Fifteen salty dogs did battle on the Pacific Ocean in front of Mission Beach with sailors coming from as far away as Colorado and Northern California. Winds were on the lighter side (5 to 10 knots) for the most part, with the windiest race being the last with a steady 12 to 15 knots of wind, but from the south rather than the traditional west. There were big rollers coming in (5 to 6 feet) from the west with wind chop on top which made focusing on steering through the waves upwind vitally important in addition to normal close-quarter issues. The other big variable was the ever-menacing presence of loose kelp; if it caught on your dagger board or rudder you were dragging an instant sea anchor.
I started off strong with a hard fought finishes of 6, 10, 4, 6 on the first day and was leading a group of 4 other sailors holding down 5th place overall and 3rd in the Grand Masters division (55-64yrs). My starts were good but my sail was not up to par in the choppy conditions and resulted in some boat speed issues, although choosing the right route upwind was the key.
Sunday’s results were not as good despite being lent a newer sail from eventual 2nd overall winner Dave Leuck. The first 2 races I played the starboard side of the course, expecting a gradual clocking of the southerly breeze that didn’t come. (Went too fast in the wrong direction.) In the 3rd and final race the wind was up and had a great start and was battling for position rounding the top mark in 3rd place. Felt like the old days hiking my a** off and looking back at boats instead of seeing them in front of me.
Still had some “rust” and with the waves coming from the west but the wind from the SSW, it made running downwind tricky. A wave kicked me over on the first downwind leg and I capsized. Pretty embarrassing. Worked hard to get it righted but ended up the next three legs trying to catch up. Overall regatta position 8th. Not a bad result considering almost 30 years since I competed at a high level.
The winner, Doug Hart, is a phenomenal sailor. At 58 and 165 pounds he is in great shape, makes his boat go fast upwind and downwind and is a local so the winds didn’t fool him. With four firsts and three seconds and with handicap adjustments, he blew the rest of the field away. The Grand Master division had six sailors and all were good ones. Met lots of nice people including Nils Andersson, the Laser Fleet Captain and race organizer who was super helpful.
I strongly recommend other Laser (and non-Laser sailors) who can organize getting to the coast to participate in any Master or regular Laser regattas in the future to do so. Mission Bay Yacht Club is a fabulous club and the setting can’t be beat. Neither could the open keg set up on the yacht club balcony for the Master Laser sailors! (Photos courtesy of Julie and Paul Miachika.)
Editor’s Note: Laser Master’s are broken into four age divisions: Apprentice (35-44 years old), Master (45-54 years old), Grand Master (55-64 years old) and Great Grand Master (65+). At the highly competitive but very fun World Championships you race against competitors only in your age division. In North America the Masters typically race as one fleet but score in their age divisions.