Thursday, July 19, 2012

Long Day on the Columbia for Competitors in Laser North Americans

A postponement this morning for Day 1 of the Laser North Americans held until around 1:15pm when the ripples finally began to disrupt the mirror-like conditions on the Columbia River…dare it be said…very unusual conditions for this time of year in the infamous Gorge.

The Columbia Gorge Racing Association race committee had their work cut out for them getting away starts for 173 registered boats, the largest fleet of boats ever hosted by the CGRA . The 104 competitors in the Laser Radial were split into two start groups. 16 boats started in the 4.7 and 53 in the Standard Rig. Under partly sunny skies, a warm but very unstable breeze built over the course of the afternoon to 15 knots. Due to a late start just three of four starts were sailed today.

I had some time to chat to Sherri Campbell, secretary since 2004 for the Laser Class North America (and mother of Laser sailor Andrew Campbell) about this particular event:

This is a bigger turnout than was expected, correct?

SC: Yes, 173 competitors is big turnout. We had 212 – the most we’ve ever had - in Brant Beach, NJ, which is the center of a big sailing area. I didn’t think we’d see that many here but this is really fantastic. It’s hard to get to the Gorge and charter boats aren’t that readily available which is why I thought it would impact the turnout but it’s a nice surprise to have this many boats. What has worked well is that different areas put together a trailer and brought a full load of boats and sailors out here, which is what I was suggesting to people that they do. You really do just have to get a bunch of kids together and someone to drive!

How’s the age range – it seems like there are a lot of kids racing?

SC: This regatta is a pretty good representation of what we typically get at a regatta – we always have a lot of young sailors because it’s a class people get into when they’re coming out of their youth pram. We have some grand masters here (over 65) and to me that’s one of the cool things about this class. Everybody has to work together on shore and out there, and it’s good for adults and kids to mix in like that. We see it in our sport but not in one-on-one competition like this class.

There are a small number of situations where we have fathers and sons both competing, as we do here. We see that regularly in this class and the nice thing about it is you see them finishing a race and they’re talking to each other as two competitors, not father telling child something – it’s great to build that rapport.

How’s the growth of the Laser classes?

SC: The Laser is generally still holding steady in North America which I think is a positive thing as some fleets are really struggling. We’re very even and I think our regatta turnouts have been very good.

The 4.7 seems to be growing in areas, other than So Cal, where there’s more wind. Kids tend to go from whatever they’ve been sailing on – a Sabot or an Opti - straight into a Radial in areas where it’s not super windy, and the 4.7 in areas like the Bay Area or Corpus but it’s still not anywhere near as big as in Europe where you get 300 4.7s show up at a regatta.

Racing continues through Sunday. Event website:

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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