Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Seven Reasons to Hate Laser Sailors

Why do people hate Laser sailors?

No, I'm not getting paranoid. That was a question that OG from LiveSailDie asked me in a Skype Chat we had yesterday. To be fair to OG her question was a little more mild, "Why do non Laser Sailors dislike Laser sailors so much?"

And she went on to explain, "RQYS is a massive Laser club. We have world champions, national champions, state champions. But there are some who think they are lonely boring people with no life, just cause they are a single handed class."

I must admit her question floored me. In 25 years of Laser sailing I've not come across much antipathy from other sailors. So I can only speculate on why some folk may have a thing against Laser sailors...

1. Laser sailors are cheats. I have heard some people express the opinion that Laser sailors use too much kinetics and that they just rock and roll their boats around the course. One reason that I was invited to give the Rule 42 seminar at my club this winter was, I suspect, that the powers-that-be thought that as the most experienced Laserite in the club I would have had more exposure to illegal propulsion examples. It is true that the Laser responds well to all the banned go-fast techniques - pumping, rocking, repeated roll tacks and gybes etc. And you do occasionally see it. But my experience is that we are pretty good at policing ourselves and at major events we have judges on the water strictly enforcing Rule 42.

2. Laser sailors are a bunch of drunken party animals. Way back in the early days of the Laser when it was predominately sailed by a bunch of aggressive young guys there were some stories of wild behavior at regatta parties that was frowned on by the more staid members of host yacht clubs. But the class has aged. A high percentage of the class membership are now masters (over 35) and our alcohol tolerance is nowhere near good enough to get wasted on Saturday night and then sail a Laser all day on Sunday. Sure, there are always new youth sailors coming into the class but my experience of the young people in the class these days are that they are, for the most part, well-behaved, respectful, and serious about their sport.

I was interested to observe that at this year's Newport Regatta there were no 420's. The reason I discovered was that they had been banned because at the previous year's regatta the 420 class had been so badly behaved. What's the world coming to? Kids in 420's outdrinking Laser sailors!

3. Laser sailors don't spend enough in the yacht club bar. Come on guys. You can't have it both ways. We can't be wild debauching drunks and stingy teetotallers. Actually this one may be nearer the truth. Laser sailors love their racing. Indeed some of them (but not all) are so serious about it that they will be very careful about their alcohol consumption during a regatta. Most of us join a yacht club for the sailing, not for the social scene.

4. The Laser isn't a "real" sailboat. There is some snobbery against Laser sailors. Some people seem to think that a "real" sailing dinghy has to have three sails and preferably a trapeze or two. So what? If you want to sail a 505 or a 49er go for it. Each to their own. Just because you prefer a particular class of boat don't go around saying other boats "suck". Even Optimists have their place. 188,000 Laser owners can't be wrong.

5. If we allow Lasers at our club it will hurt the other classes. Yeah, there may be some truth in this one. The Laser is a popular class. It may steal fleet members from classes that are not so much fun to sail, or that are more expensive, or that are more work to maintain and transport. But inter-class competition is not a zero sum game. Clubs need popular fleets that will grow the sport.

6. The club is getting over-run with Lasers. This is an actual quote from the commodore of the club where I started a Laser fleet last year. All of a sudden one Sunday it seemed like there were Lasers everywhere. They had become the largest fleet at the club almost overnight. So what? Don't you want to attract new members and have active thriving racing fleets?

7. Laser sailors walk around with big smiles on their faces exuding a feeling of smug satisfaction that they sail the best boat in the world. True.

So what have I missed? Why do you hate Laser sailors?


OG said...

I respect all Laser sailors.

They work their arses off throughout every leg of the course.

They race against massive fleets.

They are a hard, challenging, skillful and advanced class to sail and it's a class you can stay with from a kid right through to a very mature age.

It annoys the crap out of me when people disrespect these sailors.

However, I have noticed that those who critisize Laser sailors are those who don't understand the talent and skills that are required to race the class successfully.

