Perfect breeze greets Lake Tahoe Laser Fleet on opening night |

Perfect breeze greets Lake Tahoe Laser Fleet on opening night

Sun File PhotoNick Pullen, shown in this file photo, won two of three races on the opening evening of the Monday Night Laser Series.

What began as an ominous and overcast afternoon Monday turned into one of the better first nights of sailing in the history of the Lake Tahoe Laser Fleet.

and#8220;It was perfect,and#8221; said race committee head Stacy Conner, referring to conditions during the Monday Night Laser Series opener. and#8220;The skies cleared a bit, the rain never materialized and a nice breeze filled in to give all of the competitors a chance to hike in fairly consistent winds.and#8221;

Hiking in sailing doesn’t involve trying to walk on water, but rather is the fundamental small-boat skill of using one’s body weight to counteract the force of the wind on the sail. It’s done by tucking one’s toes under a strap in the middle of the boat and stretching the legs so that the entire body from mid thigh and beyond is hanging off the boat, and the mast is kept vertical and speed is maximized.

This becomes a balancing act, because as the wind speed either increases or decreases, the competitors must constantly adjust their body position to avoid capsizing or just dragging in the water if the wind abruptly drops in intensity. Fortunately for the seven sailors who made it out for the night, no one capsized on their inaugural sail of the season.

Three races were completed. In the first, racing was tight, with Nick Pullen, Joe Denton, Todd Jackson, Drew McMillan and Rick Raduziner rounding the top mark in very close quarters. The waves on the downwind leg allowed Pullen and Denton to extend their leads while the rest of the sailors were left battling for third through seventh places. Pullen ultimately won, while Denton and Jackson finished second and third.

The second race had a fairly dramatic shift in wind direction at the start, and McMillan and Raduziner were unable to make the start line ducking behind everyone else. This gave a significant advantage to Denton, Pullen, Jackson and Buff Wendt. Pullen, a longtime top finisher in the fleet, had fun duking it out with the newest member of the fleet.

and#8220;I was a fair bit behind Joe and thought I stood a chance to pass him with some of the puffs that I was catching on the last leg of the race,and#8221; Pullen said. and#8220;But he did a great job holding me off at the finish. Joe grew up in England racing Lasers, and we’re all excited to have another accomplished racer join the fleet.and#8221;

Jackson finished in third.

In the third race, Jackson pulled off a port-tack start on the entire fleet.

and#8220;It’s always a gamble to start on port tack, as starboard boats have the right of way, and Pullen was on starboard and very close to forcing me to miss the starting line,and#8221; Jackson said. and#8220;I was either going to be in first with a great lead, or in last place. As it was, I had speed and just barely cleared Pullen’s boat for a clean start.and#8221;

That start placed Jackson in a solid first place until Pullen caught him in the last leg of the race to snatch first place. Meanwhile, Wendt caught Denton on a nice wind shift during the second upwind leg to move into third place.

The Lake Tahoe Laser Fleet will be racing all summer long on Monday nights. Racing starts at 6 p.m. in front of the Lake Forest boat ramp. All ages and abilities of racers are welcome. For more information contact Rick Raduziner at or the Tahoe Yacht Club at 581-4700.

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