National Laser Championships: Light winds make for tough sailing conditions in Santa Cruz

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SANTA CRUZ — The third day of the U.S. National Laser Championship Regatta was underway Saturday just outside the Santa Cruz Small Craft Harbor. Too bad nobody told the wind.

While fluorescent beach umbrellas and boogie boards lit up Twin Lakes State Beach, approximately 50 small white boats clustered together a half mile beyond the harbor waiting for the wind to cooperate. Light offshore winds and a meager swell in hot weather left much to be desired for sailors, according to principal race organizer Beau Vrolyk.

“It’s glorious for beachgoers, but sailors like cold strong winds and big waves,” Vrolyk said. And the 93-degree weather predicted for Sunday doesn’t make the race’s final day’s outlook any better.

In contrast, the day was better for “chardonnay sailors,” according to Vrolyk — those that sail with a glass of wine in their hand.

“It takes amazingly high concentration levels to sail in light winds,” Vrolyk said, adding that while the exhaustion is physical in heavy winds, in light winds there’s another side that gets highlighted: mental stamina. “It separates the best from the worst.”

It also helps lightweight sailors who suffer a stability disadvantage in higher winds, but gain a momentum advantage in the lighter wind, according to Vrolyk.

The one-design laser boats, created in 1970 by Bruce Kirby, are built to specification to even the playing field in races, so the only variable, ideally, is the

racer himself. The separate divisions favor different body weights with standard division favoring competitors that weigh more than 159 pounds.

The standard-division boats got lucky with westerly winds blowing at 15 knots in the early part of the day, allowing the division to complete all three scheduled races just outside of Steamer Lane. The boats with slightly larger sails and masts in the division made speeds of about 7-8 mph.

With easterly winds blowing at just 6 knots, the radial division, whose race was outside the harbor, barely got the chance to break a half-mile per hour. Unfortunately by time their races started, the winds shifted to a 6-knot easterly breeze, barely enough to call it a race.

The race included racers from Canada, where the laser boat was first created by Bruce Kirby in the 70s. There were 108 registered competitors.

“Race sailors like us think this weather is boring,” Vrolyk said.

Steven Bourdow of Santa Cruz is in fifth place heading into the fourth day. Incoming junior at Scotts Valley High, Michael Levy, is in 11th place and the Santa Cruz Yacht Club’s Peter Phelan is 14th overall.

Only six races have been completed in the radial division, where Jack Barton of the San Francisco Yacht Club holds a narrow lead. Junior Luke Muller leads the standard division going into Sunday.

Racing begins at noon.

For complete results, go here.

 


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