Is the laser right for me?

Discussion in 'Sailing Talk' started by OldDog, Sep 10, 2009.

  1. OldDog

    OldDog New Member

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    Hello, I am thinking about selling my sailboat and getting a smaller boat. I am considering the Laser. Looks like a lot of fun but I am not sure it is the right boat for me. Don't know any Laser sailors to ask so I’m glad I found this forum.

    I'm 47 years old and at 235 lbs. admittedly not in top athletic shape. I have been sailing an old 16' Rebel for the last 10 years but the truth is that I only go out a few times a year. The boat is a racing one design intended for a crew of two. I am a recreational sailor who typically sails solo and have never raced it. I was first attracted to the boat because it was small enough to fit in my driveway, could be sailed solo, but had a cockpit big enough to handle myself and my growing family. None of my children got interested in sailing and my wife definitely did not like the whole concept of changing sides each time you change tack. So my boat is actually more boat than I need. It's a fun boat, pretty easy to sail, and fast when there is a crew onboard but it has a fairly large sail and can become overpowered in a good strong wind if you are sailing solo. I am looking for something smaller, and easier to rig and sail.

    My biggest concern with my Rebel is that it is not self righting. If it should capsize it will swamp and possibly turn turtle. Sailing solo I have always been concerned that I might not able to get it righted and back under way if I should capsize. Having that nagging doubt always adds a bit of tension and apprehension when I sail which takes away from the enjoyment and leads me to sail conservatively. I saw some picture of some swamped boats at the nationals and it's pretty frightening for the older boats like mine that are not self righting. Swamp doesn't do justice. Submerged is a better word.

    My second gripe is that rigging the boat takes a fair amount of time. The process of stepping the 24' mast and rigging out the boat involves a lot of climbing in and out of the boat while it's trailored. Looking for something that gets me out on the water faster and with less effort. I’ve sailed Sunfish and they're fun but I’m looking for something with a little more performance.

    From what I’ve read so far the Laser may be a good fit but I’ve got some questions

    1. How does the Laser respond in a capsize? How easy is it to capsize and how easy is it to right?

    2. I know the Laser is a racing one design built for speed. All pictures I see on the internet show people having a ball and taking the boat to the extreme. How suited is it for recreational sailing? Don't get me wrong I don't want to just lazily drift around, I want a boat that moves and is fun and exciting I just don't plan on pushing it to the max (yet!).

    3. How athletic do you need to be to sail it? I'm not adverse to hiking out. I have to when I sail the Rebel but not to the point where my knees are the last thing touching the boat.

    4. What weight range was it designed for? Am I to heavy for it? (Be honest I can take it)

    5, The reservoir where I sail does not have a beach. The boat will have to be launched from a ramp and either rigged at the end of the ramp or at the adjacent docks. Can the boat be rigged from a dock? It does not look like a boat that you can stand up in so I'm not sure how easy it would be to place the mast.

    6. I see that the sail has a sleeve which fits over the mast. Is there a main halyard? How do you dose the sail when you are approaching the dock? Same question applies if you need to rig the boat on a trailer or dolly. Does the boat need to be launched with the sail raised?

    Like I said I wish I new a Laser sailor that I could discuss this with. I appreciate any advice you can provide.

    Thanks
     
  2. scap114

    scap114 Member

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    I am suprised that no one has replied to your post. First I will say I am not a Laser sailor, although I know a few. From what I have been told the Laser is a boat that is fairly taxing to sail. The original Laser had a sail of 75 sq ft, I believe. One man, in his 50's raced with us in the Open Division and would usually sit out the 3rd race due to fatigue. The Laser has 3 configurations, the "Radical I believe has a smaller sail of 62 sq ft, making it less powerful. The Laser 4.7 has an even smaller sail, of just 50 sq. ft. That is for 'junior sailors' I believe. The Radical is the one that seems to be the one for smaller to average adults. I think the original laser can be a handful in strong winds. At a regatta I watched, which was sailed in strong winds many boats capsizes, but all were righted in quick order. As far as the sail, yes ithe mast goes into a pocket, (the mast is 2 pipeces I believe.) It can not be lowered. The mast is put into a pocket on the sail and the goose neck is aligned towards the stern of teh boat and placed into the mast hole on the deck. As far as doing that froma dock, no experience here about that. Not even sure about doing tthat with boat on trailer. Have seen Lasers on shore with lower boom removed and sails flapping in the wind. The Laser is a performace boat.
     
