In Praise of Lasers . . .
This article was first written circa 1979 for Supt Steve Vessey (Lincs) to publish at his local sailing club.

PAA Regatta, Poole Harbour



Not since the advent of the Mirror dinghy has there been a boat of such numbers, potential, simplicity and sheer talkability, and so when you aske me why I like the Laser, I find it a simple task to put 'pen to paper' and gave you some idea. I'm afraid that the reasons may sound familiar but that's because someone, somewhere else, will be saying just the same things about this dinghy.

I must say, that the first thing that struck me on acquiring my own Laser was that at last my car would see the inside of my garage through the winter. Not only that but instead of dashing to get my old wood job re-decked, re-painted and varnished ready for the late spring, I was ready to go on the first weekend in March after a winter re-fit that took at most twenty minutes including polishing the bottom.

No crew to try and persuade to face the cold and low and behold, other early Laser sailors to race against.

I guess there are those who couldn't do without all the messing about with paint and resin between the laying-up supper and Easter but all I ever wanted to do is gel, on the water with the minimum of time and fuss at the water's edge. Fairly often I've arrived at the clubhouse with 20 minutes to change, rig and arrive at the start line on time. It can be done even though not recommended in all the best sailing books.

And when I get on the water, well, I know it's just down to me. No worries over heavy hulls or the new season's progressive designs. One Laser is as similar to another as the makers can possibly get them. So I know when I'm racing that at least I can't blame the boat for my position. Nice thought even if I'm last.

Anyway the Laser is sensitive and mainly sensitive to the wind, as a good boat should be. So there will be quite a few Flying Fifteens, Albacores and even Fireballs looking at your transom in a handicap race. There really is nothing like feeling the Laser pick up and plane as soon as there's a puff of wind - leaving the other classes without a hope of luffing you up on the reach as you charge through to windward.

At the end of the race, you'll often see the Laser sailors sail on; beating, reaching, running; rather than come ashore; just for the fun of it.

Leics Police Regatta
The Laser is exceptionally sensitive to wind strength, particularly when on a reach.

It's a stout boat by the way, so you can trust anybody in it without them putting their foot through the hull or bringing down the mast.

But you do have to be nimble and fit if you don't want to get wet when you broach and capsize. It's possible in a Laser, as everyone knows, to capsize and yet come up body and boat quite dry and sail on. It can be a different story racing in a Force 5 downwind when you tip in to windward and leave the boat sailing on. Everything is just fine as long as you don't let go of the main sheet!

Can you see that it's all there? - The fun, the challenge - the exhilaration of matching yourself directly with the elements and your fellow Laser men.

The advantages of the Laser off the water are that it is light enough to be managed by one person, all except lifting it on top of the car and even that can be done, with care. No trailer speed regulations to worry about. The Laser fits happily on most car roofs, including a minivan with a set of roof racks.

The Association is good too. Like most club men I look cautiously at what I'm going to get for my money. The magazines alone make it worthwhile for me with the advice, reports, adverts and information.

So what's wrong with getting a Laser. I'll tell you. It's expensive for what you get and yet I had more fun on holiday in a week with the Laser than I did in two years with my previous boat. On top of that, because the Laser doesn't particularly deteriorate (bar.. in time, the sail) the second-hand value is good. It certainly pays to learn on a second-hand Laser (it might take 12 months to learn to sail it brilliantly) and then re-sell it if you fancy a new one - don't forget they're pretty well all the same anyway.

Also the hull being wind sensitive, is also weight sensitive so don't expect to win a race in light airs if you're 14 stone. The Association has considered breaking top competition fleets into weight divisions.

You'll also hear of mast and boom sections breaking at the rivets. The boom they've cured and no doubt they're working on the mast but apart from the big blow it's rare and then again its hardly the end of the world - more the beginning of a love affair.


Police Lasers compete at Port Talbot, South Wales

 Item submitted by Dick Sivers  

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