Laser (not ready for) racing blog

sail # 169403

this blog chronicles my (entire) experience with Lasers

8 May Yup, done with Lasers until the fall. Brought home the Laser from Essex, put the new cover on and tucked her away for the summer.
29 Apr Think I've done with Lasers until the fall. Just too many other opportunities to race. I was hoping to race this last weekend of the spring series, but was asked back to crew the 2nd weekend of AYC spring instead. So only thing left to do is to find some time to hitch up the trailer and retrieve the Laser from Essex, hope it's still there.

18 Apr Wow its mid-April. Another Sunday not racing Lasers as last couple weekends were on a Viper 640, check my other blog for the CRW trip report...a friend's J105 needs crew for AYC spring series so I will practice with them today in NYC and crew at least next Sat/Sun on that boat. Hopefully back to Essex the Sunday after that which is 2 May... OMG that's the last Sunday of Spring Frostbite series! Really should make it there but I know I will blow it off if I get a ride for Annapolis NOOD. For me it seems the Laser is the boat of last resort so far this season as I've chosen Etchells, Vipers and J/boats over Laser sailing. Why is that? Maybe I like sailing with crew instead of racing alone or maybe I just prefer keelboats. Oh yeah, the back ordered top cover finally arrived from Laser Performance. That's it for now.

28 Mar 2010 Cloudy,temp 41, blowing mid teens gusting higher, cloudy and much colder with wind  chill and moisture. Offered mid position on an Etchells, so no Laser sailing today, thankfully, as even the pro's were in the water today. I'm crewing on a Viper @ Charleston Race Week and need to practice locally next weekend so next Laser blog entry won't be until 18 April but by then Dark 'n Stormy, my J/105, will be splashed so we'll see...not enough time!!!
21 Mar 2010: Sunny, temp in 50s, water temp 40. As I was rigging the Laser, FBYC Commodore asked me if I would consider driving a JY as crew was desperate for a driver and wanted to race. I agreed and met this guy John and asked which JY was his. He said it isn't a JY but an Etchells! Very psyched, while I crewed on Etchells a few times over the years I never drove one. First 3 starts sucked, but as I got used to the boat the starts got better, so last three were ok but included one we really nailed. Great fun, even though we didn't win a single race, and made two new friends and got a lead, albeit a low probability one, on a Newport-Bermuda boat (I've done 2 Bermuda races but the J/44 I usually race on is up for sale and not doing the race this year). Anyways a brand new Beneteau First 40, owners wanted to doublehand, but RC said they didn't do qualifying races so they're pulling together a crew, might already be full though, no worries as we're on the entry list for BIRW the same week in June. Ahh, but I'm really digressing from Laser talk. Let's see....oh yeah before the Etchells thing happended I installed a new Harken clew hook and a cool Black Max wind indicator, can't wait to try 'em out! Here's a pic of me on Etchells #446:

