A clutch of Lasers approach the weather mark during last weekend’s True Blue Spencer Evans Laser Regatta hosted by Kollegewidgwok Yacht Club on Blue Hill Bay. CHRISTINE GUINNESS PHOTO

True Blue Regatta lives up to its name

BLUE HILL — Four years ago, the Laser class at Kollegewidgwok Yacht Club consisted of just a single boat and a dedicated sailor determined to build a competitive fleet that could host annual regattas and help educate young sailors through the club’s Kollegewidgwok Sailing Education Association.

Last weekend, 24 sailors, some of them from southern Maine and Connecticut, gathered at KYC to spend two days racing in the first “True Blue Spencer Evans Laser Regatta.”

Fleet Captain Carsten Steenberg, the lone Laser sailor four years ago, described the event as “a huge success.”

The Laser is a 13-foot-9-inch-long sailing dinghy, essentially a sailboard with a small cockpit, rigged with only a mainsail. For racing, it carries a crew of one.

KYC sailor Eliza Guinness displays athleticism hiking way out to keep her Laser dinghy sailing flat in a bit of breeze.

Designed in 1969, the Laser is one of the most popular dinghies in the world with more than 200,000 built, according to the International Laser Class Association. The boat is raced in fleets throughout the world and in the Olympic Games.

While there were no Olympic sailors at last weekend’s regatta, Steenberg said the competition was intense.

After eight races sailed in winds ranging from predominating zephyrs to the occasional 14-knot sea breeze, Jeff Beckwith, from Southport, Conn., “sailed a flawless regatta,” Steenberg said, and finished first overall despite being a relatively heavy sailor in a boat that can penalize extra weight when there isn’t much breeze.

“He’s not a lightweight, but he sails extremely smart,” Steenberg said.

KYC members Sean Guinness and Carsten Steenberg finished second and third, respectively.

In the Radial Class, which uses a smaller sail, former George Stevens Academy sailing coach Tom Gutow took first place with KYC members Alton Coolidge and Rex Thors in second and third place, respectively.

Awards were also given to the best Junior sailor, age 17 and under, Flynn Hill, and the best woman sailor, Karina Steenberg.

“All our guest sailors said it was one of the best Laser regattas, in the most beautiful settings they have been to in a long time,” Steenberg said, and all of them promised to come back next year for the second of what the fleet captain hopes will become an annual event on the summer Laser regatta circuit.

There wasn’t much room to maneuver as the Laser fleet headed for a downwind mark during a race on Blue Hill Bay.

The regatta was named, Steenberg said, to honor former KYC member Spencer Evans, who died in 2015, and his widow, Deborah.

Evans was a consummate offshore and one-design sailor who competed in several Newport-to-Bermuda races on the Southern Ocean Racing Circuit and was involved with the America’s Cup competition and regatta management. Beginning in the 1990s, he raced as part of the KYC Atlantic Class fleet.

“He was all about getting new people out racing and exposing young people to it,” Steenberg said Tuesday.

When Evans described the “pinnacle of a situation of a personality trait,” Steenberg said, the phrase he used was “true blue.”

That phrase might well be applied to the growth of the Laser class at KYC. With the support of several club members and Commodore Ann Luskey, Steenberg said he expected that nearly 20 boats would take part in club Laser races during August and that Laser sailing would be a formal part of the Kollegewidgwok Sailing Education Association youth sailing curriculum by 2020.

Stephen Rappaport

Stephen Rappaport

Waterfront Editor at The Ellsworth American
Stephen Rappaport has lived in Maine for nearly 30 years. A lifelong sailor, he spends as much time as possible messing about in boats. [email protected]

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