2020 Laser Masters Pacific Coast Championships

Feature Photo: Dave Newland on the calmer waters of TTL

By David Newland

Since my introduction to Laser sailing/racing back in November 2018 (article here), I’ve been signing up for any racing I can get my hands on that coincides with my schedule! During this time, I’ve raced with the Mission Bay Yacht Club twice, participated in a Laser District race that AYC hosted, as well as attended our local AYC racing series. I dig this little pain box.

I was hoping for 4 ocean races this year, with 2 or 3 of those in the Laser, and was able to get one done in February. But, COVID flipped the world on its head and depression sunk in when Long Beach Race Week canceled and the remainder of 2020 was in question. However, I was having moments of normalcy with a fantastic few months of Wednesday Night Beer Can racing during April, May, and June. Sometimes doing match-racing with Rob Gibbs and Dean Johnson, and other times seeing a nice Laser turnout with 5-7 boats on the water.

One race that was on (and off) my radar this year was the 2020 North American Masters Race in Santa Cruz, Ca being held August 14th-16th. I was surprised to learn a week before the event that it was still “on”, though they dropped the North American title due to COVID and changed it to a Masters Pacific Coast Cup. Big names were still signed up, like Charlie Buckingham, Bill Symes, and David LaPier, who are top Laser Master Racers in the U.S., and even the world. A quick text to my new San Diego Laser friends confirmed that many of them were still going. So, I loaded up the truck with camping gear, hooked up the Laser, and headed to Santa Cruz.

The first thing I noticed at the Santa Cruz Yacht Club was the boats in dry storage. Iconic boats.  Moore 24’s, Santa Cruz 27’s and Olson 30’s. And forget about what was slipped. Olson 40’s, Santa Cruz 50’s and 70 or 2. All of us there had the exact same daydream of surfing down the Pacific swell to Hawaii. Why are we here? Oh, right, Laser racing.
SCYC had the COVID logistics figured out. Laser rigging happened out in the parking lot and their dry slip yard, with plenty of space to social distance. Everyone was masked up. Three members managed the launch ramp and helped us get our boats in the water and returned our dolly’s to the storage area. They also had a scout that paid attention to our return so they were prepared to work this process in reverse order. Very simple and effective. 

Dry storage at the Santa Cruz Yacht Club

We practiced Thursday and I made the right call going to the smaller Radial rig as I’m still struggling a bit with my skill set, and I’m COVID out of shape and fat. Winds were 12-18 solid with gusts a bit more for Thursday through Saturday. Sunday early AM we were awakened by a strong thunderstorm and heatwave.  This was very odd for Santa Cruz and some have said it was a 50-year event. The weather was pumping from the south due to a tropical storm 1000 miles away. Heavier winds greeted us on the course.  Solid 20’s with gusts quite a bit more. 

There were 10 races booked over 3 days. I think I can say I’m a heavy weather Laser racer. Maybe. I still have years of work to do as I didn’t beat anyone and bailed on 2 races. Turtled 3 times.  certainly can say that I had fun!  Surfing the Laser and turning it into a submarine twice was thrilling.  Having a solid downwind surf run, to then see Charlie Buckingham go right by me as if I was standing still is a memory that won’t leave me anytime soon. He may have even been eating a sandwich. 

A special thanks to the San Diego/Utah racers that helped me debrief my dismal Friday race day by the campfire at KOA and gave me the tips to survive the next 2 days. What was shared, you ask? Basically, Rule 5 of racing from some obscure book that nobody has ever seen. Ask me about it sometime as it’s quite simple, yet not kid-friendly.