Imagine Tahoe’s crystal blue waters… turned into a sea of white sails!
Image courtesy of Sierra Sun
Nearly 100 Laser Class sailboats bobbed merrily through the water in a four-day race for the U.S. Laser National Championships and U.S. Singlehanded Championships. The Tahoe Yacht Club hosted the event for the first time and is by far the most prestigious event the club has put on to date. Laser Fleet Captain and Tahoe Yacht Club Commodore Rick Raduziner was sure it was the largest sailing competition on the lake in several decades.
“Last time something like that happened was 40 years ago with the Trans Tahoe," Raduziner said. "It's a big deal for sailing and the Tahoe Yacht Club. We're a small club, the big clubs in the country typically host events like this. The 100 boats on Lake Tahoe are representative of what boating on Lake Tahoe is all about. This could not have been possible without the support of Tahoe City Public Utility District, state parks and recreation, and the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency.”
The yacht club was awarded the two championship events in the spring, according to Regatta Chair Erica Mattson. This left them little time to put together an event that takes at least a year’s worth of planning.
"This was a major undertaking," Mattson said. "We did this with only five months of planning. Most clubs typically — to run an event like this — you have at least a year to plan."
The championships took place on Thursday, July 20 for the next four days. Competitors had to field the roughly hour-long trapezoid course off of Lake Forest Boat Ramp. The first day of racing had the best winds and ranged from about 6 – 10 knots according to Principal Race Officer John Siegal.
Marek Zaleski, a sailor from Noroton Yacht Club in Darien, CO, took first place in two of the three Laser races on Thursday and fifth place in the other. He swept all three contests on Friday, giving him a commanding lead over the 38 other competitors. On Saturday afternoon, the winds died down and brought racing to a halt. This only left Sunday for racers to make up lost ground in the Laser and Laser Radial divisions.
"Sometimes that happens in sailboat races, even in a major championship," said Race Treasurer Nick Pullen. "Sometimes you get a day or maybe two where there's no wind.”
Luckily, conditions were good on Sunday for each division to have a final race. Zaleski would finish in seventh place overall, but after each sailors’ worst finish out of seven races was dropped from their final score, he ended up taking home the championship. Zaleski plans to continue his training to the U.S. Olympic sailing team and will be representing Croatia for the World Championships in September.
Jake Vickers, from Severn Sailing Association in Annapolis, MA, took second place. Vickers finished in the top-five in six of the seven races, including a first-place finish in the final race of the series.
William Pullen was Tahoe Yacht Club's top finisher with 70 points for 12th place. Pullen's best performances came in the third and fourth races of the series where he took third- and fourth-place finishes, respectively.
The smaller-sailed Laser Radial division was able to get six races in over three days of competition. Chase Carraway out of Carolina Yacht Club and Lauderdale Yacht Club, took the national championship over 52 other sailors with top-five finishes in five races for a low-score of 12 points. Carraway won two of the races during the series.
Hanne Weaver out of Gig Harbor, Wash., was second overall with 31 points, and was the top finishing female. Weaver's performance during the competition also landed her the overall Women's U.S. Singlehanded Championship.
Joseph Hou out of California's Newport Harbor Yacht Club finished in third place. Hilary Davis was the Tahoe Yacht Club's top finisher. Peter Edwards, who sails for the Tahoe Yacht Club out of Nevada City, was given the Peter J. Barrett Sportsmanship trophy, said Mattson, for his effort in demonstrating sportsmanship after his boat capsized resulting in a collision with a pair of sailors.
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