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is laser a good first boat? is it for me?

centex

New Member
Hi, I recently took a couple of ASA classes, but my wife isn't willing to commit the time to get into cruising keel boats (I dream Caribbean). I kind of left with the void of wanting to sail.
My local body of water is an inland lake, that can be very dead wind wise; I'm thinking my sailing days won't be as often as I may want, which makes me think I should mitigate how much I spend as I check out a new hobby. I've reached out to a local yacht club that has a laser fleet, but have not got a response... I'm kind of giving up on them for now at least... maybe it's the season... maybe they are as snotty as I might stereotype a yacht club to be (I'm picturing the Caddy shack golf club.... I'm sure I'm way off).

I want something I can single hand. I expect I will mostly sail solo. That said, I would like to be able to take my college age kids out to horse around and learn to sail if they take interest. I've seen photos of people with guests on a laser. I weigh 160 lbs, 5'8"

I thought about a hobie cat (I think everyone that saw Jaws 2 when they were a kid has pondered a hobie), but I really want quick set up. From what I hear, set up can be pretty lengthy. I do like the idea of having a foresail.

I also like the idea of being able to truck bed or roof rack to save the trailer hassle... or store at marina and dolly to ramp....

It seems like used Lasers are pretty high $$, should I consider something else? If spending $6.5K on a used laser, should I consider an RS Aero? They are light enough to single hand load on top of car I understand....

Any thoughts appreciated.
 

centex

New Member
Oh, I did own a Dolphin one summer (over 30 years ago) fun to learn mechanics of sailing, but a bit slow. I later had a windsurfer for a couple of years and loved the speed.,., thought about going back to that, but these high speed single handle boats really interest me.
 

Wavedancer

Upside down?
Staff member
Why don't you contact Fred Schroth of the Austin Yacht Club for a test sail. He is super supportive of newbies.
As an aside, no one pays $6500 for a used Laser, unless it's virtually new. Very good boats can be had for half of that.
 

centex

New Member
Thanks for the reply and information. I have not had much luck with AYC replying. I’ll see if I can find Fred’s contact info.
Thanks!
 

andyatos

Well-Known Member
I've got a Laser and a Sunfish. The Laser is more efficient but the Sunfish has similar performance. The Sunfish however rigs very quickly in comparison to the Laser and you can just as quickly lower the rig and roll up the sail.

This past weekend I took the Sunfish out for about 4 hours of sailing with a friend who also has a Sunfish... during which time I was reminded of how much I like the Sunfish because of how convenient and stable it is. So, getting a used Sunfish is another possibility for you.

I got my 1976 Sunfish and a trailer for just $600. The Sunfish needed some repair work but you could likely find a used Sunfish in good shape for under a thousand dollars.

Here's a video of my brother sailing my Sunfish with me in my Laser a few years ago on the Russian River in California. Notice the footage of my brother standing up while sailing downwind... an indication of the Sunfish's stability.

This past weekend, my friend Phil and I spent a lot of time sailing around while standing up in the cockpit as we sailed up the river on the leading edge of the breeze while I showed him some of the underwater hazards along the same river as seen in the video.

I'm a real performance nut but I just love the Sunfish. It's a great boat.

- Andy
 
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centex

New Member
Andy, thanks for the input. I had dismissed (perhaps mistakingly) Sunfish. I had a Dolphin a few decades ago and it was pretty slow. I later owned a windsurfer, that was fast. Once I learned to sail the windsurfer I only bothered driving to lake on windy days.

I guess I was thinking these higher performance boats are more akin to my wind surfer experience than my Dolphin experience. Am I mistaken? Have YouTube videos of sailing on coast in high wind gave me the wrong idea?

I appreciate your thoughts on this.
 

Wavedancer

Upside down?
Staff member
It so happens that the Austin Yacht Club has a good Sunfish group as well. Fred S would be able to tell you more.

More in general, the Laser is tippier than the Sunfish and, as a novice, you are more likely to go swimming.
 

andyatos

Well-Known Member
Andy, thanks for the input. I had dismissed (perhaps mistakingly) Sunfish. I had a Dolphin a few decades ago and it was pretty slow. I later owned a windsurfer, that was fast. Once I learned to sail the windsurfer I only bothered driving to lake on windy days.

