“It is not without great emotion that I present the first-place award to Justin Casey,” said Stacy Connor, a member of the Lake Tahoe Laser Fleet race committee and fellow sailor.
Connor was referring to Casey’s phenomenal comeback in his second laser race of the season. Not only did Casey post the first individual and nightly win of his laser career, but he did it while still regaining strength after a serious bout with cancer this past winter.
“He’s our fleet’s own sailing version of Lance Armstrong,” said Jim Granger, a Lake Tahoe Laser Fleet racer. “He was tactically solid, had good starts and great boat speed. It’s amazing that he’s regained enough strength to sail; but to come back, dominate and have a personal best is just exceptional.”
Casey started racing lasers about 10 years ago after watching the races for a few weeks. As with any new member of the fleet, many of the competitors showed Casey how to rig his boat and helped instruct him on boat speed, rules and tactics. Now his competitors seek him out for advice.
Asked about the secret of his success on Monday night, Casey said, “I used the Buddy Melges technique, which is to win the start, be first to the weather mark and extend my lead.”
Knowing every sailor’s dream is to make it look as simple as Buddy Melges ” a world champion and an America’s Cup skipper ” Casey’s wry smile confessed the truth.
“Actually, I was very nervous about the downwind legs, especially the last race which I was winning,” Casey said. “A gust of wind would put Matt Clark, Stan Eriksson and Todd Jackson right behind me, and I would be convinced that they would have the speed to pass me. But every time, I managed to catch just enough breeze to maintain my lead.”
Referring to a true irony in sailing, Casey was pointing out the hazards of being in the lead after working so hard to be the initial boat around the windward buoy. The next mark on a race course is downwind, and the competitors let their sails all the way out to catch the most breeze. Because the wind is coming from behind, this leg can give the competitors in the rear an opportunity to catch the wind first, gain speed and rob the leader of his position.
Justin Casey 8 pts
Matt Clark 10 pts
Todd Jackson 11 pts
Stan Ericksson 12 pts
Jim Granger 16 pts
Jim Claussen 12 pts
Gary Moore 13 pts
Ryan Heckbar 14 pts
Monday was the largest showing yet, with 14 boats and more still to appear in coming weeks. New members and sailors are welcome to race. For those who would like to race, meet at the Lake Forest boat ramp around 4:30 p.m. any Monday night.