Monday, April 15, 2013

Laser Tips Fresh From My Winter Professional Development

A heavy wind day out in the Juan de Fuca Straight in February. 

I mean Torch Tips?

Since January I have been training hard with the Royal Victoria Yacht Club Racing Team and we were fortunate to have one of our training camps with National Team coach Erik Stibbe who brought with him some fresh ideas.  Over the next few blog posts I will summarize some of what we learnt and have been practising since then... 

2013 Midwinters West, Los Angeles
This isn’t really new but it is re-emphasized.

Consistency of heel is paramount.  If you take a while to react to changes in the wind or let yourself get tossed around in the chop the sail will not be as efficient.  React to changes in pressure and wind direction as they happen or even a half second before if they are predictable to keep the sail cutting evenly through the air.  In waves this also goes for fore-aft stability.

Flat Is Fast

The concept is old but we just haven’t been doing it.

In the past I have said that my athletes can have 5 degrees of leeward heel in flat water 0-8 knots.  You can still have this in 0-2 knots but as soon as the sail is full the boat should go dead flat and even a hair to windward possibly as long as you keep the heel consistent and you have no lee helm.  Sailors will think that the boat is heeling over top of them because they are used to sailing with leeward heel and the laser deck is slanted outwards so the windward half of the deck should be very slightly angled to windward rather than flat.  Look at water in the cockpit or the edge of your compass for feedback on when you are perfectly level.

This significantly changes the feel of the tiller.  There should be none or the slightest touch of helm on the tiller.  You should be able to put the tiller down for a second without going off course and you should be able to hold the tiller easily with two finger tips.  Sailors who are used to sailing with 5 degrees of heel (and so they are used to slight but constant weather helm) will tend to bear of and stall the boat when they first try sailing dead flat.  Their heel will also likely become more inconsistent because a dead flat boat is less stable.


The physical sensations of pinching and stalling are more subtle when you have a dead flat boat.  If you are used to a heeled boat it may take a while to get used to the feel of a balanced (flat) boat.  That is okay because you point higher and sail faster.  Get in pairs and try it out.

As the breeze increases, keeping a dead flat boat means exerting a huge amount of effort.  For example, picking some numbers out of the blue: with a properly powered up sail in 8 knots you may have to hike at 60% effort to sail with 5 degrees of leeward heel, but you might have to increase to 90% effort to sail dead flat.  Again that is okay because you sail faster and point higher.  Hit the gym if need be.

This doesn’t change the technique of heeling the boat to leeward to navigate a terrible patch of waves, however you should then flatten the boat back out when the waves have passed.

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