Last week, in what turned out to be a fitting tribute to designer Bruce Kirby, 124 Lasers gathered at the St. Francis Yacht Club to compete in the ILCA North Americans. San Francisco Bay dished up its normal challenging summer conditions, though sun and smiles were both abundant.
The regatta was held July 15-18, and Kirby passed away at age 92 on the last day, Sunday the 18th. He designed many boats but is best known for designing the Laser in 1971. More than 218,000 have been built since, and this year is the boat’s 50th anniversary. Of those Lasers, StFYC members Don Trask and Bill Kreysler built 11,000 in San Rafael, creating a local fleet that spawned many Bay Area champions including Craig Healy, Jeff Madrigali, Russ Silvestri, John Kostecki, John Bertrand and many more.
Lots of San Francisco Bay sailing legends cut their teeth sailing Lasers on the Cityfront. More legends were being created by upcoming stars who competed in the NAs. If you’re a weekend racer who notices that there’s a fleet member who nails the start, executes the perfect rounding, and regularly ends up at the top of their class, it wouldn’t be surprising to find they spent some time competing in Lasers in their youth. Designer Bruce Kirby departed this past weekend, but the legacy he created continues to challenge and inspire new generations of sailors around the world.
We’ll have more on the ILCA North Americans in our August issue of Latitude 38. In the meantime, you can see the race results here. And, for a 50th-anniversary retrospective on the local Laser class, watch a panel put together earlier in the year with Don Trask, Bill Kreysler and ILCA World Council president and StFYC regatta chair Tracy Usher in this Youtube video.