A popular sailboat raced in the TSA Junior Sailing Circuit is the Laser. This is one of the most popular dinghies for sailing worldwide, boasting over 200,000 boats. It is a popular boat as it is easy to rig and sail. Both men and women as well as juniors can sail the boat.
In Texas, junior sailors race the laser in one of 3 categories. The Laser Standard, the Laser Radial and the Laser 4.7.
All laser hulls are built to the same specifications out of Glass Re-enforced Plastic (GRP). The Hull is 13 feet 10.5 inches in length with a waterline length of 12.5 feet. The hull weight is 130 lbs. This means it is light enough to put on a car-top rack. All lasers are cat rigged and have only a main sail.
The difference between the three categories is in the sail.
Normally a junior sailor starts Laser sailing in the Laser 4.7. This is the smallest sail.
The name 4.7 comes from the fact that the sail is only 4.7 meters square, the smallest sail for the traditional laser hull. The bottom mast section is already bent which effectively reduces the power of the rig. This boat can be easily sailed by juniors weighing from 100 – 145 lbs.
When a junior sailor grows larger or wants a more competitive sailing group, they often move to the Laser Radial.
The Laser Radial, like the 4.7 uses the same top section of the mast as the Laser Standard but uses a smaller bottom mast section. The sail itself is 5.8 meters squared. Optimal weight for this rig is 121 to 159 lb. The Laser Radial in Europe has surpassed the original Laser Standard sail in popularity, and became the Woman’s Singlehanded Dinghy for the 2008 Olympics. Because of this, women often stay in the Laser Radial.
The Laser Standard sail has sail area of 7.06 meter squared. In higher winds (15 knots and over), it is most competitive when sailed by a very fit, agile, and muscular person weighing at least 175 lbs. The Laser became the Men’s Olympic Singlehanded Dinghy for the 1996 Olympics. Because of the weight required, few juniors use this sail and many regattas do not have this event.
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