Thursday, November 3, 2016

__________________________ RACING A LASER ________________________

Grant Cooze is the centreboard dinghy racing organiser for the Onerahi Yacht Club a job that he does very well indeed.

Grant is a real inspiration. He is an amputee with one leg. He launches his Laser, takes off his prosthetic leg, ties it to the Lasers beach trolley and then off he goes sailing. Remarkable.

This week my respect for Grants plucky character and sailing skills grew even more. On arrival at the club for the usual evenings race series I got to talking Lasers with a few of the Laser skippers. Grant suggested that we swap boats for the racing. He would sail my smaller Starling and I would have go with his well set up Laser.

It was blowing quite hard. At the risk of becoming too profane let me simply say that Lasers are tricky little beasts.

In the first two races I blew the starts as I became a bit of an uncontrolled menace to the Laser fleet. I got in irons right on the start line, couldn't get the Laser to go about, got tangled up in the ropes, pulled the wrong control lines and pretty much blundered around. In the third race I sorted myself out and won. I am pleased about this win because the idea of a bigger boat has been an issue for some time, meaning that if I bought one of these boats there is a chance that I might be reasonably competitive.

Sailing back to the clubhouse after the racing I reflected on just how demanding and tricky sailing a Laser is. They are not docile boats, especially downwind in a big breeze. They respond instantly, accelerating very fast in wind gusts requiring balance, skill and a certain amount of good luck to keep them upright and sailing fast. Sailing upwind in strong winds they need sustained hiking to keep them flat and sailing fast and they are very sensitive to any sail control adjustments. They are not a boat for the faint hearted ......... which brings me back to Grant. How the hell he sails his Laser so well I really don't know - he's a bloody legend.


Dan Gurney said...

Congratulations on winning race three. Lasers are fun, but I think there are better boats in that category. Force Five, Banshee, and especially the RS Aero. Biggest problem with the Laser, and the reason they're so hard to sail downwind in a blow: the rudder is way too small.

Alden Smith said...

Thanks Dan. Winning a race is always good for the ego but doesn't change my basic opinion of the Laser - which is that the boat leaves a bit to be desired. The problem is that 90% of the adults at the club are racing them, so that's where the competition is.

It is interesting what you say about the size of the rudder. When sailing to windward I found it hard to stop the boat rounding up into the wind when hit by big gusts of wind, despite the fact that I had de - powered the rig by flattening the sail with the cunningham and the out haul on the foot of the sail. I didn't have too much trouble sailing off the wind - but it's early days! LOL

Unknown said...

Lasers are very tricky.
I've sailed one a couple of times, spent most of the time capsizing and then sailed into a wharf. Much to the delight of kids doing booms off it. haha.
I have my Starling up and running, now to just get it out on the water.
Andrew McKay

Alden Smith said...

Andrew, they certainly are tricky - even the very experienced guys and girls who race them at the local club capsize a lot (to their own astonishment) when the wind gets very strong. Sailing downwind in a big breeze is living on a knife edge.

Congratulations on getting your Starling up and running! A Starling and summer coming on ..... a very good combination.