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Low temps put a bite into sailing series
Ed Marks, right, helps fellow competitor Mike Carlson get his wet suit on before heading out onto Lake Lanier for Lake Lanier Sailing Club’s 2010 Laser Frostbite racing series. - photo by Tom Reed

FLOWERY BRANCH — A bright sun shone Sunday afternoon, but with subfreezing temperatures made worse by a biting wind, the first day in the Lake Lanier Sailing Club’s 2010 Laser Frostbite series lived up to its name.

With nearly every square inch of skin covered by wet suits and other protective gear, competitors launched their one-person Laser sailboats into the crazy-cold waters of the lake, then climbed aboard and steered into the flow of boat traffic.

"It’s cold, but you get better wind during the winter, I think," said 14-year-old Michael Reddaway of Suwanee. "And it’s a big series."

"Better than sitting in front a video game, right?" asked his father, David Reddaway, as the two worked to get their vessel ready for sailing.

"Yes," he said. "It’s an activity."

The club began winter sailing in the late 1970s, after the sleek, lightweight Laser boat had been developed, said Robert Burke, fleet captain at the club at 6206 Commodore Drive near Old Federal campground.

"It was always in January and February. It was a time when nothing else was going on up here," said Burke, an electrical engineer who lives in Duluth and works in Norcross.

"(The event) was casual at first, but we actually keep scores now and have trophies at the end of the series."

The event is open to the public — not just club members — at a cost of $5 per race or $30 for the series, which is scheduled for each Sunday through Feb. 28.

Participation varies according the weather.

"On a good day, we can have up to 40 boats," Burke said. "But a typical day is more (like) 20 or 30. ... When it’s cold like this and there’s some wind, you can get ice accumulating on the deck ... and a little bit on the sails."

Manny Quiles of Atlanta was gearing up for his first sailboat event, having bought his 1992 Laser about a year ago.

"There are a lot of great sailors (in the club), so I’m going to give it a try and see what happens," said Quiles, general manager for a car wash business.

"It’s too cold for me, but I love (sailing)."