This is a topic that is very close to my heart....

My Dad races Lasers and at the age of 59 is about to travel to Korea for the World Championships in his very first major title. And my dad has cancer...

He trains about 4 days a week with some of the worlds best Laser sailors, including 2 current world champions and a past Olympian.

People like this should never be critisized, but rather prasied for their efforts.

Yeah, ok, so maybe they don't hit the bar and write themselves off after each regatta but choose a refreshing powerade or orange juice over a beer, and sure, they pack a healthy yet energising lunch rather than opting for a meat pie and chips, but this shows they are athletes and respect their sport and respect themselves.

As you can probably tell, this is a subject that I am very tender towards.

I asked Tillerman what he thought about the topic as I consider him to be wise and a Laser role model.

Those whom hate Laser sailors are just plain and simply jealous of their determination and ability to race at an elite level, because all Laser sailors are elite athletes in our sport.

That's just my opinion anyway...

joe "i'm not popeye" rouse said...

Have you read the boards at SA? It seem that everyone hates everyone else who doesn't sail their type of boat. "Cats suck." "Cat sailors aren't real sailors!" "The V15 sucks get a real boat like a 505." "The Banshee is a piece of shit, you should cut it up into and throw it away." "The Finn is crap." "Those fuckers at Melges still pimp old designs like Cs and MCs" ....blah, blah, blah.

As for the Laser and her sailors, a lot of non-Laser sailors are simply jealous.

Sailing is all about having FUN. Where's my drink?

Zen said...

All I ever get at the bar is water or juice and I do not sail a laser.

Litoralis said...

I think one of the reasons that the conventional yacht club set doesn't like Laser sailors has something to do with them generally not coming from the conventional yacht club mould. This is possible because Laser sailors don't need to be a member of a yacht club to sail every weekend, they don't need to store their boat at a club, and they don't need crew.
As a result, many Laser sailors don't know much about the regular yacht club types and so are constantly and unknowingly committing all kinds of faux pas...walking through the club in their sailing gear, rigging their boats on the lawn, launching their boats from the swimming beach, etc.

teep said...

It isn't just sailing. I see the same thing wrt horses. Western Pleasure horses are all drugged. People who ride timed events like poles, barrels, and keyhole abuse their horses to get them to run like that. Arabs are total lunatics. Tennessee Walkers only gait because of inhumane training practices. You couldn't pay me enough to sit on an Appaloosa -- they're all nutty. Warmbloods are ridden by snotty rich trust-fund types. Thoroughbreds off the track are no good for anything in the real world. Standardbreds are ugly and ill-tempered and they can't be taught not to pace. Trail horses have no manners. Ring horses have no brains and can't handle an uncontrolled environment. Ponies are evil. Mares are bitchy. Morgans are pushy. Drafts are stupid.

The behavior, which I think goes on all over the world in every sort of pursuit people engage in, is what people do to convince themselves that THEIR CHOICE is the only true and proper course, as if there's some kind of conservation of ranking and that they can somehow push THEIR THING up by dragging other people's things down. Like me slamming your (probably quite nice) red 15.2 hand quarterhorse gelding somehow makes me happier with my 14.2 hand purebred bay arabian mare (somewhat ditzy and impatient, bucks on occasion, terrified of strollers), me abusing your Flying Scot as lame, boring, and uninteresting to sail makes me happier with my Laser (still tipping me over sometimes, has interesting rolling behavior when sailed directly downwind, hooks mainsheet over transom entirely too often for comfort)? I don't get it either, but people sure do a lot of it.

EVK4 said...

umm, because lasers are lame. Isn't that obvious? I'm going to run over the next one I see with my massive 28 foot leadmine!!!

Adrift At Sea said...

Are you suggesting that we non-Laser sailors start using the anti-PWC weaponry against Lasers now??

Carol Anne said...

I am, alas, ashamed to say that I have heard some say that the Etchells is the "One True Boat" and that therefore the J/24 is a piece of excrement.