  3. g1gaumond

    g1gaumond Member

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    Old Dog,

    I am a long time keelboat sailor, but new to laser, this communitiy is outstanding, great amount of knowledge and experience. Readily shared.

    I purchased a used Laser for my young Daughter, got her the radial set-up (smaller sail and shorter mast) and kept the standard rig anyway. (for me;))

    She rigs and launches her boat in less than 15 miuntes on a bad day.

    Of course, I could not resist trying it and got hooked!:cool: I am 45 Y.O., 220lbs, 5'-9" and not in the greatest of shape,: thus on the heavy side for a full rig. Here is my take on your questions

    1. How does the Laser respond in a capsize? How easy is it to capsize and how easy is it to right?

    They capsize no doubt, but so far in my half dozen outing in various conditions (15-20 gusts to light winds) I have only capzised once or twice and in seconds I was back in and going again. At my weight, it rights up in no time.

    2. I know the Laser is a racing one design built for speed. All pictures I see on the internet show people having a ball and taking the boat to the extreme. How suited is it for recreational sailing? Don't get me wrong I don't want to just lazily drift around, I want a boat that moves and is fun and exciting I just don't plan on pushing it to the max (yet!).

    These guys here are maniacs and I still can't get over some of them sailing these boats in 30 knots plus!! In my outings I found that I can relax and enjoy life and at the same time push it and get it almost planing on a beam...fun! The acceralation you get from it in a gust is great!:) At my weight if I get tired, I just relax without pushing it and still get to where I want to go.

    3. How athletic do you need to be to sail it? I'm not adverse to hiking out. I have to when I sail the Rebel but not to the point where my knees are the last thing touching the boat.

    I am not in great shape, I found that I got a really good workout from upper body, hands (get some good gloves), arms and shoulders at the end of a 2-hours outing. Again my weight:p means I do not have to hike all out, unless I get hit by a strong gusts. Thus I did not find that my legs and abs were tired at the end of the outing.

    4. What weight range was it designed for? Am I to heavy for it? (Be honest I can take it)

    There's plenty of posting on this issue, but as I mentioned, if you are not getting into serious racing with some of these maniacs here, you can get some real fun.

    5, The reservoir where I sail does not have a beach. The boat will have to be launched from a ramp and either rigged at the end of the ramp or at the adjacent docks. Can the boat be rigged from a dock? It does not look like a boat that you can stand up in so I'm not sure how easy it would be to place the mast.

    We have a beach dolly, have used it on docks and beaches to roll the boat around, I have lauched from low docks etc... without any problems. If you have to drop it several feet down a dock, good luck! We always rig it on the beach and dock before launching, this last components we install once in the water are the daggerboard and rudder.

    6. I see that the sail has a sleeve which fits over the mast. Is there a main halyard? How do you dose the sail when you are approaching the dock? Same question applies if you need to rig the boat on a trailer or dolly. Does the boat need to be launched with the sail raised?

    No main haylard, slip the sail onto the mast when it is down then step the mast into the mast step hole. Thus you launch it with sail up.

    You don't dowse the sail you approach the dock in such way as to be into iron (Sail luffing) when you get close to it. If let out the mainsheet, since the mast rotates it will also, fairly easily get in to iron.

    Like I said I wish I new a Laser sailor that I could discuss this with. I appreciate any advice you can provide.

    Thanks[/quote]

    In short, I am amazed how easy it is to put together and perpare, how easy it is to sail the Laser (of course, I am talking about being a proficient racer here), how easy to get it going on the water and getting a thrill out of it. It is also great to find such amount of knowledge to maintain, improve, fix, repair, rig etc...

