FLOWERY BRANCH — With a definite nip in the air, the 2011 Laser Frostbite kicked off the start of a two-month sailing series with a bustling crowd Sunday.
By 1 p.m., the start of the event, the driveway to Lake Lanier was lined with Lasers, a slender one-person craft with a singular design, and sailors tying knots and otherwise getting ready for a breezy ride.
Lake Lanier Sailing Club off Old Federal Road sponsors the annual series largely as an off-season training event for year-round sailors. But the Frostbite has a competitive bent, with series winners expected to be announced in March.
Open to the public, it draws sailors from around the Atlanta area and even some out-of-state enthusiasts, said Martine Zurinskas, the club’s Laser fleet captain.
“It’s fun to go fast when it’s windy,” said 14-year-old Daniel Postell of Suwanee, preparing to launch his boat into the chilly waters.
Roger Counihan of Atlanta said warmth is key. He was wearing a thick wet suit, wool toboggan and gloves.
“The best wind of the year is in the winter, so it’s great out here,” he said. “There aren’t a lot of boats on the lake. And there’s a great turnout (for the Frostbite).”
Counihan, 28, said he has been sailing he was 6 or 7.
“It’s challenging strategically, physically,” he said of his love for the sport.
Jim Burke of Duluth said he was taking part in his third year at Frostbite. His wife, Pam, has participated for 10 years.
“It’s good practice during the wintertime and keeps you in shape,” he said. “It’s a lot of work out there, I’m telling you. Lake
Lanier is merciless when it comes to making you work.”
Jim, an engineer, and Pam, an accountant, travel and sail competitively all over the Southeast, he said.
“I love being outside and I love activities, which this very much is an activity,” Burke said, working quickly to get his boat ready to launch.
“And it makes you think. There’s a lot of strategy to sailing a boat and even more strategy when you’re racing a boat.”
The series, open to the public, begins each Sunday at 1 p.m. The event is scheduled to wrap up Feb. 27.
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.