing Club. The annual Florida Master's Championship racing for the Jack Swenson memorial 'Dirty Old Man of the Sea' trophy.
  2. Master's Midweek Madness, Jensen Beach at the US Sailing Center, Martin County. During the middle of the week
    between the Jack Swenson Memorial and the Master's Midwinters East.
  3. 2009 Master's Midwinters East at the Sarasota Sailing Squadron. The end of the Master's week of winter sailing in Florida. This year returning to Sarasota which is a great fun town with beach sand like talcum powder. Better yet, the very nearby Sarasota airport has direct flights to Montreal.
Incredibly, these are not the only Laser regatta possibilities in Florida during this time period, and over the winter. There is the Laser Radial championship for women, high performance regattas, youth sailing...

Personally, I was shopping for both a Laser and a Shark last season, and found a Shark first which quickly consumed more spare bucks then I had. So, the Laser got deferred. However, since I have the wife's relations near these sailing venues it is even more tempting to shop again, if only for the combined family and winter sailing possibilities! One of my old crew buddies, Toby J, is at Venture with a Laser, and more great folks sail out of there too. Louis is working PCYC, and there is a group at HYC too. There is a good-sized Laser fleet at my club, BYC, though they aren't racing; a lot of clubs seem to have a bunch of Lasers on racks or on the hard.

Yup, lots of possibilities in this class.