    I ma not getting rid to the keelboat yet, but If I only have a couple of hours, I run to the club to get my adrenaline rush...:D

    Have fun Old Dog.

    GG
     
  4. Zeppo

    Zeppo Member

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    From your description of the type of sailing you enjoy I think you would be better off with a Sunfish. It is more stable and is easy to rig. If you were into racing and high performance you may have considered a Mega Byte or a Finn, both suited to heavier skippers. You will get plenty of adrenaline rushes in a Sunfish, and remain upright during most of them.
     
  5. Wavedancer

    Wavedancer Upside down? Staff Member

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    All good responses so far, IMHO.

    Just to reiterate a few of them. You are a bit heavy for a Laser (or a Sunfish), but that shouldn't matter for fun sailing. In fact, it will make righting the boat easier. You will do some of that, because keeping a Laser upright requires a degree of agility (and skill) that you may have to acquire.

    Once you get more experienced, you could consider buying the bigger 8.1 sail (+ mast extender) that Rooster sells. That sail is getting more popular in the UK for the true heavyweights and is available in the USA. Would save you a great deal of money compared to buying a Finn or a MegaByte.

    PS: I always rig on shore and use a ramp. In fact, that's what all people in my club do. If there is no ramp, we push the boat (still on the dolly) in the water from the beach, dock, or whatever.
     
  6. OldDog

    OldDog New Member

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    Hi Everyone;

    Thanks for getting back to me. I won't be purchasing until spring. This gives me some strong incentive to get back to the gym and get rid of some of the ballast I've been carrying around because this boat looks like a blast!

    Thanks again!
     
  7. mikegerard

    mikegerard New Member

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    The sunfish is very easy to flip back up.

    On our first sailing trip ever this week my son wanted to show me how he could roll the boat back if it capsized. I was understandably nervous (our first time out). We sailed over to a dock and I jumped off. My son went out about 40 feet and basically grabbed the mast and jumped off the boat! That sure did flip it. Then he scrambled up on the centerboard and it rolled right back up. Then he did it again to prove it was no fluke. He's 9 and weighs about 65 pounds.
     
  8. Kris Styes

    Kris Styes New Member

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    Old Dog:
    You are never too old to sail anything. I had a 10-year absence from sailing Lasers until last year. Before that, I had Lasers from the 70’s.

    I did do a little soul searching and got in shape this past winter before I started to sail again. I didn’t kill myself getting into shape and I didn’t get a ‘6 pack’ also. I just used common sense and toned up in the areas that I knew I would be working hard when sailing. Again, I did it really slow.

    I sailed this summer in lakes and reservoirs in Kansas. Believe me they can be wicked on any given day and present a challenge to the best of sailors. I was worried about righting the Laser when it went over. I actually forced a number of capsizes to test my strength and ability. I had no problem.

    In the 70’s I had an old VW bug that was dedicated to car-toping my Laser. Then, I could one-man handle getting the Laser off the VW, rigging it, sailing it. Today, I need help getting it off my carrack.

    Take the time to get in shape so you don’t hurt yourself. Get someone to go with you the first few times for physical and moral support. Then, have a ‘blast’

    I’m 70 years old. You can do this!


    Kris (Kansas)
     
  9. OldDog

    OldDog New Member

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    Hi Mike and Chris;

    Thanks for the feed back and the encouragement. I'm getting pretty pysched for next spring. That's when I plan to start shopping. This gives me plenty of time to search through the forum and get all my questions answered so I can be an informed buyer. This fall I'm going to polish up the Rebel. Hopefull it sells well. It really is a fun boat.

    Thanks again everyone! I'm sure I'll be posting again if I can't get answers with the search function.
     
  10. g1gaumond

    g1gaumond Member

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  11. marvin-miller

    marvin-miller Arrrr...

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    I'd like to chime in with some ideas;

    1. How does the Laser respond in a capsize? How easy is it to capsize and how easy is it to right?


    Dead simple. When I was 14 or 15 my dad bought me my Laser. At that time he was probably close to 50 years old. We went sailing together and he smoked cigars.

