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Just wondering if anyone has had any experience with either of them. I'm looking at buying a racer/cruiser for the Great Lakes and was wondering what they sailed like. Particularly interested in the Laser 28. However, how tricky is is to sail? How likely is it to get blown over in a breeze? I'm a J24 racer looking to buy a family racer/cruiser with my 65yr old father. Would the Laser 28 be a realistic boat for an older man to sail or would I be better going for the Express 30? How does the Laser handle in comparison to the 24? Additionally, as a second choice, does the Express have potential as a racer? Anyone know how it handles?
 

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If you do a search you'll find a lot written about the Laser 28 by Jeff_H, who used to own one. I bought one last fall after crewing on one for a few years, but I haven't had mine in the water yet. Long winter. I plan to use it for club racing, daysailing, and weekend cruising with my family (2 small girls). The boat has a big main and relatively small fractional headsails. I bought mine from a guy in his 60's. He was actively racing it, and sold it because his kids (crew) had moved away and his wife wanted a more sedate boat. The Laser 28 is light, powered-up and sort of tippy. In big wind it you have to have someone who can trim the main actively. My friend, on whose boat I crewed, is a very good sailor and was always able to keep the boat on it's feet, even when trimming main and driving at the same time. He sails with five or six on the boat in a breeze. Five seems to be a pretty good number, more than that and people start getting in each other's way. If you're daysailing or cruising you could always reef. How does it compare to a J/24? Way faster, better built, and a lot more comfortable on deck. Otherwise they're both relatively light, fractional race boats with bendy masts. My time at the tiller of both is pretty limited, but the Laser 28 is known for a balanced, light helm, while a J/24 is supposed to be fast with mushy lee helm. They're both best sailed flat.

When I was boat shopping the Express 30 was on my list, but I never even found one to look at. Seems like a nice boat, as you note a little more towards the cruisy side, but seems like it would make a nice race boat if you have similar boats to race against. It looks like PHRFNE rates it 135, which is only a little slower than a Laser 28, but of course it's a bigger, heavier boat.

A big determinant is going to be finding a nice boat for sale within whatever you consider a reasonable distance. I live in New England and looked at a bunch of J/30's locally before going 600 miles to buy my Laser. It helped that the Laser was on a trailer. I think there are many more Laser 28's, and also boats like S2 9.1's in the Great Lakes. Good luck!
 

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The Laser 28 is a quick, fun boat that, as t22 indicated, requires a lot of attention in a breeze. Handled correctly, though it can reward you with some thrilling rides. Upwind in a real breeze you need some crew weight as well, we raced with up to 7 on windy days, and tacking with 7 on board is a bit of a trick.

The Express 30 is less of a handful, I suspect, but I've only observed it while racing against them. It's a 'cruisier' boat but in fact the Laser does a good job with its layout and features (soft lockers etc). As a short handed cruiser I'd think the Express would be more comfortable, though it may have fewer berths (not sure all the Express 30s had quarterberths)
 

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There are 2 versions of the Express 30. There is a race version that is stripped out and has pipe berths. Some even have outboards. The more common standard version is more cruisier and rates around 135 pretty much the same as a J30. I have raced against 2 and they are pretty good on the race course. Only rumored problems were a relatively light layup.

The Laser 28 is a bit different. Useable interior with the exception of the head which a deal killer for my wife. Construction was pretty good so they hold up ok. The aluminum box toe rail is a little cheesy and the gelocat a little thin. From a performance standpoint they are a bit tender for shorthanded sailing unless you sail on main alone or with a a main and a blade. There are 2 different class legal rudders. The original smaller rudder is faster in light to medium but has a nasty habit of causing the boat to roundup rather easily. The later designed rudder fixes the problem but has more drag in light to medium. Boat is wicked fast in light air but challenged upwind in chop.

Other good designs to consider- S2 9.1 similar to Express. Santana 3030 in GP and standard versions- Quicker than Laser with more interior. Olson 911SE- Nicely built- nice interior. Express 27- Thinner shorter than Laser 28.

Good luck in your search.
 
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