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Laser Nationals Santa Cruz

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  • Laser Nationals Santa Cruz



    Mal Northcott brings some sweet images from this past weeks Laser National's held
    at Santa Cruz YC! The SC Sentinel's Andrew Matheson adds a report:


    "SANTA CRUZ -- Like the members and volunteers with the Santa Cruz Yacht Club, local sailor Michael Levy's plans drastically changed earlier this year.

    The incoming junior at Scotts Valley High had his sights set on competing in the Laser Pacific Coast Championships in Oregon. That is, until organizers announced in January that a more prestigious regatta, the U.S. National Laser Championships, would be held at the local yacht club.

    It was no doubt an unexpected bonus for the very busy Levy, who's been working 40 to 50 hours a week as an air mechanic intern with NASA.

    "It was going to be in my overall plans next year," Levy, 16, said of the national championships. "Then it ended up here. ... Tomorrow I'm going to be sailing in a national championship. That's crazy."

    Levy is part of a handful of local competitors who are getting the chance to compete this week in the laser regatta, which begins Thursday and runs through Sunday. More than 100 competitors each aboard a laser -- a 13-foot, one-design class racing dinghy -- are expected to compete.

    The annual event was originally scheduled to be held in New Jersey this year, but the devastation left by Hurricane Sandy in October forced organizers to relocate the regatta.
    "











    Many of the other East Coast harbors were badly damaged as well, said Beau Vrolyk, the principal race officer and also the chairman of the regatta committee at the Santa Cruz Yacht Club.

    "We really felt it was sort of our duty to help the folks out," Vrolyk said. "It was no fault of their own that this big storm showed up, so we added one more big regatta for the year."

    Despite short notice, the yacht club has nevertheless managed to corral an army of volunteers for the event -- from on-the-water teams to event staff at the yacht club.

    It's perhaps safe to say they've been well trained.

    The laser regatta is just one of five national championships the yacht club will host this year. The venue previously hosted competitions for the Moore 24 and Santa Cruz 27 sailing classes. It will also welcome in August about 12 to 20 boats in the Wylie Wabbit division, named after designer Tom Wylie.

    But the laser regatta, which will include both the standard and radial divisions, is easily the largest event the yacht club will host. Three races are expected each day beginning at noon, with the lowest regatta score in each division being crowned champion.

    "It's fairly unusual for a small yacht club to run that many national championships in one year," Vrolyk said. "But it's a tribute to how active the sailors are at the club and how much they support racing."

    Emma Drejes, 16, said she might have traveled cross country had the regatta been held in New Jersey. The incoming senior has competed in sailing competitions in Hawaii, Chicago and Mexico.












    "But it's super nice to have it at our home court," Drejes, who's been sailing competitively for nine years, said of being able to compete in the local waters.

    A runner-up finisher at both the Laser Radial G semifinals and the RYC Laser Midwinters earlier this year, Drejes said she's been able to train this week with Olympic-caliber athletes who are in town to compete in the regatta. Having the event so close to home has also allowed the Felton resident to better prepare for the event, as she's been able to practice all month in the very same Monterey Bay waters where the event will take place.

    And though the laser regatta is broken into divisions and age groups, competitors are nonetheless mixed together during the race.

    Drejes, a veteran of junior competitions, said that will be a first for her.

    "It brings a whole new level of competition," she said.

    Vrolyk said the club's youth movement provided motivation to make a bid, as some of the junior sailors presented the Board of Directors with the benefits of hosting the race.

    "It's hard for a 15-year-old to go to Texas or Maine or wherever," said Vrolyk, who noted last year's competition, which was won by Mitchell Kiss (radial) and Erik Bowers (standard), was hosted by the Houston Yacht Club in Texas.

    "One of the big motivations for us at the yacht club, along with lending a helping hand," Vrolyk added, "was that our local sailors will get to race against a caliber of sailor that they wouldn't normally get to race against, and that's tremendous for educating our younger members."

    It's also an opportunity for some to get back into laser sailing.

    Steve Bourdow admits he hasn't competed in the class much the last two years. A silver medalist in the flying dutchman class at the Barcelona Olympics in 1992, the Santa Cruz resident has more or less spent his competitive time in the larger 505 class.

    But like many local sailors, Bourdow will compete in the national regatta this week-- something he wouldn't have had the chance to do if it wasn't held locally.

    But considering the competition, with sailors coming in from as far away as Hawaii, Canada and Florida, he doesn't exactly like his chances.

    "I've been racing all my life. But the optimum weight is a little bit under what I am and the optimum age is a little bit under what I am," said Bourdow, 47. "I just want to enjoy it."














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