An enthusiastic sailor from a very young age, AJ Sorensen describes himself as “a serial entrepreneur inventor simplifying life in a complex world.” With a strong affinity for a certain singlehander, AJ is (among many other things!) the Laser Fleet Captain at Cedar Point Yacht Club in Westport, Connecticut, the creator of an excellent Laser website, and the owner of an online sailing gear store specializing in Laser parts and accessories.
“I grew up in Easton, Connecticut and I’ve been on sailboats since before I can remember,” says AJ, who lives in Bridgeport. “I’ve been sailing the Laser for about 22 years. My first boat was a Laser that someone was throwing out. My aunt, Jody Locke, got some used rigging and my brother Alex I sailed it doublehanded because we didn’t weigh enough. My most significant sailing mentors are my mom, Betsy Sorensen, and my Aunt Jody. I’ve learned a great deal from both of them, most importantly how to sail.”
It was fifty years ago this month that yacht designer Bruce Kirby drew the first sketch of what he would later describe as “the wee yacht that became the Laser.” With more than 215,000 built, this 14-foot “cartopper” has provided enjoyable daysailing and keen competition for countless sailors around the world. “It’s a simple Olympic one-design that’s easy to sail and difficult to master,” says AJ. “It rewards hard work and good boat handling. It’s a class where you will find incredible sailors like five-time Olympic medalist Robert Scheidt.”
Cedar Point Yacht Club, a hotbed of Laser racing for more than three decades, is home to one of the most competitive fleets in the United States. All sailors are welcome to race with the CPYC Laser Fleet, and more than a few have subsequently become members of this friendly, racing-oriented club. “The CPYC Laser Fleet has been active well before the Laser became an Olympic class,” says AJ. “Our Laser Fall Series starts the first Sunday of October each year and runs into mid-December, and the Spring Series runs from March through mid-May, with first signal at 1200. Sailors can sign up for a single series, combined series, or a single day.”
The top finishers in Standards and Radials receive prizes after each race day, and overall prizes are awarded at the conclusion of each series. With a goal of helping every competitor improve his or her sailing, the fleet holds de-briefs after each day’s racing during which the winners share their race-winning secrets. “Post-racing in the CPYC Laser Fleet is unique,” says AJ. “We order food and talk about what worked out on the racecourse. Being Fleet Captain is like being the CEO of the Laser Fleet. I’m responsible for overseeing all aspects, from planning races months in advance to posting scores and everything in between. This past Spring Series we had 37 participants, although generally the Fall Series has a better turnout because the weather is nice and the water is warm. The ages range from 14 to around 80.”
With one of the strongest frostbite fleets in Laser District 7, Laser racing at Cedar Point Yacht Club continues through the cold months. “As early as 0900, sailors show up from as far as New Jersey to start getting ready for racing,” says AJ. “Sailors start launching around 1130 for a 1200 first signal. We aim for six races a day, windward/leewards and triangles, or Harry Anderson courses when it’s planing conditions. The racing is exciting, and it will challenge anyone to be a better sailor. CPYC is a special place because of its strong one-design fleets and great racing. It’s also one of the most beautiful places. The views from the clubhouse and the water are amazing.”
A chemical engineer, musician, and music producer, AJ is president of a recording studio called Sure Sound; senior property manager at Locke Inc.; founder of a skin care and beauty products company called Sorensen’s Naturals; president of CTVID, the creators of short films and music videos; president of Creative Solutions Consulting Professionals, LLC, which provides chemical engineering consulting, tech consulting and professional project management for businesses.
As the Head Sailing Coach at Staples High School in Westport, AJ leads the Wreckers at regattas in the New England Schools Sailing Association’s Fairfield County Sailing League. “I coach team and fleet racing in 420s, and I also teach Lasers,” he says. He’s the founder of LaserXD Sailing, an educational website for the world’s most popular one-design sailboat, and the owner of The Sailing Store. “I started a sailing blog more than a decade ago, and wanted to get a spool of Rooster Sailing’s Polilite for Laser mainsheets,” he explains. “In asking Rooster for a spool and sharing my blog, they asked if I’d like to carry more than just mainsheets and I thought that’d be a great idea! I think what really sets Sailing Store apart from other online retailers is passion. I love sailing, and I know all the ins and outs.” With its slogan ‘Sailing Gear Made Easy,’ Sailing Store carries a range of products from Velocitek electronic instruments to spray tops, wetsuits, carbon tillers, blade bags and other essential Laser parts and accessories, and they’re online at Sailing-Store.com.
“I’ll do PHRF racing, though one-design racing is my favorite,” says AJ (pictured here at the CORK Olympic Classes Regatta in Kingston, Ontario). When I’m not sailing, I like to play ice hockey, go skiing when there’s fresh snow, play guitar and violin, cook, travel, and spend time with my family. I enjoy delivering boats, being on the water…and sometimes being in the water on purpose. Sailing is one of life’s greatest adventures!” ■