I guess I was thinking these higher performance boats are more akin to my wind surfer experience than my Dolphin experience. Am I mistaken? Have YouTube videos of sailing on coast in high wind gave me the wrong idea?

I appreciate your thoughts on this.
Hi Centex,

Thanks for further explaining your sailing background regarding the kind of sailing experiences you are into. And I share yours as well with my 30+ of windsurfing... on everything from 75 liter sinker boards on 3.5 square meter sails in 30 - 35 mph winds all the way over to 170 liter, 100 centimeter wide carbon race boards with 11.0 square meter "airplane wing" North Formula Warp race sails where I can plane in 8 mph winds.

So, if your desire is for a 14 foot-ish long dinghy sailboat that will most closely feel like a planning windsurfer then an RS Aero is what you want. Independent of the price issue. The RS Aero is also nice because the hull is so light you can pick it up and carry it solo off the beach to your vehicle.

A Laser does plane but not nearly like the kind of true, apparent wind sailing, high speed planning that a descent, light weight slalom windsurfing board with a fully powered up monofilm sail can produce. If fact, as much as I enjoy broad reaching in strong winds in my Laser, as I'm "planning" along in my boat I still find myself wishing at times that I could snap my fingers and be on my windsurfing kit and continue to accelerate up to 25+ mph where my apparent wind is way forward, my kit is sailing itself, I'm doing almost no work at all and, because I'm skipping over the chop and waves, I'm not getting soaked in the process like I get in my Laser.

But I didn't get my Laser for sailing in strong winds. I got it to fill the gap in my sailing from the 2-3 mph range up to 15-20 mph where I then transition over to my windurfing gear. And also so that I didn't have to always be in a wet suit. I also got the Laser so I could do long out and return explorations regardless of wind velocity.

The other thing too is, when it's windy and you want to go top speed in a Laser (like you see in those YouTube videos you mentioned), you are going to be on a broad reach. And that means eventually you are going to have to stop broad reaching and head back upwind close hauled to regain the ground you lost... then bear off to do more broad reaching. In contrast, on windsurfing gear you can fly along on a beach reach and not lose your ground and even plane at high speed upwind. So, that's something to keep in mind.

As far as the Sunfish in high winds, it really doesn't plane. It kind of does but not really. Or at least not like a Laser. That's because the Sunfish has a narrow stern and the large amount of rocker that the hull has. But the Sunfish isn't designed to go really fast. It's a stable, fun, quick to rig boat that can carry more than one person (a tight fit) and it does what it is designed for very well.

So, if you are in fact going to be sailing almost exclusively solo and you are into strong winds and going fast, then the RS Aero is the best dinghy choice for you. But if you are going to want to have your college aged kids be able to horse around and learn how to sail then a Sunfish is probably the best bet. And... if you are going to want a high performance dinghy that can plane and keep you entertained but you don't want to pay top dollar for something like a new or almost new RS Aero then a 1995 or newer Laser is probably your best bet. As far as price goes, I picked up my 1987 Laser (that was in very good shape) with a very nice galvanized trailer for $1,050.

And here's one final suggestion. If you are into the high wind conditions... which means you are going to be broad reaching then pointing back upwind to regain the ground you lost downwind... then you are going to want to have on-the-fly, fully adjustable vang, cunningham and outhaul sail tuning. That's because when you are broad reaching you are going to want to have your sail delivering a lot of power. That means a full sail... which means your vang will be not fully pulled on (so the end of your boom doesn't drag in the water and cause you to slowly capsize), your cunningham will be off and your outhaul will be in its loosest setting.

But then when it's time to go back upwind to regain all the ground you have lost and it's blowing 15 or more, you are then going to want to be able to depower your sail a lot, make it quite flat and easy to sail back upwind. And this means pulling on a lot of vang, cunningham and outhaul. Only to then let all off these settings off again, add power back into your sail so you can blaze off onto a broach reach again and plane at speed.

