Licensed to Laser race | SierraSun.com

Licensed to Laser race

Jill Casey
Special to the Sun

Jill Casey/Provided to the SunLaser sailors round a mark during the Laser Master's Pacific Coast Championship on Lake Tahoe this past weekend.

The two-day Laser Master’s Pacific Coast Championship, hosted by the Tahoe Yacht Club, brought tons of excitement to Lake Tahoe’s North Shore this past weekend.

In addition to the local sailors, the event attracted many experienced out-of-town sailors who helped raise the level of competition.

Saturday started in the parking lot of the Lake Forest Boat Ramp as 23 sailors with boats in tow arrived to find the lot full with no room for their boats. Although the PUD was notified in advance, the parking attendants were not. Susan, the parking attendant known to the regular Laser sailors, scrambled to help everyone find a spot.

“Without her help, we might not have been able to get this race started,” said Justin Casey, organizer of the event. “We are very thankful for her help, quick thinking and positive attitude.”

While rigging their boats, all of the sailors noticed the unusual east winds that shifted quickly to the southwest. Although sailors do need wind to sail, these winds were “unusually fierce,” said Caroline McNally, one of the regular laser fleet sailors who volunteered for the event. “This will be so fun and exciting,” McNally said.

Three races were held Saturday in the strong winds. One of the three Great Grand Masters, Les Bartlett, lost his white Tahoe Yacht Club hat in the first race but still managed to finish first in his division.

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“All I could hear out there, in all that wind and with all the yelling, was Les, yelling that he lost his hat,” said Apprentice Master Sailor Buff Wendt, who proudly presented Bartlett with the wet hat in the parking lot after the races. “I don’t know what made Les happier, winning the race or getting his hat back.”

Wendt didn’t fare too bad, either, as she placed first in the third race. Nick Pullen, her husband and former Canadian National Champion Laser racer, placed third in the same race.

“This is a once-in-a-10-year event,” an exuberant Wendt screamed as she sailed into shore. “Last Saturday while on vacation I was beating ON Nick, and today, well, it’s just epic.”

Pullen, however, did take the No. 1 spot in the Apprentice Masters division with wins in both the first and second races.

“The only other time in the past 10 years when I beat Nick was when he was given a sinking boat at Stampede,” said Wendt, who met Pullen in the laser fleet many years ago before the two were married at the fleet’s end-of-the-season championship. This September will mark their 10th wedding anniversary.

After the races on Saturday, Luke Frederick set up an appetizer table for all the sailors and volunteers to enjoy.

“Luke went all out,” Casey said. “This really got everyone to hang out together after the races.”

Sunday started in much the same way as Saturday, but with ample parking spaces. The winds seemed steadier but, incredibly, much higher, causing chaos for the sailors while launching their boats.

The race course would be the same, a windward ” leeward ” trapezoid.

Two races were held in what Jim Granger said were “the shiftiest up and down winds we ever saw on Tahoe ” 40-degree shifts and 0- to 25-knot winds.”

Because of this, the boat capsizes were “spectacular today,” said a tired Todd Jackson, one of the capsize victims.

“Mother Nature made us realize us how old we are,” said Bartlett, who managed to keep his hat on his head during the races. “I had a string tied to my hat today, and although it kept getting tangled up with the main sheet and almost choked me, I did not lose it.”

Many of the capsizes came at the jibe mark, and Matt Clark put in the most spectacular crash with a death roll that took out two other boats with him.

Of the many comments after the races, it was Stan Eriksson’s that had everyone laughing.

“It was great, but whoever was working the wind switch was not consistent,” he said.

Another racer commented about the “frustrating winds,” while Pullen got a few of the older sailors roaring with laughter when he said, “These old guys are really fast,” and “the fact that I have to give these old guys points is bull.”

When Bartlett was awarded his first-place Great Grand Masters trophy, he mentioned that it was the first time he had defeated his friend Leif Gihbsson, a fellow Great Grand Master Laser sailor from San Diego.

Tracy Usher, the overall champion, was gracious when accepting, thanking everyone for the strong competition and also thanking Don Trask for introducing the Laser to the West Coast.

The final results and awards at the Tahoe Yacht Club were presented with honors to the top three in each division and the overall champion.

Apprentice Master ” age 35-44

1. Nick Pullen – 4 points

2. Matt Clark – 9 points

3. Buff Wendt – 11 points

4. Mike Bishop – 13 points

5. Todd Jackson – 17 points

6. Ralph Silverman – 25 points

Master ” age 45-54

1. Tracy Usher – 4 points

2. Martin Hartmanis – 8 points

3. Stan Eriksson – 11 points

4. Dan Hauserman – 17 points

5. David LaPier – 21 points

6. Justin Casey – 25 points

Grand Master ” age 55-64

1. Chris Boome – 5 points

2. Donald Blythe – 6 points

3. Tony Dahlman – 11 points

4. John Barere – 15 points

5. John Notman – 24 points

Great Grant Master ” age 65-plus

1. Les Bartlett – 4 points

2. Tim Knowles – 8 points

3. Leif Gihbsson – 9 points

Overall Champion: Tracy Usher