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Snappahead 03-05-2005 04:26 PM

Suitability of a Laser dinghy for learning
 
I was interested to hear people''s opinions on the suitability of the various Laser dinghies for a complete novice learning to sail.

Ultimately, I want to buy a boat for cruising at some time in the future (when I have enough money ;)), however after doing a little research, it would appear that buying a dinghy to learn to sail with would be one of the best and most economical ways to go about it.

I don''t know any sailors, so I thought asking here on the forums would be as good a place as any for some advice.

aflanigan 03-05-2005 06:11 PM

Suitability of a Laser dinghy for learning
 
Well, Snappahead,

I know lots of sailors, and a good number of them would recommend learning to sail in a dinghy. Depending on where you live and how cold the water is and how windy it tends to be, Laser might not be my first choice (Cape Cod, for example) although you can learn sailing on a Laser well just about anywhere, even when it''s cold and windy as long as you don''t stray too far from where you launched. If you''re fairly young, Laser might be a good choice, if you''re older and out of shape, a little drier ride like a penguin or albacore might be best. It will also depend on what''s available in your area. You could find any number of sloop rig boats up to 16 or 17 ft. in length that you could single hand, particularly after you learn the basics. Find out what dinghy fleets race in your area and catch a ride crewing with someone to get an idea of how easily the boat handles, ask them how much used ones cost, whether any are for sale, etc.

Allen Flanigan
Alexandria, VA

Snappahead 03-05-2005 07:16 PM

Suitability of a Laser dinghy for learning
 
Thanks for the reply Allen. I live in Tokyo, (Chiba actually) Japan and unfortunately there don''t appear to be many sailors about here. I don''t think there is a big sailing tradition in this country.

The water is cold in winter and cool in Summer - Tokyo Bay would be where I will learn. There are a few sailing clubs on the opposite side of the bay to me, but seeings I live right next to the bay myself I was hoping to be able to get something I can sail with a minimum of fuss close by. Travelling across Tokyo, while not impossible, is not something I really want to look at on my days off.

As for my age and fitness level - I am 35 and not in bad shape - not in great shape either ;).

I can get a new laser here for around 600,000 yen (about $5,500 I think). I haven''t been able to find too many second hand ones for sale - though I suppose contacting the Laser Class Association for Japan would be the best way to find leads on them.

At this stage I am not interested in racing or sailing competitively. I suspect joining a club here would be prohibitively expensive, though I will have do some research, and for that and other reasons I am not really interested in joining a club. I suppose it it worthwhile looking into as a lead on getting instruction and access to local knowledge though.

Sasha_V 03-05-2005 09:18 PM

Suitability of a Laser dinghy for learning
 
If you are not interested in competing and racing then why are you looking to buy a "race-car" dinghy?

Lasers are not comfortable, adaptable to various conditions or versatile in their uses. They are stricktly and simply a one-design-racer.

Why not find something that has some comfort and lets you maybe drop a fishing line over the side or get good enough that you can steer with one foot and read a novel as you scoot across the bay (glancing up to make sure you are not about to smack into a ship, of course).

You can take any "old tub" dinghy and work and concentrate really hard at yanking every last erg of speed and performance out of it when you are feeling in the mood (and this is satisgying as long as you are competing against no-one but yourself and your past times across a certain distance/conditions. But in laser you will never have the option of NOT being fully keyed up and aware and struggling for every last erg of performance...or the boat will dump you out on your bruised and waterlogged butt. A laser does not offer the option of "relaxation" until after you have loaded it back on its trailer and are towing it home.

Great if you have the competitive urge and want to do club racing or something...but if that is not your thing, then why punish yourself with a dedicated race sled?


Sasha

Snappahead 03-05-2005 10:02 PM

Suitability of a Laser dinghy for learning
 
Thanks for your response Sasha. The reason I have been leaning towards a laser is because it seems to come up quite often in books and discussions I have read about learning to sail in a dinghy. I really don''t have any experienced sailors around to consult with, so all I can go on is what I am gleaning from books and forums such as this one.

Although I am not really interested in racing, I am not against the idea of tearing across the bay at a high rate of knots, but I have to say I think I would also be quite partial to relaxing outings as well - perhaps as you suggest dropping a line over the side now and then.

Can you offer any suggestions for a suitable canditate? About the only other dinghy I have found so far that might do for an all rounder and is readily available here is a Walker Bay with a sail kit, however the couple of reviews I have read have been a bit negative on its performance with sails.

I am open to any and all suggestions ;)

Sasha_V 03-06-2005 12:53 AM

Suitability of a Laser dinghy for learning
 
You said:
I am not against the idea of tearing across the bay at a high rate of knots,

But the thing with a one design racer like a laser is not that you tear across at a high rate of knots, it is that you tear across at a highER rate of knots THEN ALL THE OTHER LASERS. If one of the little skiffs happened to be in the area, it would pass you by at about three to five times the speed of the fastest laser. See, just because a laser is a race boat does not mean it is built for ultimate speed. It is actually built for repetitive cosistency across the whole class, so that everyone has more or less the same boat (with some tolerable variation based on how much money you want to spend on a pair of blocks the size of a ten cent coin and such)...that way the sport is about a test of the sailor and his tactics and choices on the day, rather then who has the fastest hull.

