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When one thinks of regatta races, the Laser always comes to mind being the most popular racing dinghy because of the simplicity of its design, but with tremendous performance abilities. The strict one-design rule enforced by the International Laser Class Association eliminates the differences in the boat unless permitted in the rules, making the race solely based on the capabilities of the sailors. As a result, it is robust and simple while still providing competitive racing because it rewards athleticism, strategy, tactical skills, and technique.
Laser sailing had grown to become a globally recognized sport for both men and women, receiving a massive boost in popularity in 1996 when the Laser Standard became a new Olympic sailing class. It is sailed at the club, national and international levels, and to date, there are more than 220,000 boats sold and used in 140 countries, making it the most popular youth and adult sailing boat.
The Laser dinghy is small and simple enough for the novice sailor but requires skill to operate. It has a common hull made out of fiberglass, fitted with different rigs and sail areas, while the deck has a foam layer underneath for buoyancy. It is simple and easy to set up because it is cat-rigged, having only one mainsail, a mast and a boom. The sail area is relatively large and designed for speed in high winds.
Laser boats are made in such a way that it’s a light, high-performance boat and has turned into a class where the athletes are almost the same weight as the boat. All the Lasers made abide by a strict guideline on how they produce their equipment, making it more of a test of the sailor’s capabilities, how the sailor adjusts to the equipment, and how they use it to their advantage. It's not an equipment race; it is more sailor versus sailor.
Training and preparation are only part of the work as each race can vary. A sailor must always be ready to read and adapt to the ever-changing elements while navigating a course. Strategy and tactics also play a very important role in the race. In strategy, for example, a sailor must think about his boat and where it would go because of the pressure the wind and waves provide in relation to the direction towards the marks. In tactics, the sailor determines where he would position his boat compared to someone else’s boat. A sailor has to spend hours training to develop a technique to know where his boat goes and make it run as fast as possible because Laser sailing is a battle for inches. Therefore, it is all about getting a good start, having good boat handling, good speed, good mark roundings, and precision over the little things.
An important key factor is that Laser sailing competition is about the fitness of the sailor. A sailor has to be fit and hardy the faster he goes while being mentally prepared. There might be times when he could get into tough situations, and he has to make a split-second decision that can cost him the position in the race. Such an example would be if he is not physically fit and experiences intense body pain; he would automatically switch off the decision-making process because he is concentrating on physical pain. That can be minimized by strength training to have good endurance, good strength, and agility.
Another factor that helps sailors win competitions and where they make the biggest gains is the mental game. Sailors have to constantly think about the things that change. The wind strength, wave pattern, and the location where he sails. Tactically, strategically, and staying cool under pressure is a very important factor during Laser sailing.
But before joining any races, make sure that you know the basics of sailing, such as rigging, launching, and landing. These can be easily learned in a couple of days' worth of instructions by duly recognized instructors and trainers. When you have mastered these, the basic maneuvers such as tacking, crossing, and gybing would be next. Finally, when you have pinned down all of these and feel that you have practiced enough and want to test your skills by joining your first friendly race, please do it. Laser sailing is a sport that demands skill, strength and flexibility, but the experience is hard to beat.