I do not hold to that point of view. While I myself sail an Etchells, and I find it suits me better than a J/24 does, I also see the good points of the J/24 -- it does a very good job of being a fast boat while also providing creature comforts, such as sleeping, cooking, and sanitary facilities. To some sailors, those features are important.

Snobbery just doesn't do anyone any good. The whole "my boat's better than your boat" argument is pointless.

Pat said...

I'm willing to believe and acknowledge that SOME boats are poorly designed or cheaply or flimsily constructed and therefore are bad boats. But, there are a whole lot more boats that are good for some specific purpose or range of conditions. And, something I believe vehemently, there is no ONE perfect boat... unless "perfect" is very narrowly defined to apply to only one particular skipper's choice of time, place, and conditions.

Too bad some people's comfort levels won't let them try to learn from different boats.

Oh yeah, in further defense of the J24, you get more opportunities for crew teamwork, it's probably a lot easier to get to plane or surf, you don't have to hassle with a halyard lock, and there are more of the J24s with more regattas, more fleets, up-to-date websites, etc.

With respect to all the narrow-minded, parochial, fanatical tribalism, the classic work on the subject probably remains Eric Hoffer's "The True Believer".

G. F. McDowell said...

You know, I secretly am enamored with the Topper. I have yet to see one on this side of the pond, though.

Fred said...

Why I "hate" Lasers?...a real good one, ha ha.
...Don´t like ém because I think they are looking like a fridge door. They are not built out of wood/Epoxy or are coming from a boatbuilder around the corner...

I am joking, but honestly I think that ISAF does NO good job in implementing 2 Laser "classes" into the Olympics. Instead they should have the former policy to promote boats which can be built at boatbuilders around the world under license. Such as Opti, FD, Europe, Soling, Yngling, Tornado. The Laser takes away way too much business from the small handcraft businesses (around the world) and put´s the money into one BIG factory which is automated and spits out an overpriced boat. This is politically NOT correct and shows me the snobis´m within the ISAF.

Tillerman said...

Fred I don't understand your comment. Lasers ARE built around the world under license. There are factories in North America, South America, Europe, Japan and Australia.

Pat said...

Maybe he's disappointed at the obvious, gross discrimination against Africa and Antarctica?

Tim said...

Why I hate Lasers? Actually I think 'hate' is too strong a word for my feelings about it.

I think my biggest negative is the 'souless' nature of mass produced plastic/fiberglass boats.
This tends to make spares very expensive as they tend to be available only from the manufacturer and they jack the price up to maximise profit.

The only other thing is that I cannot see why they are more fun than any other boat. It's just a differnt boat and that's it, in fact as a boat goes I think it lacks a great deal. It scores in its simplicity and transportability.

Fred said...

thanks for correcting me.
My heart is pounding for all the smaller boatbuilders, craftsmen like Bob Hoare or Kurt Hein or Burschi Mader, the Abbotts, the Boerressens and many others around the world, east and west, who licensed ISAF classes and advanced the boatbuilding within their time of building Olympic classes. But maybe I am way too old fashioned...

PS: I either have time to read through your _always_ interesting blog (which I prefer) or write something into my own blog about my last sailing adventures.

Anonymous said...

It's gotta be said - I'm not to fond of laser sailors - but for purely selfish reasons!

We are powering down in our 36.7 foot First - heading for the finish line in the mighty channel one class - knowing that every second counts for us to make our time back - but unfortunately we are coming to the line on port!!

And there - bobbing about at the back of their own fleet is a laser!! And they put us about!! WHY??? they aren't going to win!! There is no one to put the rest of the Ch1 fleet about! Why us??? WHY WHY WHY???

Real reason to hate laser sailors!!!

Alex the Great said...

Dearest Anonymous,

You clearly have misinterpreted your feelings. What you are feeling is not jealousy; it sounds to me that you are feeling like a 5th grader that has to share the playground with the little kids. Grow up! Someone always has to be DFL. Perhaps you are just angry because you did not plan your course well enough? If you had you would not have run into this situation.

