3 Levels of Laser Sailing

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After a 3-day stint of sailing my Laser all over Tomales Bay in all kinds of conditions, I was reminded of this - nothing to do with racing or trick rigging, just relections on the boat I love in the differing elements...

Levels of Laser Sailing

Level One: When it is just windy enough to plane. You can work the boat through all of its proficiencies. Hike out and enjoy the small waves that don’t slow you to weather. Gybe with impunity, working on the perfect balance and carrying boatspeed through the turns. Practice dead downwind heeling to weather and oscillating just enough to enjoy the speed bursts without a capsize. This is “sweet “ sailing. You bond with and love the boat on a soulful and spiritual level.

Level Two: Windier and a little bit crazy. Lots of spray. You are eating water but enjoying it. Adrenaline kicks in and you now feel a real accomplishment when you stick a good gybe, so try another. Heck, you can connect a few. Look at that z-shaped wake! A little more work on a beat, and you probably don’t run downwind unless absolutely necessary. At this level I am startled by the almost sensual component of handling the boat. I pant with the exertion. I yell, I talk dirty to her. I say things aloud I would not repeat on shore. I sing, for God’s sake! I am distracted by nothing. There is only the sailor and the boat and the fierce exciting beauty of the movement.

Level Three: So this is what they meant by “Small Craft Warnings.” You are cold and scared. You’ve put in the reef, but are still way overpowered. The sea state is ugly and the noise from your flogging rig when you try to catch your breath after yet another brutal crash and swim is awful. Your drooling and gagging have no relation to pleasure. And what are those pops and creaks you hear from the rig, the hull, the hiking strap? Is that whining sound coming from you? You find the beat is a preferable direction. Reaching is still possible and wicked fast but do not catch your boom end in a wave. If you can gybe you are a God, so try it once or twice. Don’t even think of running downwind. It will be a quick end if you do. Generally this type of sailing is a mistake; to be survived.

Dennis Olson
Tomales Bay, CA


Just sailing
Level 0 - It's 95 degrees in July and the wind is maybe 2-3 mph. Sweat is mixing with sunscreen and running into your eye, causing a bad stinging sensation. You are sitting forward of the cockpit with a cleat directly under your butt in a pathetic attempt to get the stern out of the water. Your back is aching from crouching down in your boat, and you just developed a massive cramp in your leg. You can't get up to stretch it out, because it would kill what little speed you have. Ordinarily you would be nowhere near the water on a day like today, but you drove 200 miles to come to this regatta and had already pre-paid the entry fee. You're told there is cold beer ashore, but the race committee put the course on the far side of the lake in a desperate search for any wind. To get to the beer, you will have to rock and skull your boat for 45 minutes across the lake.
i just came back from Cabarete DR yesterday and it was amazing every day it blows 20-30k and there are always waves 1-8 ft it is definetly the best place to sail laser in the world