VIDEO: Brains and brawn


A lot of young women and men grow up sailing small one-design boats, and the 13-foot, 9-inch Laser is among the most popular. We see them pulled up on the beach in coastal towns and cities everywhere.

Designed by Canadians Bruce Kirby and Ian Bruce, the Laser made its public debut at the New York Boat Show in 1971. It was, and is, a simple lightweight dinghy built and raced under a strict one-design formula.

The Laser became a men’s Olympic class for the 1996 summer games. The Laser Radial, equipped with a smaller sail and meant for lightweight skippers, became a women’s class for the 2008 games.

Anyone can sail a Laser, even race one, but the difference between a casual day sail and serious competition boggles the mind, as Buckingham explains.

Another very challenging boat is the 49er skiff, a two-person, 4.99-meter boat based on the 18-foot Sydney Harbor skiffs. It became an Olympic class in 2000 and requires a high level of precision teamwork.

Visit to hear what Australian champions Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen have to say about racing these powerful boats.