Wednesday, May 29, 2013

5 Stages of Laser Sailing

Stage 1 – Denial  “A Laser isn't a real sailing boat.”

Denial is the first thing that most people feel about Laser sailing. They’ve decided that it isn’t for them. They think that the Laser looks like a plastic ironing board. They have this false conception that boats are not real boats unless you can poop on them and drink beer on them, preferably simultaneously.

Stage 2 – Anger  “Why do Laser sailors go around all the time with big smiles on their faces?”

Lasers. Lasers. Lasers. That’s all these people ever talk about! Who cares that they had 40 people at their little tinpot regatta last weekend? Who cares that their boat is in the Olympics? Who cares that almost every great sailor in other classes started in a Laser?

Lasers. Lasers. Lasers. Enough already!

Stage 3 – Bargaining  “I’m only sailing a Laser because all my friends are.”

Finally, they cave, and begrudgingly buy a second-hand Laser and start racing at their local club. Often they are very active for a few weeks and then they don't show up at the club the next few weeks.

Stage 4 – Depression  “This is so hard!”

For many this is the worst stage. They’ve finally made the effort and bought a Laser, and now all their fears are confirmed. They were right – the Laser isn’t for them. It's so hard to hike it flat in a breeze. It’s so unstable downwind. Why is everyone faster than me? How did I get all these bruises? Why do I ache all over every Monday morning? What the heck is a "supervang"?

Stage 5 – Acceptance  “I get it!”

Some people don’t get to this stage, abandoning their Laser somewhere between bargaining and depression. But for those that do it’s totally worth it. They keep plugging away, asking questions, learning, getting fitter, capsizing less often. Suddenly, the light bulb goes on. Wow! This boat is really fun! I'm not last in the races any more.

Nobody can tell you what Laser sailing is like. You have to find out for yourself. Then, suddenly, you are a Laser sailor.  You get it. It’s a beautiful moment. And often those who were the most resistant, and the most critical, become the biggest evangelists.


Dallas Dude said...

To some these will be instantly recognizable from the research of Elizabeth-Kubler Ross in the 1960's on those with terminal illness. This research led to formulation of the 5 stages and publication of her seminal work: On Death and Dying.

This must surely have some connection to Laser evangelists. (-;

Tillerman said...

The irony of the analogy was not lost on me.

Keep Reaching said...

Very good post - and I can certainly relate to a lot of it. However, I would say that putting "I get it" for the last stage is a bit optimistic. The word "acceptance" is enough and more accurate - at least in my case I certainly don't feel like I "get it" - I am reminded every time I go out just how much more there is to get. But I would say that since I started Lasers about 3 years ago I have become much more comfortable on one and have reached the point where I can go out, learn and progress without total incompetence/fear. And although I never had a light bulb moment, it is certainly true that now I really look forward to each sail (even if halfway through some of them I am shaking my head wondering how I could have pulled such a boneheaded move).
The Laser is a great, fun boat that puts you directly in touch with true sailing - right in the midst of wind/water with very few superfluous creature comforts to distract.

Anonymous said...

Stage 6 - Delusion of grandeur "I can get more..."

This sailor believes that having reached the top half of their Laser fleet they must move to a Musto Skiff, foiling Moth etc. They want more sail area, more speed, more technology, more strings and more thrills.

They spend much more money, improve their swimming and boat repair skills, lose close boat to boat racing, spend hours tweaking their rig, foils, etc., lose many of their friends, find themselves in handicap fleets and generally strut about telling Laser sailors that they don't know what their missing.

On the plus side, they provide a moving obstacle to Laser sailors as they scream passed on each leg only to crash at each mark. This improves the Laser sailors reactions and boat handling no end as they re-pass at the buoy.

After appoximately two seasons, our ex-Laser sailor will now either revert to Lasers (with tail between legs, but welcomed back) or decide that a keelboat was what they always wanted and will never be seen again.

[By the K-R research model, I expect this is akin to "I am going to heaven" but finding oneself somewhere far more hostile!]


Tillerman said...

Good point R. That does happen to some people.

I don't know why I've never really been tempted to abandon Lasers for sexier boats or keelboats. I guess it's partly because I hate the whole tweaking the boat thing and boat maintenance generally. I also feel like I'm currently at the optimum pleasure/cost ratio. Maybe I would have 10% more fun in a different boat but it would probably cost me 500% more.

Tillerman said...

Actually my own experience with Lasers didn't follow this path either. As soon as I had learned to sail in another boat I wanted to try a Laser, and I was hooked immediately.

Of course I went through the same 3-year apprenticeship of incompetence and fear as you did KR, but I was always sure that it was the right boat for me. Am I strange?

Doc Häagen-Dazs said...

For me, even overweight for the class, Lasers were perfect. (I hate maintenance and motors.) Trophy Wife and I sailed Lasers for years but we wanted to sail & compete together. Some of our best memories were the summers of one-design twilights in Shields. But even more recently in PHRF-ing with my son in Marina Del Rey, encountering & sailing through Laser fleets, pumps my blood and brings back the fond memories.

Kurt said...

In Seattle we have a slightly different set of stages. Credit to Dan Falk.

Stage 1. The boat kicks your ass.
Stage 2. Everyone else in the fleet kicks your ass.
Stage 3 (runs the duration of your Laser sailing career): You kick your own ass.

Pat said...

From something I heard, the Elisabeth Ku"bler-Ross's five stages are not necessarily accepted nowadays among gerontologists.

See, for example,
and "Criticism" under

laserista torpe said...

I started sail racing in big boats. I needed something else, and I knew lasers, but although I didn't think they where a little thing form me, I certainly went through a denial stage.

I've been sailing lasers for 6 years now, and I totally agree with this post. Would you mind if I translate it into Spanish at

Tillerman said...

Feel free to translate it into any language you want. But I would appreciate a link back here from wherever you post it.

Tillerman said...

Oh, I see you already did!

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