by Rich Roberts
When some of the world's best Laser sailors launched their 13-foot, 9-inch singlehanded dinghies for the first of four days of the 2014 North American championships Thursday, Long Beach was ready with the best---and a bit of the worst---of its legendary conditions.
Paige Railey leads Radials, as usual
Bruno Fontes loved it---'It was perfect,' he said, even if he is from South America, but the 34-year-old Brazilian won the first two races and placed third to America's Charlie Buckingham in the third, which is why he is the fourth-ranked Laser sailor in the world.
Day 1 / Lasers in mast-bending mode
For opening day of the event also encompassing US Sailing's U.S. Singlehanded Championship, there was a typical southwest breeze building to 15 knots, with gusts to 19, which is normal this time of year. But the white-capped race course set off nearby Seal Beach was open to the ocean, not inside the Long Beach breakwater.
Whitecaps are one thing but short-spaced choppy waves with five-foot-deep rollers soon separated the 181 competitors in the event presented by the sailing-savvy Alamitos Bay Yacht Club.
Canada's Hugh Macrae sails by a downed competitor
'It wasn't the wind,' said Packy Davis, 'just the pounding.'
His home waters are San Francisco Bay, but he headed back to shore after two of three races.
He had company. Kris Hublitz from Dana Point down the coast, said, 'I had a lot of fun, but two races were enough. I'm 46 … a tired 46.'
Carter Lynn, 16, from San Diego, was sailing with the Laser full rigs but may drop down to Radials for the rest of the regatta.
'This was his first big boys regatta,' his dad said.
Chris Barnard (194180) leads off start on first wild and windy day of Laser North Americans at ABYC
As for the Radials, the 105 boats were split into Yellow and Blue fleets with separate starts. The first-day leaders were Luke Muller from Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., and Simone Staff of the California YC in Marina del Rey, respectively.
ABYC's own Mark Townsend, an ISAF international race officer, is the principal race officer operating from the club's committee boat Patience.
He said he might move the course west a bit Friday for calmer water but made no promises.
'It's the North American championships,' he said, 'one notch below the worlds. The good guys are coping with it.'
Especially Montes (one – one - three), who has a one-point lead over Buckingham (two – three - one), who leads the U.S. Singlehanded group.
Heavy traffic in heavy wind
'Those of us in the world rankings, like Charlie Buckingham and myself, are prepared for these conditions,' Montes said.
Adults, juniors and masters, male and female, and members of the U.S. and Canadian national sailing teams and other competitors from Canada to the Caribbean and South America will race in three classes: Laser Full, Laser Radial and Radial 4.7. All must be at least 17 years of age in the calendar year.
The plan is to run three races daily on trapezoid courses starting at noon each day, conditions permitting.
Lasers – not submarines
The U.S. Sailing Singlehanded Champions will receive the prestigious George D. O’Day trophy for men and Helen Willis Hanley trophy for women.
The men’s Laser and the women’s Laser Radial are Olympic class events; Laser 4.7 features youth participants.
The Laser, a Canadian designed dinghy, is the largest dinghy class in the world with more than 200,000 boats built.