By Tim Hauserman
For over thirty summers, Monday nights at North Lake Tahoe has meant Laser Racing with the Tahoe Yacht Club. Lasers are single handed sailboats that are fast and physically demanding, requiring a great deal of strength to be able to hike out and flatten the boat to both increase speed, and keep from capsizing. Many local sailors have been racing for decades, while others are new to the sport, but this past weekend was a whole new ball game as the Tahoe Yacht Club hosted the US Laser National Championships. The four day event included about 100 of the best racers in the world sailing the waters of Lake Tahoe off Lake Forest.
I was lucky enough to jump on a press boat to watch and photograph the event on Friday. The smoke from the day before had cleared and being out on the lake was spectacular. The only problem was, there was no wind. So we drove around talking to sailors, went for a swim, and throughly enjoyed a relaxing afternoon. A highlight of the wait was a sailor riding his slippery dagger board behind a coaches motorboat like a wake boarder. It was pretty astonishing balance!
Eventually the wind picked up and the races began. The skill level of the sailors was amazing. Somehow all those boats managed to bunch up just behind the starting line seconds before the gun went off, and then used their innate sense of wind to conquer the course. Racing Lasers is a combination of strength, endurance, boat handling skills, and knowledge about the wind. A bit of luck might also be involved, especially in Tahoe with it’s frequently shifting winds.
There are two classes of Lasers, the Full Size and the Radial Class, which has a smaller sail and attracts younger and lighter participants. The male winner was Marek Zaleski from Norwalk, Conn., who won an astonishing 5 of the 7 races he competed in. Hanne Weaver from Seattle became the 2017 U.S. Singlehanded Women’s Champion on Sunday, after turning in top ten performances in 5 of the 6 Radial Races.
“It was really exciting to mix it up with the best sailors in the country,” said long time Laser racer Dan Hauserman. “Some of these guys are Olympic hopefuls and in another league. It was humbling, but really fun. I think this is the biggest sailing event ever on Tahoe, and the Yacht Club did an amazing job at putting it together.”
For information about the Monday night racing series, go to tahoeyc.com