So, you will either want to look for a Laser that already has this on-the-fly adjustable vang, cunningham and outhaul hardware, lines and cam cleats or buy one that doesn't then make the upgrade so you do have them.

Hope that gives you an idea of how close or far away these 3 types of sailing dinghies are to your windsurfing experience.

Cheers,

- Andy
 
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centex

New Member
Andy, a wealth of info, thanks for all of that.
RS Aero has been on my radar, but your use of the term planing, is very helpful. I only wind surged a couple of seasons, and it’s been a long time, but fast runs are exactly what I think appeals to me.
I can buy an Aero (I’m 55, not a broke kid like when I sold my windsurfer for tuition $$ 30 years ago), but a good deal on a laser might be a more prudent baby step, I don’t think I would lose on it..... but they seem hard to find.
but.... do people use roof racks for Aero? Not having to own and store a trailer might tempt me up.
Thanks for the wealth of info
 

andyatos

Well-Known Member
do people use roof racks for Aero? Not having to own and store a trailer might tempt me up.
Type, "rs aero roof rack" into Google images. You'll find your answer there. :cool:

Also, the RS Aero hull only weighs 66 lbs. So, easy to car top. In contrast, a Laser hull weighs 130 lbs. So, if you go with an RS Aero car topping would be practical. If you go with a Laser, having a trailer is better in my opinion. It isn't so much that the Laser hull is heavy, it's that it's big, wide, long and 130 lbs. Awkward to deal with. I've car topped my Laser just to see what it was like. And I went right back to my trailer.

This is particularly true when you are solo. When you're involved in racing and you've got a lot of fellow sailors to help you then car topping is more practical. But if you do car top, you still are going to need a dolly.

- Andy
 
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centex

New Member
Great stuff thanks so much. I’m glad you have windsurfing experience, since I wasn’t able to articulate myself!

Should I consider RS100, or even a Hobie? In a way the thought of learning a foresail is intriguing, but I may have my hands full anyway with just a main.

I noticed a used RS100 in Dallas; we have a Hobie dealer in Austin. The RS dealer in Houston has a used Aero and Laser

Wave dancer thanks for the AYC info..,, I’m still a bit bummed they seem to be stuffing my inquiries..... maybe when I own a boat I’ll be deemed worthy....

Best regards!
 
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andyatos

Well-Known Member
Should I consider RS100, or even a Hobie? In a way the thought of learning a foresail is intriguing, but I may have my hands full anyway with just a main.
I would advise simplicity and portability (ie, light weight) in the beginning for you. The reason is that this will open up as many sailing spots for you as possible. Therefore, as many different sailing conditions as possible.

The bigger the boat, the more you will need to have a trailer, space for a trailer, only be able to use boat ramps to launch from, etc.

As you get more sailing experience on a high performance dinghy, you can then demo larger single handed boats like the RS 100 and see what you think.

Also, keep the following in mind. I spent some time myself looking at all the latest single handed boats that came with large jibs, bowsprits with asymmetric spinnakers, trapeze, flat planning sterns, you name it. All of these designs allowing a sailor to go faster, have more fun, sail in more wind, etc. And I was getting into it, remembering my 470 days.

I then suddenly said, "Wait a minute buddy. An RS 100 would cost you 17 grand. You could take your wind surfing race gear from your garage right now, rig a board and sail combo for conditions of 8 mph winds on up to 25 and leave that RS 100 in the dust speed wise on pretty much all points of sail... and for less than a tenth of the cost."

So, my point is carefully consider the location and types of conditions that you will have at your disposal and want to sail in and then pick the smallest, most convenient and least expensive sailing craft that can get the job done. That's what I would do. I believe a used RS Aero would get that job done for you. And as you would be pretty new to performance dinghies, I'm betting it would keep you plenty entertained. Especially in stronger winds.

You might even find yourself getting totally worked in the beginning. Which is actually a lot of fun and rewarding when you finally get a handle on the boat and find yourself spending less and less time in the water.

- Andy
 
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centex

New Member
LetLmt, I’ll check it out, thanks for the lead!

Andy.... I’m a bit on the Aero bandwagon.... good point about windsurfers.... maybe I should do that and save my $$.