14 Mar 2010: No sailing today... big nor' easter over southern New England, currently raining hard and blowing 20+kt and gusting much higher, yesterday 56kt was logged in Essex, CT...way too intense for my rookie Laser have alot of day job work to do so won't even drive the hour to attempt to find a ride on an Etchells. Hope my cheesy tarp cover is still in place, the new Storm cover for the Laser is back ordered. At least daylight savings time is now in effect and forecast for Tuesday onwards is sunny and approaching 60 degrees fahrenheit!
7 Mar 2010: Frostbite Yacht Club, Essex, CT Spring Series started today. Snow on the ground at home, dug Laser and trailer out last weekend. Didn't do anything to the boat over the winter...and that can of gelcoat waits patiently. Sunny and warmer yesterday and today for first time in weeks after winter storm after storm. Temps upper 40s, water temp 36, winds 8-10kts with prolonged gusting into upper teens. 13th day on a Laser and think this the first time I completed all the days races, finishing 9-9-10-10-8 out of 10. For the last race I tried to follow one of the top boats and did a little better. Wiped out 4 times, but thankfully only 2 were during a race and each time my upper body stayed dry which was another first. Great day on the water, it's like a 3.5 hour workout, exhausted and legs will hurt tomorrow but working out all winter seems to have paid off. Hot soup was excellent but couldn't stay as trailer has no lights (think I have to re-wire the entire trailer and replace a corroded taillight over the summer) and needed to get home before dark. Daylight savings time starts next week! Here's a pic of the Laser ready to make the trek to Essex early Sunday morning.
6 Dec 2009: Snow on the ground, sunny but winds in upper teens gusting alot higher, bummer, last race of the season and it was blowing way too hard for my rookie skills. Couldn't get a ride on an Etchells either so hooked up trailer to the new hitch on the Prius and spent the next 4 hours with MS-Project. argh not the Sunday afternoon I hoped for but should make a for slightly easier work week. I guess that's it for blog entries until frostbites begins again Feb 28. Hoping to bulk up a bit over the next couple months  as my weight is on the lower end of the scale to be really effective on the Laser. Holidays should go by fast as usual then KWRW and spring frostbite - this time in Essex, CT instead of Stonington as they start earlier and its a bit closer to home.

29 Nov 2009: 12th day on a Laser. Excellent conditions for me, sunny, temps mid 40s, winds 12-14, then lighter. 15 or 16 Lasers were racing. Wiped out 5 or 6 times including during starting sequence and a gybe mark in each of the first 2 races. In 3rd and 4th races I actually beat a single boat, but the 5th race saw another death roll wipeout downwind in breeze. 6th race, good start, starting to feel comfortable, doing great had 5-6 boats close to finish (and even more at last mark but my rounding wasn't too smooth) and during the very last tack in front of RC boat the mainsheet caught on my PFD and I wiped out. But best day frostbiting on Laser so far - lots of fun being with the pack during the last 4 races instead of DFL. Exhausted!

22 Nov 2009: Started to rig Laser but was offered a ride on an Etchells. As winds were a tad high for my experience level I accepted but it was with some regret later to see 18 Lasers racing in conditions that turned out to be perfect for my development. Oh well, Etchells are cool boats, 3 guys. I did "mid" which means I flew the spinnaker. Kinda cool trimming sheet and guy simulataneously. Too much asym racing over last few years and forgot about twings and spinnaker poles. OMG, lots of sails controls on an Etchells. We did well, winning the day, 6 races, we had including 3 bullets, a second and 2 fifths out of six boats. Definitely not as physicially challenging as Lasers but on the other hand you stay dry!. Temp in upper 40's, winds 11kts, and sunshine...great day! Here's a short video

15 Nov 2009: Lite winds forecast which is good for me still being a rookie, unfortunately winds were too light to even race. New moon LIS ebb plus extra river flow from recent Hurricane Ida rains made for wicked current as I sailed out early to practice. In the lite winds I had alot of difficulty maintaining position and couldn't not even work upwind enough to make the start line. Fortunately RC abandonded and everyone got towed in by the crash boats. I did learn a new skill - standing up with mainsheet in one hand and tiller in other with feet aross beam rock back and forth to generate forward motion, easy just followed the others, kinda fun.

