Sunday, July 15, 2012


The Columbia Gorge Racing Association this week welcomes the Laser Class to the Columbia River Gorge for the 2012 North American Championships. The regatta is open to Laser, Laser Radial and Laser 4.7 sailors.

Considered one of the top racing venues in the country with spectacular vistas at every turn and a consistent warm windy breeze some 150 sailors have registered for the event, the high end of expectations in an Olympic year, says international Laser Class president Tracy Usher.

“It’s a great turnout,” Usher said. “As is becoming the norm, with 90 or so this event, Radials are the dominant fleet by a factor of two over Standards. In the 4.7s, 15 is a good turnout for this still fledgling fleet in North America, in contrast to the European Championship where they can pull down 300 easy.”

Derek Vranizan, 25, is considered the top US sailor competing in the Standard rig this week. Vranizan’s been Laser sailing for eight years. He started focusing on the Laser just out of college, and recently did his first Olympic campaign. He didn’t end up qualifying for 2012, but the opportunity was more than worthwhile, particularly competing in all the European regattas.

“The Perth World Championships wasn’t a great event for me,” Vranizan said. “I had some back issues and wasn’t in as good shape as I would have liked, but it was still a great experience.”

Vranizan says he is still ‘absolutely’ trying to reach that Olympic dream and after taking a break, will pick up the training pace later in the year.

“2016 is going to come around quick and you can’t really afford to take too much time off. When it’s time to start training again, it’s time to start. Unfortunately going down that road and having a full-time job is difficult,” Vranizen said. “You just have to set small goals in between little achievements building up to an event.”

Vranizan’s grateful that his real job as a metals commodities trader does give him a certain degree of flexibility when it comes to sailing.

Vranizan’s decision to sail the Laser was more of a natural progression after growing out of 420s and 470s. Sailing on his home turf in the Pacific Northwest, he was inspired by master sailors in the class like Carl Buchan as well as being able to race in the Gorge, one of his favorite spots to race.

He’s been racing the Laser North Americans on and off since his senior year in high school and while he’s not yet won an event (his best effort was 6th in 2008) he’s feeling confident.

“I’m feeling alright about this week - I’ve been more focused on work than sailing lately so I’m not in as good a shape as I’d like to be, but I’ve sailed every day this past week, I’m feeling pretty strong and my speed is up.”

Vranizan is coaching the Laser Performance Clinic for through Monday 16th, by which time he will have tried not to have shared too many of his trade secrets for Tuesday’s big event, the Laser Blowout - the infamous downwinder from Cascade Locks to Hood River.

“I’ll be trying for my third Laser Blowout title, that’ll be fun. I’m definitely stoked about that because it’s my favorite race in the world - I like going downwind way more than up!”

The Laser Blowout is Tuesday July 17. Racing runs Thursday July 19th through Sunday July 20th.

Event website:

1. Tracy Usher
2. Derick Vranizan with Rob Crane, Perth, Dec 2011
3. Tracy Usher ... in the lead

Based in Cascade Locks, Oregon, CGRA has been promoting small boat sailing events in the Gorge since 1996. Today, CGRA enjoys a reputation for excellence in regatta management and continues to host a growing number of premiere one-design regattas, national, North American, and world championships. Over the last 15 years, we have hosted more than 50 major competitions. As participation grows for sailing in the Columbia River Gorge, the CGRA is expanding its efforts to support the overwhelming interest. Thanks to individual and corporate generosity, we hope to add equipment, staff, volunteers, and other resources. To volunteer or contribute, please visit:

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