    One of the first things we did was flip the boat. Low and behold he managed to get through it without getting wet!! (he had a smoke afterwards and congratulated himself on being able to do that!)


    It's easy to turn the whole boat upside down such that the mast is pointed straight into the water without getting wet. You won't stay dry the first time but all you need to do is get out into the open, intentionally flip it several times and you'll figure it out after less then 5 flips :D


    The boat is, for all intents and purposes, unsinkable so you don't have to worry about anything. Many is the time where I've been out in 30+ knots, gotten exhausted, and when it flipped I took the opportunity to let it turtle and sit on the bottom for a rest. It's important to ensure your mast is secured before doing this and also, that the place you're sailing is deep enough otherwise your mast and sail will touch the bottom and go into the mud :D


    To sum up, flipping and turtling should be of zero concern for you provided the mast is properly secured. Also, your weight will help you a great deal. In my case (165 lbs when wet), I tend to have to rock the boat a bit to get it back up. It's NO big deal but if I was your weight this would not be required at all. So all you've have to do is stand on the daggerboard and lean the right amount. You won't have to do any work at all.


    What you will have to watch out for is people on shore. My chosen place of testing the limits has typical 40 knot + winds in the afternoons and, more importantly, a ton of people on shore. They really freak out when they see a Laser flying around like crazy passing all the aluminum boats trying to navigate the waves.


    The thing is, when they see someone flip or turtle for any length of time they tend to think you're drowning and help out by calling the Coast Guard. Depending on how much 'help' the people on shore give you, you may be subject to a 'rescue' fee. This happened to me once and fortunately I didn't have to pay anything. They do take your contact info and everything else though and in my case I actually had to resuce them (but that's another story).


    Point being, you've got take into account shore appeal and also shore concerns when you're really going nuts. People do get worried when they see this kind of activity so it's important that they realize that flipping and turtling are normal endeavours and don't really warrant the dreaded 'phone call'. It may help to do a fist pump or something so they understand this.


    2. I know the Laser is a racing one design built for speed. All pictures I see on the internet show people having a ball and taking the boat to the extreme. How suited is it for recreational sailing? Don't get me wrong I don't want to just lazily drift around, I want a boat that moves and is fun and exciting I just don't plan on pushing it to the max (yet!).

    Perfect for puting around in the sun and getting a tan. Jump off, swim around, climb back on. You can even flip it upside down and then swim underneath and you'll find the cockpit is full of air so you can literally hang out under the boat and really freak out the people on shore! (they'll think you drowned!!)

    With a Laser you can go at your own pace. The boat will scale to anything from floating to survival sailing. You choose the day, you choose the weather, you choose what you're comfortable with. It's that simple and that makes the learning curve really easy.

    To give you an idea, when I got my boat no-one around me knew anything about it. I had no one to teach me anything. Fortunately, it came with the manual otherwise I would never have known how to rig it.

    For the first summer I ran it without a boom vang. The boat did not come with one and so I assumed it was optional! One day the wind picked up and the boom dropped out. Some guy came by in a speed boat and asked if I was allright. He helped me get it back in place and he looked at it and said to me, "I think you're missing something there!".

    Suffice to say, I got a boom vang and that never happended again.

    3. How athletic do you need to be to sail it? I'm not adverse to hiking out. I have to when I sail the Rebel but not to the point where my knees are the last thing touching the boat.


    For me, I'm out of shape and I prefer sailing in 30+ knots (survival sailing). The last time I was out was constant 40+ knots (as measured by the coast guard). I get tired really fast and so I adjust my sailing to match. I mean, I'm out of shape - really out of shape. What I live for in a 40+ knot wind is running with the wind or reaching. For me, that's just sitting back and holding on for dear life. When it comes to climbing back up into the wind I can't keep it flat no matter what so I use that time to rest up when the boat is heeled over and dry off (I don't have a wetsuit either :-()


    In those wind conditions (40+) my biggest concern is who I've got with me in the boat and by that I actually mean, how much does the person weigh? My sailing partner choice is usually predicated by their weight. In those winds you would be the perfect partner for me!! I have yet to have someone in that weight range on the boat. Usually I get someone in the 180 range. If I had 235 lbs I could do much, much better going upwind and keep the boat way flatter!