7 Nov 2009: Back to Laser since we're done with J/105 racing for rest of 2009. This was my tenth sail on a Laser. Great autumn day on the water. temp in 50s, winds 8-10 building to 12kt and higher in the afternoon. This was my first regatta on a Laser. The event was the Frostbite Yacht Club Fall One-Design Regatta in Essex, CT on the Connecticut River. First time sailing on a river and tidal one at that, river flows downstream but tide come up from Long Island. Not used to that! Etchells, JYs, Lasers, Ideal 18s. 13 Lasers with plenty of big boat friends in attendance, an olympic silver medalist and kids from various university sailing teams. Of course I was DFL but had great time. Had to retire in 6th race as boom came out of gooseneck while beating up wind. Had to get towed in as I couldn't not re-attach boom in the 12kts winds and capsized a couple times trying. Made a loud boom which caused guy on boat just a head of me to look back. Very weird as this hasn't happended before - thought gooseneck fitting into boom was a bit loose but afterwards some pros said I probably didn't have the vang on, hmm thought I set upwind controls before the downwind mark - wondering if I'll have this issue next week. Like having lots of starts but definitely not as fast as the other boats, most of time I was battling to not be DFL with sail number 370 - great fun don't know who that is yet but will find out next week. Great chili and sandwiches afterwards in Essex YC, really nice venue. Will do remainder of fall series since big boat racing is done. After dark, the party moved to Black Seal pub in Essex - guess they go there every week. Would like to race again today on regular Sunday frostbite series but have other stuff to do, plus my arms and legs really sore - need a massage!

First frostbite series summary: Awesome, love this boat, so much fun, wish I could race in the summer (without a drysuit!) but J105 racing and life in general won't permit - gotta move closer to the shore. Biggest surprise was how long it takes to rig, de-rig a Laser. THink I got it down to 20 min, including dry suit, but I can get the J105 ready just as fast without a crew. Already commited to frostbiting in Essex in the fall as it's at least a 1/2 hr closer to home, the competition is supposedly just as good and I have a bunch of friends there too. Learned alot, amazing how much weight mgmt, sail trim, and tactics are applicable to big boats, not to mention getting over 5-6 starts a day! Still a tremendous amount to learn - life's too short! More blogs entries starting in October I guess, have a great summer! wait a sec...official results are in, I finished 20th out of 20 boats (Eric was 19th). No worries - we both learned alot !!!!!!!!!!!

6 June: no Laser racing due to need to prep big boat for OffSoundings next weekend and since next Sat is last of frostbite spring series, I pulled the Laser and brought her home. Over the summer I need to fair hull - just some scratches to ready her for fall series, originally intended to do it last winter even ordered the gelcoat but worried temps too cold for catalyst to work - really hope to get it done over the summerbut really no big deal if it doesn't get done

30 May: no Laser racing due to conflict with Mystic River Distance Challenge race

22 May: no Laser racing due to conflict with Storm TrySail Block Island Race

16 May: 9th time on a Laser. Excellent conditions 10-12kts for rookies, 8 races, added telltales  - seemed to help and dedidefdto stick close to the best sailors, learned alot in - one races I was actually in the middle of the pack after 1.5 legs. Hiking pants suck. Roll tacking getting better after reading Dick Tillman's book, but had trouble jibing at leeward mark, including one capsize, need to work on faster execution for next time. OCS on one start and hit a mark on another but in one of the races I didn't finish last! Exhausted after 4 hrs on Laser.

9 May: very lite wind and fog, 1st race good start good and picked off two boats at leeward mark rounding  - not finishing last was cool. During second race the wind totally died - ended up getting a tow in from crash boat, not fun racing but sure beats work anyday!

2 May: 7th time on a Laser, sunny then foggy then sunny, water temp 46, air temp low 70's, light wind 7-10kts increasing to mid-teens later in the day. First three races had better more aggressive starts that last week. Think I might have beat a boat or two but then as wind picked up I started having troube again when overpowered. First the rudder separated from the boat causing a capsize. Kinda tricky attaching it back on in wind conditions. Then on jibes the mainsheet kept getting caught on transom corner causing more capsizes and then the rudder came off again and again so exhausted and not having fun I retire for the day after the third race. Later back at the club Patrick Murphy pointed out the little metal tab that holds the pintles in the gudegeon was bent. In lite air it wasn't an issue but as wind increased the rudder would come out. Also picked up some tips and encourgement from other vets. A couple days later Dave Nickerson emailed me a great one page set of tips about racing lasers. Check it out: OnePageLaserTips5.2.09.pdf