Dear og,

Give your dad my congratulations for making it to the Worlds for the first time.

Dear Tillerman,

Having never had the opportunity to sail a laser I can't speak as a laser sailor. But as a yachtsman
(yes I include powerboats and bicyclecraft in my enjoyment of the water) I think that the dislike of laser sailors is no different than the constant disputes between all boat classes. As they are all there to enjoy the water perhaps everyone could just use a little more understanding and communication with the sailor next to them.

Anonymous said...

i feel this is a very unjust stereotype of laser sailors. most are responsible and put the racing before the booze and are not all drunken thugs.

we work like nothing normal in the boat and it is a hard class to master.

as far as roll tacking and tiller wagging it does happen alot but its a little far to call us cheats. it cannot be proved that the boat comes out of the tack faster than it went in and so roll tacking is completely within the rules and is a legal way to go faster.

lasers roll tack and tiller wag with other lasers not with any other class, they dont do it to beat boats of another catagory so it does not affect them.

Anonymous said...

I am a laser sailor and I totally agree. Except I don't think we're drunken party animals; I think we're just as talented and passionate about our sport as any 420 guy. PS- I just found this blog and I love it! Great job!

Anonymous said...

So I sailed Lasers for years, ever since I was a kid. When i was 20, I got into the 49er for a few years, competing at world champ levels. After two years, the team split and I went back to Lasers. 2 weeks later, I was so bored that I sold my 2 week old laser and got back into the 49er. There is no comparison. Non at all.

Anonymous said...

There I was leward mark rounding 20 lasers and my Classic Moth. So I hear this voice "slow down to go faster" I turn away from the mark then Jibe, turn inside a hole by the mark. hike hard and pass all but two Lasers. being inside I control them to the next mark. I love Lasers they turn too slow to spoil the fun. They do ride good. Thanks to the voice of Rick White.

Gaell said...

I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


Anonymous said...

I use to sail keelboats and switched over to a laser and now I have become the black sheep of the crew. Basically, I don't why but for whatever the reason other sailors don't like laser sailors.

The ironic part of this is the one of the best sailors in the keelboat fleet quit a few years ago to learn to sail a laser. He now sails this keelboat once a year and typically beats everyone in the 50 boat fleet by a wide margin including boats stocked with pros. This is basically why i became attracted to learning this boat.

ex laser guy said...

as a former laser sailor, my only complaint against the current crop of laser sailors is their lack of respect at the dock. i realize your boat is built like a brick s*** house, but it doesn't mean you should come barreling into the dock at 5 kts and bump every piece of carbon kit already at said dock, and then give attitude when it's pointed out that yes you hit my boat and yes i and all these others are waiting in line for the ramp

Alan said...

Just in defence of parking, being a very competent sailor of expensive carbon, parking a laser can be tricky, no crew to help, just one sail to adjust, dagger board so you cant adjust the rake, very small rudder. I can sail a 2 sail boat backwards for miles, a laser is a bit more tricky - in my limited experience

3redbars said...

The trick is defining what is REALLY a Laser sailor. A REAL Laser sailor is someone that has been sailing and racing a Laser since the early '70s and is still at it today. A REAL Laser sailor is someone who has always had a Laser even while campaigning a different type of boat. A REAL Laser sailor is someone who has upgraded their equipment and techniques and has stayed active in the class. A REAL Laser sailor is someone who drives their own boat to a regatta and sails the event unaided by coaches or support boats. A REAL Laser sailor keeps at it because he/she loves the boat, the fellowship and the freedom of NO CREWS. A REAL Laser sailor is someone like Dick Tillman, not Brodie Cobb. If you want to see REAL Laser sailors in action, go to a Laser Master's regatta!!

Captain Hook said...

Can I add 7 more??


MYCSunfish Fleet said...

Other than normal the trash talk between us Sunfish guys and Laser sailers and the fact that you guys have an overly complicated rig that takes too long to set up and takes away from true sailing, I have nothing against Laser guys.

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