Laser old timers

Rolex Laser Masters gets underway next week

Saturday September 6th 2003, Author: Barby MacGowan, Location: United States
A hundred or more Laser-class sailboats will alight on Narragansett Bay next weekend for the Rolex Laser Masters North American Championships. Hosted by the New York Yacht Club, the event is open to members of the International Lasers Class Association who are age 35 or older and will register entrants up until 0900 on Friday, 12 September. Racing is scheduled to begin that same day and continue through until Sunday, 14th.

Already, 97 boats have registered, more than double the number at last year’s North Americans held in Florida. Racing takes place in four classes, Apprentice Masters (ages 35-44), Masters (45-54), Grandmasters (55-64) and Great Grandmasters (65+), with prizes going to the top-three finishers in each class plus the top Apprentice Woman and top Master Woman. A Rolex timepiece will be awarded to the overall winner.

"It’s shaping up to be a terrific event," said Steven Wolff (Fairfield, Conn.), who co-chairs the event with Gary Jobson and Susan Daly, "with an incredibly talented contingent of Laser sailors from New England joining competitors from all over the continent. How many races we run will be weather-dependent, but the plan is to take advantage of the typically optimal September breezes in Newport and get in as much racing as we can."

Wolff explained that all classes will sail together in 'standard' rigs, except that Great Grandmasters and Women may switch between standard rigs and 'radial' rigs at anytime during the regatta. The ILCA’s North American Masters handicapping system will be used. "The handicapping works the scores so, like in golfing, the younger competitors can go up against the older ones and an overall winner can be determined," said Wolff.

Notable in the early lineup of competitors are Bill Symes, who finished second in Grandmasters class at the 2002 Laser Master Worlds, and Peter Seidenberg, who was third in the same class and finished 5th at last year’s Laser Masters North Americans in Great Grandmasters class. Another entrant, Chris Raab will now sail as a Master but sailed to second in Apprentice Masters class last year at the North Americans. Second in Masters class at the ‘02 Laser Master Worlds was entrant Mark Bear, who also finished as first Master in the Laser Open Midwinters East in 2003.

"I am a fairly active laser master sailor, so I expect the usual: Great competition, sportsmanship, companionship," said Bear. "It is also a good chance to race against the very top caliber sailors of our age group and prepare for the Worlds in Spain which begin in a couple weeks. Expectations are high because the event was so outstanding last time it was held here (at the NYYC in 1993). I remember that regatta as one of the best I ever participated in: Fantastic race management and great shore-side assistance and hospitality."

Entrant Ryan Minth, president of the ILCA North American Region who finished fourth at the ’02 Laser Master Worlds in Apprentice Masters class, added: "Rolex's support of this NYYC-hosted event brings the high-class, history, and prestige of this event to a pinnacle. I anticipate this to be the Master's event of the decade."

From local fleet 413 will come some of the country’s hottest sailors, including Dan Neri and America’s Cup veterans Moose McClintock and Scott Ferguson. Sally Sharp, who finished third at the ’02 Laser Master Worlds in Women’s division and won the division at the ’00 event, will sail in Masters class.

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