Take the advice on how to sail a Laser in light airs. Conventional advice is to sail a dinghy flat. Everyone knows that. Or do they? Not even World Champions agree.
Glenn Bourke in Championship Laser Racing says "in light air there's a great technique where you heel the boat to weather.......it gives tremendous height."
Ben Ainslie in The Laser Campaign Manual says "the best trim for light airs is dead flat or a slight heel to leeward.......heel to windward is slow as it induces lee helm."
OK. So do these two champions really sail their boats totally differently? Or is one of them under some illusion and not able to accurately describe how he sails?
At the US Laser Masters in Annapolis a few weeks ago, I did experiment with slight variations in how I sailed the boat upwind in light winds. I noticed that, at first, I was sailing with a few more degrees of heel to leeward than the surrounding boats. I think I was unconsciously heeling the boat enough to generate a small amount of weather helm because I had become comfortable sailing the boat with that slight tug on the tiller.
So I tried flattening the boat until the feel of weather helm disappeared. Not so much as to get lee helm and certainly not heeling to windward as Bourke appears to recommend. It felt strange at first. Almost as if I wasn't really steering the boat. It was a bit like the difference in skiing between carving a gentle turn on your edges or turning straight down the fall line with the skis flat. Less control but faster. The boat seemed to slip and slide over the chop. And I was able to sail faster and higher than the boats around me and had some of my best ever finishes in a major championship.
So have I been sailing wrong these last 25 years? Maybe. But next time I go out in light air I'm going to see if I can recreate that same feeling.