There is a used rs100 with both sail sizes for right around $10k in Dallas..... but I kinda got the Aero bug I’m afraid....

the same name wavedancer turned me onto came up with the RS Aero dealer I talked to. I’ll reach out to him WaveDancer, I meant to today..... darn job....

I really just need to see one in action... it’s too much $$ to go in blind....
 

andyatos

Well-Known Member
I really just need to see one in action... it’s too much $$ to go in blind....
Is there some way you could demo an RS Aero somewhere? A dealer must know someone at a sailing club who has one that you could sail for 20-30 minutes in 8-12 mph winds just so you'd know what it's like before you plunk down the cash.

- Andy
 

norcalsail

Active Member
Check out the RS and West Coast sailing websites and get their rundown on the Aero. I have also looked at the RS Neo which is less expensive and may have some advantages (also on both sites). I'm happy with my Sunfish but if money were no object....? It would be cool to keep up with my Laser friends!
 

centex

New Member
Thanks for the thoughts NorCal. No doubt a sunfish is a lot of fun. I saw the Neo, I’m going to ask the dealer about it.

Im really liking the thought that the Aero is somewhat analogous to previous (decades ago) wind surfing experience.... I just need to get a better feel for how any small boat will really be in my local conditions. Driving to coast isn’t realistic in the long run

thanks for the comments
 

centex

New Member
WaveDancer, I did talk to Fred, super nice guy. He is out of town this week.

Andy, there is an event with Aero in it in a couple of weeks, I hope to check it out.
I reread your post (again) ; When just sailing for fun, would I be sailing an aero on a beam reach (like a windsurfer), instead of a broad, then close hailed tacking?
Is that different than a laser? Ie does an Aero perform better on a beam reach?
 

andyatos

Well-Known Member
When just sailing for fun, would I be sailing an aero on a beam reach (like a windsurfer), instead of a broad, then close hailed tacking?
* Edit: After reading your post again, I'm wondering if you were asking the following.

"When just sailing for fun, would I be able to plane on an Aero on a beam reach (like a windsurfer) instead of having to broad reach in order to plane if I was on a Laser then close hauled and tacking to regain my lost ground?"


Is that what you meant?

* Original Answers:
I'm not sure exactly what you're asking so I'll take a stab at answering. I'm guessing that by "sailing for fun" you mean, "when I'm not trying to go as fast I possibly can will I be on a beam reach?" If that's what your asking I'd say no, not necessarily. You would be on any point of sail you want. Beam reaching, broad reaching, running, pointing, etc. You can do whatever you want.

Is that different than a laser? Ie does an Aero perform better on a beam reach?
I would say that an Aero is faster on a beam reach than a Laser. But I get the feeling you may be assuming that you will be able to plane at speed on a beam reach on an Aero. Is that what you meant?

If yes, than the answer is planing on an Aero or Laser is straight forward on a broad reach but more finesse is required when on a beam reach. And you tend to be going not nearly as fast.

- Andy
 
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Wavedancer

Upside down?
Staff member
Sailing for fun is guaranteed in any of the three boats mentioned in this thread.
And BTW, I believe that Fred has an Aero, in addition to a Laser.
 

centex

New Member
He does indeed. Super friendly guy. He says I need to sail some to figure out what I want. Makes perfect sense.
I’m still frustrated nobody at AYC will return an email, voicemail, answer the phone... I drove out there once and couldn’t get in gate... of course Fred says that’s the starting place for sailing in Austin....
 

centex

New Member
Well, KO has a nice used Aero package.... just not sure I’m confident we have enough wind often enough to really enjoy.
Still pondering a laser, but only if I find fair price.
Last choice.... Andy has me thinking windsurfer....
I did hook up with AYC , super nice bunch, eager to help.
 

andyatos

Well-Known Member
How far do you live from the Austin Yacht Club? And where is the "local body of water (lake)" near where you live? And what is the name of this local body?

- Andy
 

centex

New Member
Lake Travis, and about 40 minute drive.

You kinda stoked my windsurfer interest. If I’m more interested in sporty solo sailing, maybe just keep it simple...
 
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