    My point is that your weight can be seen as a significant advantage if you end up sailing in the better winds. It should be much easier for you to keep the boat flat then for me which means you'll have to work much less hard then I do at 165 lbs.


    4. What weight range was it designed for? Am I to heavy for it? (Be honest I can take it)


    See above - you're my perfect choice for a sailing partner when the winds are high. The question I have is will the boat be comfortable enough for you? I suggest renting/borrowing a boat and trying it yourself. This would answer the basic questions of whether it's comfortable enough for putting around.


    Again, with respect to weight, I doubt you're porky enough to be too far on that end. Instead, I see it as a significant advantage in higher winds. The fact is that you'll always be able to keep the boat flatter with much less work then I will at 165 (when wet). I see that as a compelling advantage.


    Keep in mind though, there's few things I can think of that will tighten your stomach faster, and burn off weight faster then sailing a Laser on a regular basis in higher winds. It's probably the best exercise a guy can have and the bonus is that you're not going out there to exercise - it just happens while you are having fun. It's an unexpected by-product.


    5, The reservoir where I sail does not have a beach. The boat will have to be launched from a ramp and either rigged at the end of the ramp or at the adjacent docks. Can the boat be rigged from a dock? It does not look like a boat that you can stand up in so I'm not sure how easy it would be to place the mast.

    I rigged at the dock for years at school. If anything it can be easier to step the mast. There's nothing to fear with rigging at the dock. If anything, it's better. The bonus is that at a busy ramp you can drop your load (the boat!) in about 5 seconds flat and then take as long as you want to rig because you're out of everyone's way. This can be important when you're learning how to rig. Once you know how to rig you'd be really surprised how fast you can do it. Like 5 minutes - literally.

    6. I see that the sail has a sleeve which fits over the mast. Is there a main halyard? How do you dose the sail when you are approaching the dock? Same question applies if you need to rig the boat on a trailer or dolly. Does the boat need to be launched with the sail raised?


    This is an annoyance for me because I prefer high winds and so docking can be a pain. As anouther poster said turn into the wind and let it luff. This takes practice but remember, you can always do it the way I did which was to just flip the darn thing close to shore! It's not the best way but sometimes it helps to give the people on shore a good show :D


    It just takes practice. You can abort every time until you get it right. It does get a littel more complicated when you take into account the depth of the water. If it's shallow you have several variables to deal with all at once. The daggerboard and the rudder comes to mind. The rudder will flip up on it's own, the daggerboard won't. So there's a combination of things that happen all at once and this is made more difficult with high wind.


    To be honest, I've never 'mastered' it completely. Sometimes I'm just too damn tired and dump the boat. When I dock it's never very pretty but you've got to keep in mind I'm usually exhausted and at that point I usually could care less. It's harder if the beach is full of thousands of windsurfers and it's worse yet because they are all watching you intently as you go through the motions. Oh well, everything has it's down side :D


    Again, with respect to weight, the Laser is the ideal platform for getting into shape. If you can afford the time to sail often in higher winds you'll find out several things. One, your stomach will get much tighter - garanteed. Two, you'll loose weight because you're stuck out on the water having fun when you otherwise would be eating - so, there's weight loss there too.


    Three, and most important, when you come out fo a really strong wind you'll hit the shores with a permagrin frozen on your face. It's true, and you can try and fight it but the fact of the matter is that any time I go sailing in high winds my face muscles hurt just as much as the rest of me. Literally - the area around my mouth hurts from the permagrin effect.


    That's no BS. I can clearly recall many times sitting around a campfire and grinning like an idiot with all these girls around me - and try not to - and failing. Sailing a Laser in high winds is unlike anything else I can explain. It's literally you against God - period. The best part of the sail is when God shows up, gives you a reminder of how small you really are, but not too much so that you can just hang on. It's when you've reached the limit both physically and emotionally and you've managed to stay there for a period of time.


