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Frostbite Sailing Series Launches This Week

Story by Jeff Gill, Gainesville Times

A two-month sailing series that allows participants to keep honing their skills is set to kick off Sunday at the Lake Lanier Sailing Club in West Hall.

The 2011 Laser Frostbite begins at 1 p.m., with the public welcome to participate or simply watch, said Martine Zurinskas, the club’s Laser fleet captain.

“It’s actually quite common all over the country to do (winter) racing,” she said.

“It’s just a nice way to use the lake when it’s not as crowded. Not that we don’t like motorboats, but it’s a lot easier to sail when they’re not plowing through your course.”

For many participants, the Laser is a “secondary boat,” Zurinskas said. “They may have a big boat that they race during the summer and this is a way … they stay sharp.

“Sailing is very tactical – there’s a lot of strategy involved – so this is a good way of perfecting that, I would say.”

Only one person at a time can captain each sleek 14-foot Laser.

“The boats are very strictly one design,” Zurinskas said. “I’m not going to lose because of boat speed. I’m going to lose because of my errors.”

The club’s Laser Frostbite began in the early 1980s, “with a bunch of guys who wanted to sail and practice during the winter,” said the club’s commodore, Lee Estes.

“Over the years, it has evolved and we get a fair amount of boats out,” he said. “… It’s a fun little series to do.”

Estes said he participated a lot during the early years, “then I kind of got away from it for a while. And now my son’s doing it and he’s got me doing it again. I’m back in the middle of it.”

The event can live up to its name, as it did last year, with subfreezing temperatures made worse by a biting wind.

Sunday’s forecast calls for partly sunny skies and a high temperature of 45, the National Weather Service reported Monday.

“Everybody kind of takes it at their own speed,” Estes said. “On days when the wind is not blowing, it’s real mellow. And when it is blowing and if you get wet, you need to come in and get warm.”

The event is competitive, however.

“We take all the races and we do a series cumulative,” Zurinskas said. “We’ll have somewhere between 30 and 40 races over the course of eight weeks. You have to participate in (half) of the total number of races to qualify.”

Typically, about 40 to 45 people participate in the event at some point during the series, but only 20 or so will sail enough races to be competitive, Zurinskas said.

Winners will be announced the first weekend in March, when the club sponsors its first regatta of the season.

People drive from out of state to participate in the Frostbite, Zurinskas said.

“It’s a real testament to our quality of sailors, which is extremely high,” she added.

2011 Laser Frostbite

What: An eight-week annual sailing series sponsored by the Lake Lanier Sailing Club
When: Kicks off at 1 p.m. Sunday; other dates are Jan. 12, 23 and 30 and Feb. 6, 13, 20 and 27
Where: Lake Lanier Sailing Club, 6206 Commodore Drive, off Old Federal Road in West Hall
How much: $30 for the series or $5 per day
More info: 770-674-3992

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