In 1969 a boat costing just $700 and called a Weekender, won its division in the American Tea Cup regatta. Renamed the Laser, some 203,000 of them have been built in the years since.
The $1,000 Laser
At the 2012 Laser World Masters Championships being sailed at Brisbane’s Royal Queensland Yacht Squadron many of the fleet have hull and therefore sail numbers above 200,000. But a few stretch back into the 150,000’s.
Surprisingly the oldest boat in fleet has a hull number 135304; it’s being sailed by local sailor Peter Jenyns, who is competing in the Laser Radial Masters fleet.
Jenyns explains ‘I found my Laser in the Trading Post about six years. It was a $1,000 deal. It had been used as a fun boat, it was scratched and dinged.
‘For me it was just ‘a toe in the water’. I hadn’t sailed for 20 years (since my late teens) and I thought I would have another crack at it because I missed it so much.
‘I bought this cheap boat thinking I will have a go at it and if I went OK, I’d upgrade.
‘‘Well as it turned out, the comeback was only one season long due to the birth of our third child, so no boat upgrade!
‘However with the Worlds at my home club RQ, the opportunity was too good to miss and the boat has once again been dragged out and dusted off for the series.
‘I am surprised at how well it has gone. It’s just been under the house, which is an old Queenslander*. I just had it wrapped up in a tarp. It was actually perfect. I have changed a couple of ropes but in six years nothing has deteriorated.
‘That's the beauty of them. It was the same with the sail, I had it all rolled up in a cover.
‘I have a full rig as well but given my lack of fitness and age, and knowing what it is like here in 15 to 20s (knots) I thought I would be a bit lazy and pull the Radial out.
‘It measured OK, which was a relief. However there was an issue with the sail being so old. It didn’t have the red button – but thankfully the officials decided it still measures!
‘I even had a fellow competitor in the queue behind me at the sail measuring, laugh out loud and say to measuring officials 'it’s not like he is going to be a threat to us!'
‘To add insult to injury my trolley is so old that one competitor refused to accept it at the ramp! I have now asked that it be kept aside for me only - to avoid upsetting any other competitors' he laughed.
‘So after six years of no sailing in a boat and with a sail that must be somewhere in the vicinity of 25 to 30 years old, I placed seventh in race 4 in the Master Radial fleet.
‘I’m sure it will be all downhill from here but it’s great that an old boat stored well and a sail this old can still be reasonably competitive.’
‘Sure, I might have a few sailing genes from my father Ron Jenyns (triple Olympian Finn sailor) rattling around in me, but it goes to show what a great class the Laser is.
Old Laser, Old Sail
I believe I am about 15 kilos over what is ideal Radial weight. I have been holding my own downwind, which surprised me.
‘A few of the little guys crept up on me, but upwind is obviously an advantage for me.
‘If I can get it all sailing and humming along ..... I tweaked a few things and it seemed to make a difference. On the first day I got 20 and 29 and then 18 and seven - blew me away that seven - I could not believe it. I was third around the top mark, fifth on the next windward and then it was down to seventh. I held and they were like a pack of hungry wolves chasing me.
‘It’s a fantastic class. A new sail probably would have been a prudent thing to do prior to the Worlds. Again I just didn’t know ... I thought ‘I am just going to go and have fun.’
‘My kids are all about to start sailing, so if I can get them all going in Optis (I think that’s the RQ programme) and once I am comfortable they are not going to drown, I will pull this Laser out again.’
17th 18 AUSPJ14 Radial Master 135304 Jenyns Peter Ronald M 20.0 (29.0) 18.0 7.0 19.0 21.0 114.0 85.0
*Queenslander - Unique architecture type developed in the 1840s with consideration for climate the defining characteristic.