Canadian Laser Masters Championships: A Primer

On July 22, 2010, Masters sailors from Canada and the US will be coming to Sturgeon Point to sail in the Canadian Laser Masters Championships.  This is going to be a great event, sailed in one of the greatest sailing dinghies ever designed, with Canadian involvement to boot.

The first ever Laser was launched by Bruce Kirby, the Canadian born Olympic Finn sailor and dinghy designer along with another Finn sailor, sailmaker and Olympic medallist Hans Fogh and boat builder Ian Bruce.  The launch took place at the Playboy Club on Lake Geneva in Wisconsin in 1970.  The trio never imagined that now, 40 years on, the Laser would be an Olympic class boat and the number of Lasers would be closing in on 200,000 in more than a hundred countries around the world.

The Laser was introduced to Sturgeon by David and Penny Barr in 1972.  They brought the first Lasers to Sturgeon and founded the Sturgeon Point Laser Fleet, one of the early Laser fleets of the North American Laser Association (Laser Fleet 94).  Since 1972, our Club has hosted many fantastic and increasingly larger Mid Ontario Regattas, which until recently were Laser only regattas, as well as the Provincial 16 & under singlehanded Championship sailed in Lasers in the 70’s and the Provincial Laser Masters Championship in 2008.

This Canadian Masters Regatta is for sailors, age 35 and up.  Within Masters ranks there are Apprentices (35-44), Masters (45-54), Grand Masters (55-64), Great Grand Masters (65+).   Masters in all age categories will  be competing.  For an overall champion, sailors are handicapped by age category, so that Apprentices add 3 points to each race finish, Masters add 2 points, Grand Masters add one and Great Grand Masters add none.

Included in our fleet at the Canadian Masters will be Olympic medalist (in the Finn) and four time Canadian Laser Champion Terry Nielson,  former Mid Ontario Champion Great Grand Master Joe Van Rossem,  three time  Mid Ontario Champion, two time National Youth Champion and former National team sailor Greg Tawaststjerna (a home grown sailor returning to his Laser roots – he recently finished a very impressive 10th in the US Laser Masters),  former provincial Masters Champion and Mid Ontario winner Rob Koci,  provincial Masters Champion and fifth place finisher in the Radial Masters fleet in the 2009 Laser Masters Worlds Nigel Heath, former Canadian Laser Champion and top three finisher in the Laser Worlds Andy Roy,  former Canadian Laser Champion, two time top three finisher in the Laser North Americans and fourth place finisher in the Laser Apprentice Class in the 2009 Laser Masters Worlds,  Ray Davies (first Master in last year’s Mid Ontarios), Canadian Yachting Association President and former SLSC head instructor Gerry Giffin  from Nova Scotia, a contingent of sailors from across Quebec and a number of superb US sailors, including Sally Sharp (who won the Women Radial Grandmaster fleet in the 2009 Laser Masters Worlds),  Susie Pegel (a former overall Laser North American champion – 1980 in the full-rig Laser against the men, placing ahead of Neilson and Roy) and Henry Amthor,  a past Fireball North American and US National Champion.

As Michael Mills, the veteran Laser sailor from Port Stephens Sailing Club on Australia’s East coast explains:  ‘a Laser – you can sail it from the cradle to the grave. If you could easily tack on some plywood sides and turn it into a coffin, I’m sure a lot of people would be buried in their Laser.’ 

We will see a lot of those great Masters sailors who are making sailing a Laser a lifelong passion out on our Lake from July 23 to 25.  It will be a celebration.  It will be fun.

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