I have to admit, you may end up looking at boats on a case by case basis for a while to see what is available. You basically want something with a bit more beam then a laser and a lot more freeboard. A comfortable internal layout and likely the ability to use a headsail as well as a main. The first step up form a laser in thsi direction would be a Pacer...but really, they are not all that comfy either (but you can dig up lots of pics on the net to see the general direction I am trying to advise you in).

I guess what it comes down to is, stop thinking in terms of open-wheeler race car and start thinking towards "Swollows And Amazons" type dinghies. Only in fibreglass, more modern and low maintenance setups.

This site may be of some help to you in showing pics and characteristics of common dinghy designs.

http://www.dinghy-database.co.uk/

If you step outside the one design racers, you will also be more likely to find a bargain as someone moves up to a big boat rather then tries to finance a yet more space-age-materials laser upgrade to get an extra .04knots around the markers.


Sasha

Silmaril 03-06-2005 05:30 AM

Suitability of a Laser dinghy for learning
 
About a Laser... it is NOT suitable for a beginner learning to sail. It takes a great deal of skill to sail one.

And Sasha, the Laser is one of the FASTEST single sail monohull boats in the world, capable of attaining enormous speed. With it''s round bottom and large sailplan, it has absulutely no form stabitlity, and it needs an agile crew to keep it on it''s feet. It is the sailing equivilent to a high performance windsurfer.

I would recommend that you look for a boat with a hard chine (when looking at the hull, you see a distinct line between the "bottom" and the "Sides") as they will offer a more stable ride. In the line of new boats, few manufacturers are doing this, as it is a more complex hull form to construct. They opt for the easy to mass produce rounded hull shape. Something in the 14'' - 16'' range, with enough room to sit IN the boat not ON the boat. This will aid in the veratility of your boat. Making it less of a "beach toy" and more of a suitable platform for adventures.

I always come back to the Sparkman & Stephens designed Blue Jay. But the supply of those may be limited in Tokyo. The Hunter 146 could work, and you can order them online for about $5,500usd. The Cataline 14.2 can even be had with a keel!

You may want to go over the the yacht clubs you mentioned and see what they are sailing there, as it would give you an opportunity to ask rig questions and get help from the folk there. It is always a good idea to sail something that has a local "Support Group" to help out during the early phase of ownership/learning.

RichH 03-06-2005 06:41 AM

Suitability of a Laser dinghy for learning
 
O hardly is a laser one of the fastest boats in the entire world. With a Portsmouth yardstick handicap of 91 it puts the laser in mid-range of small centerboard boats.

A hard-chined centerboard boat .... no friggin way - as these boats are extremely unstable when up to full planing speeds and you get hit from the side with an errant wave. Soft chined boats are ultimately more stable when up on a plane.

The laser is a very responsive little boat, one that will rapidly accelerate your learning curve and base expertise in sailing. Will you capsize one, sure ... but you can right it yourself. You WILL learn very quickly how to shape and set the sail to adjust for changing weather and sea-state conditions. It is a boat that is raced and tends to be on the ''unstable'' side, purposely designed tha way so that you get wonderful response and ability to correct. Fighter aircraft are purposely built ''unstable'' so that their response is optimized .... or would you rather have a boring 747 ... or a boringly slow hard-chined boat.

The laser has a huge international following so that you will be able to communicate (online) with laser sailors all over the world. Even if you find that this boat is ''too-much-for-you'' (which I doubt very much) because of its popularity you will probbly be able to sell it quickly and at nearly the same price you paid for it.

BTW .... the FATEST centerboard boat is probably still the A-class (38ft.) Scow (DPN @ 61). http://www.ussailing.org/portsmouth/tables04/tables04cb.htm
The laser is a NICE boat, one that will teach YOU a LOT.

Go for it.

Sasha_V 03-06-2005 12:10 PM

Suitability of a Laser dinghy for learning
 
Sorry, Silmaril. I disagree with you.

I spent all of last season as a volunteer for the offical''s boat for the laser chamionship as my yacht club''s blood sacrifice...err...contribution. Anyway, I spent 23 bloody Sunday mornings bobbing around and watching the lasers do their damndest in all conditions as the sailors competed for national chamionship points and a possible place for the Australian Olympic team, so it was serious stuff.

And about 40% of the time, the little tiny skiffs that had a hull literally the size of a small bathtub, huge outriger trampoline type things sitting at about 45degrees up from the hull and a single person strapped into the rigging would come tearing through like a motorcycle gang through a crowd of old ladies with shopping trolleys. The guys in the little skiffs were not any more comfortable then the laser sailors....but they certainly were a whole lot faster!

(I later dicovered that one of the little bathtub skiffs was also worth about the same as a midrange BMW)

So, to summerise, I did not mean to demean the lasers and all who sail in them....but I was pointing out that going fastest in class sailing is not the same as going fast on an objective measure, neccassarily.

By the way, one of our club members managed to get an old Europe class dinghy to go faster then any laser....it was falling off the jetty crane sling at the time!


Sasha

Snappahead 03-06-2005 06:20 PM

Suitability of a Laser dinghy for learning
 
Thanks for all of the responses - one thing I am quickly learning about sailing is there are as many opinions about how to go about things as there are choices in boats!

I suppose I really need to have more of a look at what is available for a first boat. As I said the only real reason I was looking at Lasers was because they seem to be ubiquitous when searching for information about dinghies - that and there is not much choice over here. Almost everybody seems to be interested in powerboats and PWC when it comes to watersports in Japan...

By the way Sasha - where abouts in Australia are you from? I am from Melbourne originally. Kind of wishing I was there now.


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