Jump, jibe and sail
July 21, 2009
If you happen to cruise past the Jordanelle Reservoir on a Tuesday evening, you’re likely to behold a scene straight out of Cape Cod. Besides the backdrop of snow-capped mountains, that is.
Every week between June and September, The Park City Sailing Association hosts Laser Class sailboat races for anyone interested in getting their feet wet. Ken Block, a veteran sailor and vice president of the association, says the weekly rendezvous draw an average of 22 skippers from novices to experts.
It may seem somewhat out of place in Park City, but the fascination with sailing is catching on among Park City’s recreation-seekers. There are currently 75 people in the club’s Yahoo! group and curious observers of all ages continue to inquire about the fleet.
Block suspects that the growing membership might have something to do with the connection between sailing and skiing. "The freedom of sailing a boat and harnessing the wind is somehow related to skiing," he says.
The sailing association got its start two summers ago, and since then its administrators have been working hard to reach out to the community and provide opportunities for men and women of all abilities.
On Saturday, Block and fellow club member David Odell hosted a land and water seminar for novice and advanced novice skippers. After an on-land rigging demonstration and discussion of effective racing strategies, the crew hit the deck and boarded their crafts for a lesson on how to tack and jibe.
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The activity reflected the overall mission of the sailing association, which is to provide support for a sustainable membership. "The core of the philosophy of the organization is to encourage a sense of community," Block explains.
The more experienced racers are encouraged to help beginners improve. "If we don’t move people along, they’re not going to come back out. They’re going to go find a sport that they’ll do better at."
Each Tuesday prior to the start of the race, sailors are invited to a 15-minute chalk talk on an aspect of the Laser or the race course. "We want to continually improve the caliber of the racing and the experience," says Block.
Laser sailboats are designed for simplicity, convenience and performance. They may be sailed by one or two people, although two is rather unusual. The hulls are relatively lightweight and, at just under 14 feet, can be lifted by two people and transported on the roof of a car. The mast also dissembles into two pieces to facilitate transport and storage. Various sizes of rigs and sails are used to accommodate skippers from 85 to 225-plus pounds under different wind conditions.
As a one-design class of sailboat, all Lasers are built to the same specifications and have been since their inception nearly 40 years ago. "We have boats in our fleet that were built in the ’70s sailing side by side with the boats that were built this spring in the factory. It’s a real testament to the design and the rules that the class established," says Block.
The Lasers raced on Tuesdays belong to members of the sailing association, but even those who don’t own one are welcome to try their hand at the ol’ tack and jibe. Owners who aren’t racing on a given evening are generally happy to loan their boats to prospective members. Those who are interested in borrowing a boat may contact Geoff Hurwitch at 659-6641 to make arrangements.
On Aug. 22-23, the Park City Sailing Association will give young skippers a chance to try their hands on deck during a junior demo weekend at the Jordanelle. Experienced sailors will provide instruction for ages 7 to 15 of all ability levels, including those who have never climbed aboard a sailboat.
The event is a preview of what’s to come on the Park City sailing scene. Next summer, the association plans to launch a junior program consisting of one- to four-week camps for beginners, intermediate and possibly advanced/racing sailors.
During the camps, U.S. Sailing-certified instructors will cover the basics of terminology, seamanship, boat set-up, maintenance, handling and safety. Kids will learn to sail solo and in pairs and receive an introduction to sailboat racing.
Block says it’s important to him to pass on the love of the sport that his mentors instilled in him. "They gave me a sense of purpose and confidence as a young man," he says. "What young kids may learn here on the Jordanelle over the next several summers can open them up to collegiate sailing and beyond."
Those who would rather experience the joy of sailing from the shoreline are invited to attend the Masters’ No Coast Championship, which will be held Sept. 26-27 at the Jordanelle. It will be the first major regional regatta to come to this area, says Block. Skippers ages 35 and up apprentices, masters, grand masters and great grand masters from across the West will compete in this event.
For more information or to join the Park City Sailing Association, visit http://sailparkcity.org . To express interest in the junior sailing program and receive updates, email email@example.com .