The Other Laser National Championship
Published on October 15th, 2018
The sailing was fiercely competitive but nobody was on the water. Instead, the skippers stood shoulder to shoulder at the end of a pier, intensely watching the miniature boats make their way around the race course in Newport, RI.
This was the 2018 Remote Control Laser Class US National Championship, held October 13-14 at Fort Adams State Park, attracting joystick sailors to take part in sailing the 41.5-inch one-design boats. Two days, 22 boats, 22 races.
When the competition was finished, 2016 national champion Jim Kaighin of the Bahamas collected his second title. David Ramos of Stevensville, Maryland, the 2014 national champion, was the runner-up in the gold division, while local Chuck Allen placed third (complete results).
Allen, who is employed by North Sails, is no stranger to the sport of sailing. He was an all-American at the University of Rhode Island, and he began racing RC boats a couple of years ago. Even though there is an electrical element to the boats, many of the same maneuvers used on the water can be applied when controlling the boat remotely, he said.
“Most of this is strategy, like coming off the line and getting a good start, finding the shifts [in wind]. It’s just like in regular sailing,” Allen said. “Your heart is beating at the start — it’s the real deal.”
While the racing may be similar, the proximity of the skippers does require tolerance.
“You’ll see some yelling,” Kaighin said. “If you’re sailing big boats and there’s a collision, he sails off that way and you sail this way. Here, you’re standing right next to him on the dock. So you’ve got to work it out.”
Getting involved in RC boat racing in the Laser class is pretty simple. Boats cost only about $200 to $300, and they’re ready to sail out of the box. No modifications can be made for competition. The only real variation is the size of the sail — four sizes are available — to fit the amount of breeze on the water.
The RC Laser class has been around since 1995, but the National Championship event is only in its sixth year. The country is split into seven regions, and each region will host a National Championship. Newport is in Region 1, and future events are planned for Texas and California. Past championships have been held in Maryland, Virginia, Florida and Pennsylvania. The RC Laser Class also annually hosts North American and Mid-Winter Championships.