    It's all that that will make your friends wonder just what kind of drugs you got that gave you that permagrin. But it's the best thing in the world, and hey, if it causes you mouth muscles to hurt like hell, well, that probably tightens up your face too.


    I want you to understand something - I'm not kidding about the face muscles part. Grinning on a long term basis like that can, and does, result in a permagrin that usually takes about an hour before your mouth muscles beging to finally relax again. It does hurt!


    Anyway, I hope that helps. It seems to me that your biggest concerns are all based on fears, fears because it's unknown. There is nothing to fear really. I would suggest renting/borrowing a boat to see if it's comfortable enough for you. If so, the buy a good used Laser because when you weigh it all out - they're cheap.


    It's the best face lift money can buy!

    Last thing (honestly) is that it's a great way to meet women. I'm no casanova but I've met many women by just running into them and asking them if they want to go out sailing. You'd be surprised how many people have not been out sailing!

    Instead of being awkward and talking about yourself, the weather or other wierd things that hopefully lead up to a date, just mentioning sailing shifts everything over to a whole other plane! You end up talking about - sailing! In no time they understand how much fun it is and they go back to their friends and tell them they've got a date to go - sailing! Of all things!

    In addition, you'd be surprised how many things get sorted out in your mind on a slow hot day putting around on your boat. Things come to mind and inevitably you end up sorting them out during your time on the water. It's very therepeutic but like with exercising, it's not intentional - it just happens.

    I firmly beleive that the best thing my father did was buy an old rental boat 27 years ago for $1200 and give it to me. Many things got sorted out on that old boat. Many friends have been on it, girls have been on it, you name it - it's happened, and it was all centered around, in one way or another, that boat.

    During all that time the boat cost me practically nothing. If I had enough money for gas/chips/beer/whatever - that's all it took. Anyway, 'nuff said.

    Fathers, buy your sons/daughters a boat. It's cheap and will ultimately result in building character while having fun. There's no drug dealer on the water. There's no gangs on the water, only yourself and maybe someone you choose to bring with you. Choose an enemy and get stuck on a Laser for 8 hours or more and you'll find out how to love your enemy. You have to. It's just a really good thing. It builds character. It builds muscles. It saves many $$ on facelifts.

    What more can be said? If you stuck Kim Jon Il on a Laser with Barrack Obama for 8 hours you'd end up with a new friendship and dual perma-grins. You'd end up with a partnership. You'd end up with an understanding.

    There you have it, the answer to world peace? Stick 'em on a Laser for 8 hours!
     
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  12. OldDog

    OldDog New Member

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    Thanks

    WOW what a great buyers guide. I was going to do a search on trouble spots and red flags to look for when shopping for a used Laser (which is what I will be buying). The buyers guide already points out several. The mast step looks like key point. I've seen that in other threads as well. This website is a gold mine.
     
  13. OldDog

    OldDog New Member

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    Hi Marvin; Thanks for the reply. I laughed out loud about the part of turtling the boat to sit on it and take a rest. In fact I'm cracking up just replying to it. You guys have pretty much aleviated my fears. Looking forward to spring!
     
  14. marvin-miller

    marvin-miller Arrrr...

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    Hi Old dog - you're welcome :D

    By the way, I added considerably more to that post. The Laser is now the answer to a person's love life and also to world peace :eek:
     
  15. nesdog

    nesdog Member

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    Just adding a couple of points:

    I am returning to Laser sailing after 25 years of owning a catamaran. I am doing so because I don't always have a crew and it's nearly impossible to self-right a capsized 18 footer!

    After just three sails on my Laser, I'm already remembering how much I liked this boat. Can't wait for a bigger wind day!

    As to Laser sailing solving your love life.....well......when I owned my first one, in 1976, I was setting up along the beach in Mission Bay (San Diego) when I was approached by a very attractive lady. She asked me about locations for sailing lessons, I offered to help, and well....I had a heck of a summer!
     

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