Canada's Conneticuit-based yacht designer Bruce Kirby has long been known for the singlehanded Laser. Of course, he has designed numerous boats in the two decades that have passed since the famous dinghy made its debut, and one of the most recent is the Ideal 18. Although this new design is a keelboat, with a crew of two, the basic philosophy behind it is true to the little boat that made Kirby a household name -- in nautical households.
When George Hinterhoeller designed the Shark in 1959, he was looking for a boat that would "go like hell when the wind blew". Growing up in Austria's Salzkammergut region, Hinterhoeller was used to light displacement fin-keelers: fast, responsive and exciting. The few sailboats he found on Lake Ontario when he emigrated to Canada in 1952 had heavy displacement hulls. They were ponderous and had a bad habit of hobby-horsing in the rough Lake Ontario chop. This young builder/designer was also bored by their performance. Announcing that he could build a boat that would sail circles around the rest, he retired to the shed behind his Niagara-on-the-Lake home and built Teeter Totter, a hard-chined 22-foot sloop made of plywood...
I like sailing light boats. Their spirited performance lets them respond instantly to a puff or to bounce across the waves delivering quick precise feedback for the sailor. There is no sluggishness, no inertia from a heavy lead keel and no crew to buy lunch for. Small boat racing is returning to my local club in Midland, Ont., and a good part of the reason is the simplicity. Preparing the boat for a race is only a matter of minutes. The leader in this field for a long time has been the Laser, a 14-foot singlehanded daggerboard boat designed by Canadian Bruce Kirby. Manufacturing the craft has had its ups and downs but the more than 100,000 boats built are surely a milestone of success.
Tom and Kathleen Kjaersgaard
When we (an Ontario couple) both raised sailing on the Great Lakes and Lake Simcoe, decided to pack up and move our lives and careers to Cochrane, Alberta (minutes West of Calgary) in 2013, our rationalization banter went a bit like this:
“OK, considering that it’s Alberta…not a boating paradise… let’s just embrace the change. Sell the boat (our much loved Olson 25) and then we’ll just move-on and pursue other hobbies. How about golfing more maybe? We’ve pretty much ignored golf for the last 15 years right? So we agree - we’ll replace the boating with golfing and who knows what other Alberta adventures on the weekends.”
As a semi-recent transplant to the Pacific Northwest from New England’s historic waters, I was thrilled to learn that the boating season here in Seattle is much longer than it is back East, provided, of course, that your boat is up to the task. While our summer months here at 48 degrees north are characterized by massive high-pressure systems that park-up over the Olympic Peninsula and Vancouver Island, delivering bluebird days that are void of any real breeze, our fall, winter and spring months offer plenty of pressure...