 25 Apr: 6th time on a Laser, sunny then foggy then sunny, water temp 46, air temp low 70's, light wind 7-10kts. 13 boats raced, finished 12th in each of the 5 races. First real day of Laser racing after last week's debacle. Prior to race installed new centerboard stops, added some line to make it easier to raise board and a Harken clew hook. Now the outhaul works great and good thing as conditions were light. Didn't capsize at all and tacks getting smoother, stil occasionally catching mainsheet on corner of transom during jibes though. Very foggy -tough to find marks but being near the back of the pack I just followed everyone else. Then sun came out -awesome weather - a little too hot for dry suit. A most excellent time racing even though I was late at every start - can't wait for next week. Eric did well with best finish 8th - seem liked he was always 5-6 boats lengths ahead, but his starts were far better. Doing really good in 3rd race and while on starboard tack and focused on trim I didn't notice a port tacker until last sec,ond yelled starboard but it was too late so I clipped his stern, no damage but I didn't check if he did his circles. Multiple collisions during the races - it's like bumper cars out there! Great fun all day but legs sore next morning. SHYC for beers afterwards, nice folks there. All day I was amazed at the agility and roll tacking of the fast boats - lots to learn.

18 Apr: 5th time on a Laser, sunny, water temp 46, air temp 65, wind at ELIS bouy mid-teens, gusting to mid-high 20s. Far more wind than prior 4 outings. Some trepidation at the conditions, but it was relatively warm and sunny so I rigged, put on sunblock for first time this season and headed out. During beat out to start I realized I forgot hiking pants, oh well. Past Skipper's dock I wiped out in big gust, head first into sail but got up quick and readied for start. Jibe and wiped out again 2 minutes into sequence but ended up starting not too far back behind Patrick Murphy who seemed to be having some difficulty even with the radial rig. Beat to windward mark without much difficulty then after rounding wiped out again and a few minutes later another capsize. That one broke off the centerboard stoppers so when the crash boat pulled up I told them I had to retire with equipment issue as I knew losing board would be an issue at the next, and likely, inevtiable capsize. As it was I had some difficulty getting board back in (it totally came out the bottom) before righting. Kudos to crash boat for putting up with my rookie boat handling. So I'm marked DNF in first ever Laser race and DNS for rest of the day. Didn't wait for others for beers at SHYC as I was too embarrassed about performance. Pretty bummed which was made worse by a traffic jam on ride home. Probably shouldn't have gone out today but glad I did. Banged up leg and sprained a finger (hopefully it ain't broken) but at least the sun was out!!!

11 Apr: Rain, water temp 44, air temp 48, blowing in low teens, still cold but new footwear (Gill trapeze boots) and hat (EMS wind proof) worked great. First sail after recovering from flu - glad to be back. No equipment issues today. Excellent sailing , still with harbor totally to ourselves - where the heck is everyone? Wished I out on hiking pants today as conditions were strong. Easily up on plane and sailing fast! Wiped out only once but rounded up a few times in big gusts. Got really tangled up during capsize, actually thought about the knife but finally got things straightened out and boat righted. Dogwatch again for lunch and then to DnS for final prep prior to launch, Racing starts in one week, not as ready as we would like but gotta start somewhere! Exhusted afterwards and fell asleep later in the afternoon.

28 Mar: Still cold but a bit warmer or maybe it just the humidity. Heavy rain let up right before rigging. Almost a couple hours of practice, still need thousands more. got up on a plane for first time and did a dry capsize too. Some rigging issues, forgot figure 8 in mainsheet and after bad jibe had to figure out how to reeve it out on the water. Got it resolved but had a twist by traveler. Also hiking strap came loose but I noticed it just in time!! Good breeze but then fog came and wind dies. Had to scull last 50 meters to dock. Then got email invite for BI race on friends J/44, psyched!! We went to Dogwatch for beers, some friends showed up and watched Uconn women win sweet 16 game. Good fun and after couple beers went to West Marine for a better footwear solution, yes feet were cold again today, then over to marina to begin prepping Dark 'n Stormy for April splash.

