Join Date: Feb 2000
Location: Annapolis, Md
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It sounds like you encountered a Laser 28 sailor who was not a good sailor in heavy winds. I will say that Laser 28''s do require some skill to sail well in higher windspeeds. Proper choice of sail and sail trim makes a huge difference in boatspeed on these boats in winds approaching 20 knots.
I would completely disagree with you that the Laser 28''s were built for lake sailing. It is true that were somewhat optimized to perform well at the light end of things but they were also extremely good boats in higher winds, really excelling against the local J-30''s in light air. In heavier conditions, the Lasers had a tough time sailing to their ratings upwind against the J-30''s but really had an easy time beating J-30''s in heavier going if there was a reasonable amount of reaching and down wind work. As you note being pretty much an even match with the J-30''s on corrected time in mid-range winds.
I owned a Laser 28 for nearly 14 years, and raced on several sisterships (as well as J-30''s during that period). Having sailed my Laser 28 in winds that pegged the anomometer aboard a near by boat at 65 knots, I thought that these were surprisingly good heavy air boats. I would not have wanted to spend days at sea in that stuff but I was able to get her to go where I wanted her to go in those heavy conditions. I have done a lot of single-and short handed cruising in my Laser 28 and was very impressed with how she handled winds well into the low 30 knot range (albeit double reefed and rigged with a small heavy fabric 90% jib).
I was amazed at how robust the Laser 28 was. These were beautifully engineered boats, albeit a bit unusual in their construction, expecially for thier day.
You may have heard it said more than once that " Laser 28 was the reason Laser weren''t bulding boats any more" but who ever said it would be incorrect. The Laser 28 was developed independently of the company that built the smaller Lasers by Ian Bruce during the period that he did not own Performance, the company that built the smaller Lasers during that era. When Ian Bruce reacquired Performance, the Laser 28 was added to the Laser line up, but was actually still built by a separate company from the company building the smaller Lasers. That separate company continued building Laser 28''s for several years after Performance had gone belly up. In other words the fortunes of the Laser 28 really had no bearing on the separate company building the small Lasers. What ultimately killed the Laser 28 after a production run world wide reportedly of just under 400 boats was the recession of the late 1980/early 1990''s, the rapid increase in boat building materials in this period (the Laser 28 went from a price of $27,000 fully equipped, in the water, and ready to sail with a trailer in 1985 to $54,000 not fully equipped in 1990) and, perhaps more significantly, the rethinking in racing that lead to single-purpose one- design keel boats such as the Tripp 26, Mumm 30, Melges 24/30 and the J-92 and J-105.
Those who were closer to the company have always said that Performance got into trouble at the start of the 1989 recession by trying to over-diversify too quickly coming out with two different Laser like boats, a new two man trapeze boat based on the Australian skiffs (the name escapes me on this and the two Laser varients), the Laser shell, pulling boat, power skiff, and a variety of still born projects in the same short period.
Both the Laser 28 and a J-30 were good boats for their day. To me the choice between a Laser 28 and a J-30 is one of personal preference rather some universal inherent advantage that one has over the other.