Friday, May 22, 2009

Laser Masters' North American Championship 2009

Pierre Jasmin is best known and celebrated for being one of the dominant players in the popular and competitive Montreal Etchells class. He is also sailing in the growing Laser class here in Montreal. So far, 15 sailors are pre-registered for the Laser camp beginning tomorrow at PCYC. There are a lot of compelling reasons for racing a Laser. A big one is that every level of sailor can find a place to compete from casual beginner to the highly skilled like Pierre, and to elite international levels. Well, clearly Pierre loves to compete and he sure is doing well. Here is a report from his experience at the recent Masters' Laser North American Championship in North Carolina. - Ralph, Montreal Sailing

Salut Ralph, sorry for the late report, just got back yesterday and I usually don't travel with any electronic communication device. I guess this is in line with starting things late in life... like Laser Masters sailing, which I only started last year. It has been, and still is a steep learning curve for me, having not sailed dinghies in nearly 30 years. Believe me it is great fun, and an incredible incentive to stay fit. It is amazing to witness the Masters scene, guys (and gals) in their 40's, 50's, 60's and even 70's sailing these little boats in strong winds and having a blast. And quite frankly the camaraderie after the races is next to none.

As you heard I was at the Laser Masters North Americans in Wrightsville Beach, N-C last weekend and competed with 98 other Masters in what was for me my second major regatta. I also attended the Canadian Laser Masters in Halifax last year and got a whipping mainly in very heavy air, and I guess I just wasn't ready for sailing well in those conditions. Well, this year I got ready to kick butt, went to Cabarete in February to attend a Laser Masters training clinic for a week. I also trained hard at staying fit during the months of winter.

I had set my personal goal at finishing mid-fleet and sailing better (i.e improving my starts in big fleets and sailing fast through waves with better technique). Indeed I succeeded at everything I had intended... or almost! Ten races were scheduled over three days, but only 6 got off. Three races in 5 - 10 knots with lumpy seas the first day, three more in 10 - 15 knots (max gusts 18) with sea swell and chop in confused directions. The third day was abandoned due to a high thunderstorm threat. Great racing with nearly 100 boats on the line made for exciting starts. Quite a few general recalls with the RC resorting to the black flag rule to get the fleet off the line. Amazing traffic at the first weather mark reminding me of a slow motion NASCAR race, a long line of boats with inches between them.

I ended up 56th overall!, oh well... not quite what I had in mind (but I did beat 42 other boats!). I was OCS in the first race!! Not easy to live with that result for the remainder of a series (but thank God for "drop races"). My best result was a 22nd, my worst was 72nd! (in another bad race I was DFL at one point after having fouled someone at the weather mark, completed my 720 in moderate breeze, capsized twice, but I did manage to work my way slowly back up the rear and passed nearly 40 boats to finish 61st).

Oh and I guess I had the butt kicking thing kind of backwards!

But to my defense, I must say that those guys (and one gal) are good. I spoke to many competitors, to find that a lot of them are ex-Olympians, ex-various-class champions, ex-national team members and/or have been sailing the Laser for 20 to 30 years and they live near an ocean somewhere... My turn will come when they sail against me on Lake St-Louis in 5 to 10 knots... maybe I shouldn't try that either!!

Seriously, it was a great learning experience, a great sailing venue. Anytime you have the chance to sail in the ocean, take it. It is another world out there and those, like myself, who sail mainly on lakes, have to get out of our comfort zone and sail elsewhere. Picking up Laser Master sailing at 51 is possible, and I have only my faithful Etchells crew Louis Beauregard to thank for that. It is the best sailing move I have done in recent years and I encourage anyone with any hint of the urge to do it, to stop thinking about it and join in. The way I look at it is that I still have quite a few years ahead of me to keep learning to sail faster judging by the age of some of the guys (and that gal again) that beat me.

Best regards, and sail fast, Pierre J.

Thanx to Pierre. Oh and by the way, there is no such thing as a late report. The only time line we try and respect here is the starting gun, cuz everyone knows top dawgs like Pierre will be right on the line.