21 Mar: Temperatures like last weekend, but wind a tad lighter. Good day! Certainly helped re-reading boathandling techniques after first time out last weekend. THought about tacking technique all week and finally got to practice. I'm still blowing more tacks than I'd like but definitely had some good ones, feel as if I can improve quickly with more practice. Jibing improved too, definitely helps keep board half way up but still occasionally getting mainsheet caught on transform. McLube on mainsheet blocks helped sheeting or perhaps it was Bruce's suggestion to use both hands. Feet still cold and new footwear solution is still pending also hat not working out so I ditched it. But core so warm didn't need it. Didn't capsize at all so feeling pretty good. Even better was some really fun hiking working upwind in pressure, keeping boat flat is key.

15 March: Last weekend of winter and first sail of season today and first sail ever on a Laser. Stonginton Harbor, air temp 44, wind chill 33, water temp 48F, wind speed 10-12kt. Took Eric and I about 1.5hrs to rig our Lasers for first time, comparing and constrasting slight differences between the two boats and figuring out last minute stuff like how the daggerboard and mast retaining lines are rigged. In retrospect it would've been better to have someone with Laser experience with us instead of looking at pictures in a book. Oh well how hard can it be? Double checked everything, launched and we were off for first sail of season under sunny skies.

OMG!!! tons to learn, like learning to sail all over again. Lots of coordination issues with tiller extension and line managment in cockpit. Hiking is too fun, boat is so sensitive and accelerates quickly. Clearly not ready to race as can't even tack smoothly. Capsized multiple times during jibes. After second capsize it felt so good to be in water I thought I would linger but cold seeps into dry suit fast so I scrambled back on board quick. Great fun. Later after hot shower re-read chapter of Dick Tillman's book on jibing and he said leaving the daggerboard down during jibe (which I did) would lead to "an almost certain capsize"! Guess Dick knows what he talking about!

So after sailing awhile we decided to call it quits for the day and as I'm sailing into shore I see a guy walk onto the dock (first human we saw all day as Eric and I had the entire harbor to ourselves). Older guy, he get into a rowboat and sets off. Paid him no mind and concentrated on approach to dock. Of course another jibe and capsize - this time in front of spectator. As I was untangling myself and righting the boat I looked up to see Rod Johnstone rowing toward me and hail "Not as much fun as a J105, huh?" and then he added a helpful 'it's easier to right with a loose vang'. The guy is simply amazing.  For non sailors reading this, Rod is a sailing legend, and hall of famer who designed a bunch of J boats including my J105. He has raced with us a couple times and helped with tuning and taught us mega aboard "Dark ' Stormy" . All in all a great first day, hands only got cold undoing the damn little o-ring on the vang back on shore. Dry suit worked well but cold seeped into feet, otherwise warm and dry, but need a better footwear solution - just wore beach sneakers. Legs are pretty sore though, as running it seems, doesn't prepare you for the crouching in the Laser cockpit. Great day, can't wait to sail her again, hopefully next weekend.

 28 Feb: well I did the rigging upgrade and worked out alot, but not much else. here's a pic after snow melt and rigged for first time, hopefully correctly:

and detail of the cunningham and vang upgrade:

winter project list hmm, need a rigging upgrade (vang, outhaul, cunningham), a couple very minor gelcoat nicks to repair, add a hitch to the Prius so I can trailer her wherever and learn how to rig her, read alot and wait for spring! oh yeah need to exercise alot over the winter too as racing this ride is supposed to be very physically demanding

the boat blog 22 Nov 2008. yea! just bought a Laser after a month or two of searching. It's 2000 model in pretty good shape but its too late in the year for rookie Laser sailing so I just covered it up for the winter and waited for spring

related Laser links: