NEWPORT BEACH — Although it’s not the America’s Cup race, Newport Beach’s annual Flight of the Lasers race has been the starting point for many blue-water sailors. The afternoon race was held in breezy conditions on Sunday, July 20 during the 79th annual run of the race.
“It is really a great event that attracts avid Laser racers, families and young sailors,” said Brett Hemphill, race organizer for Balboa Yacht Club. “Thus, we have trophies for the oldest skipper, first married couple, youngest boy and youngest girl.”
The windy conditions combined with a bright sunny afternoon made for a lot of traffic on the bay this year. The race course started near Balboa Pavilion and covered a majority of the bay.
Finishing first was Brian Cottrell of King Harbor Yacht Club followed by Wills Johnson, Phil Thompson, Joseph Hou and Dais Hanscom all from Newport Harbor YC.
The breezy conditions made for some tough luck for the participants. The oldest registered skipper, David Tingler, of Lido Isle YC, turtled his Laser and required outside assistance. His disqualification resulted in Don Stoughton, of Balboa YC, getting the award for oldest skipper.
The youngest skipper, 10-year-old Pierce Hemphill of Balboa YC, also capsized at one of the weather marks. His crew, Sebastian Nowlan held onto the boom for the downwind leg of the race to the finish line since they could not get the boom to fit into the gooseneck. Their determination earned them the Bravery in the Face of Danger Award.
The first parent/child, finishing 22nd overall, was Nick and Kate Madigan of Newport Harbor YC. The first married couple, Jim and Lindsey Beek of Balboa Island YC, finished 29th overall.
All winners received gift certificates for the Sailing Pro Shop in Newport Beach,
Originally called the Flight of the Snowbirds, because of the wooden boats used in the race, the event was renamed in 1975 after organizers decided to replace the aging, wooden craft with Olympic class Laser.
— Brett Hemphill