Last weekend I was observing the different techniques that the top sailors in our Laser fleet used on a run. The winds were mainly around 5 to 10 knots with smallish waves, not big enough for major surfing but certainly pronounced enough that some gains could be made by using the waves.
Sailor A. Sitting well forward with one knee alongside the centerboard, locked in to the boat. No body movement or steering. Outhaul released so that he had a baggy sail. Boom slightly in front of 90 degrees to centerline of boat. But here's why this guy was going fast and what singled him out from all the boats around him. The leech of his sail was pumping rhythmically every time a tiny wave rocked his boat. He wasn't causing these leech flicks with any conscious movement of his body but they were sure helping him to keep the boat moving fast. You have to get the vang released just the right amount to make this happen. Too tight and the leech won't pump. Too loose and the leech will just be floppy. Totally legal and totally fast.
Sailor B. This guy clearly believed that the way to gain maximum advantage from the waves was to carve big turns up and down across the course to catch the best waves and/or steer through gaps in the waves. He would heel to leeward and trim in aggressively to head up; then flatten the boat; then only a few seconds later he would heel the boat to windward and bear away sharply and release all the sheet he had trimmed in. There was some rudder movement but most of the steering was done by the heeling and trimming. Legal? Probably -- if he had good reasons for all of his radical changes of course then he was certainly entitled to heel and trim to steer the boat.
Sailor C. This guy was sitting in the boat sideways in a knees-up position, not locked in next to the centerboard like Sailor A. He wasn't making major changes in direction like Sailor B but he was rocking a lot. His upper body was moving in and out, and the rig was rocking in response too each of these movements. Occasionally he would even lift his butt off the deck to initiate a major roll to leeward and then sit down again to roll the boat back to windward. There was some discussion on our mark boat as to whether this guy was pushing beyond the limits of Rule 42; my two fellow Laser sailors on RC duty felt that his technique was perfectly legal if he was using it to work the waves. Hmmm -- I wasn't so sure.
So which technique worked best? Search me. Sailors A and C were leading or tied for the lead when I was watching them, and Sailor B is one of the most successful sailors in the fleet over the season. I guess all of these methods will work better or worse depending on wind and wave conditions on any given day. Though I might be cautious about using Sailor C's technique at a regatta where there were on-the-water judges enforcing Rule 42.