Easy Riders

We tried to go sailing this weekend but mother nature wasn’t playing ball. All dressed up in Rooster’s finest wetsuits replete with the de rigueur Blood Red boots, the boy wonder (aka the Hurricane) and I ventured down to Gurnard SC on Saturday afternoon, struggled to open the car door, faced down a gale before taking one look at the foaming waveforms and decided that walking the hound was infinitely more preferable to flogging in the briny. The dog, of course, had other ideas curled up warmly on the sofa, melted in with those eyes that say: “don’t you dare…”

Of course I, yes I, would have gone…I kid myself…as I now have a very different, enhanced, beautiful, symbiotic relationship with my Laser having finally come to the thunderous, crashing conclusion that I’m not Robert Scheidt, Tom Slingsby or even Matt Wearn.

I have reluctantly accepted reality (for once) and bought a radial rig for my middle-aged instrument of torture. And boy do I feel smug. It’s like I’ve discovered nirvana. Maybe I am Scheidt or, more likely, words to that effect. But it’s far, far more manageable, the boat behaves better than a faithful Labrador now, it’s way more enjoyable and the simply massive news that has only just come onto my radar (where have I been?) is that since the Tokyo Games, the class have ratified, in their infinite wisdom, carbon lower mast sections, replacing the agricultural aluminium and making the boat even cooler.

Okay not as cool as whatever boat you sail, and I’ll have the Aero, Waszp, Flying Dutchman, Finn and Moth geniuses opining no doubt, but in my mind the Laser’s still a damned fine dinghy. Carbon lower masts are a logical progression – carbon booms would complete the set but as with anything with the ‘C’ word preceding it, the receipt will need to be hidden…well hidden. I wonder if I can also make a deal with the delivery driver to hide that long box…you know what I’m saying.

© Elena Giolai / www.elenagiolai.com

But seeing as it was ‘wet-play’ weekend in Cowes and even the demolition of the landmark Fawley Power Station Tower at 7am on Sunday morning was a disappointment with the Solent’s ultimate transit shrouded in misty rain and cloud, I spent a useful few hours surfing YouTube in between watching any sport that was even vaguely interesting on satellite TV and trying to avoid anything to do with Halloween.

Regular readers well know my fascination and sheer frustration about not owning a Star (one day…one day) and you’ll probably find it’s no surprise that it’s my go-to search topic on the ubiquitous video sharing platform. I don’t often find much more than some cool Scandinavians sailing on chopless fjords in 2 knots of wind, fully hiked, but have a look at the video below of these Stradivarius’s in action in big breezes at a pre-Olympic regatta in France in 2012. What a find. My goodness, it’s worth 5 minutes and 19 seconds of anyone’s time…I guarantee you’ll want one.

And staying on the Star theme, I spent even more useful internet surfing time looking over both the Mader and Lillia websites, as I do often (not sure what I expect to see) at their latest offerings. Google Translate makes a half-decent attempt but it’s abundantly clear that pictures and videos do the job far better than words can ever do as they have the perfect pictorial subject matter.

I must have missed it, and for those in the fleet this is old news, but Juan K has designed a Star in conjunction with (or perhaps for) Torben Grael and as beauty goes, this is Cindy Crawford, Linda Evangelista, Christy Turlington and Helena Christensen all rolled into one in their prime…Look at the photos below. Again, I guarantee you’ll want one. I do. Perfection personified. If God designed a boat…

So if that weren’t enough, my friends at RS Sailing – they who create the very best dinghies and keelboats for all target audiences and with whom I seem to be gleefully spending a lot of money at the moment – sent through a brilliant video of the recent RS21 European Championships at where else but Lake Garda. Everything happens in Garda – has Grant Dalton thought about running a Cup there? Okay, okay not an arm of the sea, yes I know, but can you imagine a Cup boat on Garda? Wow.

Anyhow, I digress, back to the very real reality of these fabulous boats and just how amazing do the RS21’s look with their modern destroyer water-shifting bows and full on sail plans. In big breezes they look electric to sail and the racing looks incredibly tight. Great boats for a gang of 20-somethings to club together, slap down the credit cards and get racing in. I bet the apres-sail is almost as good as the on-water action. What’s not to love? Have a look at this:

Just brilliant…and yet another boat to add to the endless list of wants. Is it just me or does everyone else have the same impetuous, craving for literally anything and everything that we don’t have, and most likely will never have, in this crazy beautiful sport?

To prove my semi-madness beyond doubt, I found myself on the Apollo Duck website checking out a 1990 Jason Belben low-rider Moth for sale for just £1250 and had to be physically restrained from pressing the ‘buy now’ button…what a bargain and how hard could a low-rider be? Maybe it’s a gateway to full foiling I fool myself…you can see how my brain works: start with a low-rider, master the kinetics, and it is but a short ride to a Waszp and next year’s Nationals…

But I’m pleased to see that the low-riders are making a comeback. Delighted in fact. They’re like a barn-find vintage car and there’s something achingly beautiful about seeing them in action – especially in light to medium airs where they seem to just glide effortlessly, majestically across the water.

I’m one who can remember being in a Topper dinghy in 1985 sailing back down the Lymington River past the Number 10 and Cocked Hat marker posts on the final bend home with just a small runway to the Royal Lymington YC’s finish line. Looking back behind me, suddenly I was engulfed by the Lymington Moth fleet, led by Roger Angell going at what I then thought was warp speed.

Angell won the world’s that year in Switzerland which was akin to a Moon landing or finding a Van Gogh in the attic at that time in British sailing and it was such a good scene – John Claridge was building them at a rate of knots in a wonderful treasure-trove of a yard, the best sailors on the planet were sailing them, technology was coming through, sails were getting better, masts had angular jumper-struts and were becoming flat in section and life was good. Fun was being had. Glory days of evolution in so many ways.

Low-riders definitely still have a big part to play in the future and are long due a massive comeback. Is anyone still building them new? So I hope they had a super national championships this past weekend up at Burton Sailing Club on the stunning Foremark Reservoir in Derbyshire.

If my failed attempt at getting out there was anything to go by, it may well have been a bit full-on for the more delicate of our favourite vintage insect-based dinghies but I’ll lay a pretty penny that the bar was won convincingly.

Easy riders.

10 thoughts on “Easy Riders

  1. Hi Magnus, Wonderful clips of the Star boats in France !   Strs were not designed as planing boats and when they do it is downright scary. A hair raising ride one never, ever forgets. Cheers, Hank

    Liked by 1 person

      1. The last time I raced in the Star 12th district championships in the Finger Lakes of central New York, a front came through mid race. Winds of 40 knots with a gust to 50. 48 boats started, 13 were dismasted and about 20 finished. When planed off our Lippencott Star was throwing water off the bow about 25′ to each side. Downright frightening !
        We just hung on for dear life as masts toppled around us. No one dared jibe around the leeward mark – tacking was the only option. We were a hundred yards past the mark before we got her tacked and headed back upwind. Zowie !

        So, they don’t always keep their masts up !




  2. Go get your Star. We had one a while ago and it only cost £5k for a Mader in top condition. Great times doing a couple of events a year on the continent and the scariest boat ever downhill in the breeze. Go for it!


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