"How the hell do you jibe in those conditions?" asks Adam Turinas in a comment to Monday's post about racing a Laser in over 20 knots.
Hmmm. Somebody is asking me for advice on Laser boat-handling? This guy must be desperate.
But it is true that, although I capsized a couple of times on Saturday, I didn't capsize at all at the gybe mark while others near me in the fleet did. So, even if am a total klutz at many Lasering skills, maybe I'm not totally hopeless at heavy air gybes. So what can I tell you?
Well, first of all the main way that people capsize a Laser in heavy air when gybing from reach to reach is by screwing up into the wind and broaching after the gybe. So here's Tillerman's tips on how to avoid this...
1. Gybe when you're going fastest. I know this sounds scary and counter-intuitive but it really is easier to gybe when you're planing or surfing down a wave. At this point there is very little load on the rig so the sail comes across pretty easily.
2. Gybe with confidence. When you decide it's time to gybe, don't futz about, just do it. Pull in the sheet a bit, bear away, and as the boat starts to gybe, give the sheet another pull.
3. Keep the boat flat. Forget about trying to roll the boat in the really heavy stuff. As the boom comes across throw your weight across to the new windward side. Remember what I said about most capsizes during gybes in heavy air being caused by screwing up into the wind? Well, you don't want to come out of the gybe with a major heel to leeward as you'll be heading for Broachville.
4. Do it like Turban. I learned this trick from an instructor named Turban at the Sunsail Watersports Center in Antigua. He was called Turban because he wore a turban. I guess you had to be there...
Where was I? Where am I? Oh yes. Turban's trick. Turban he say, "Downwind tuck your back leg so that your thigh is over the hiking strap and your calf is under it." This is actually a very stable position for a heavy air run or broad reach, and if you have your leg like that before the gybe, when you throw body across the boat to the new windward side, your front foot (old back foot) will already be under the hiking strap. So if you need to hike hard to flatten the boat you will avoid the ignominious fate of falling out of the boat backwards because you didn't have a foot under the strap.
5. Bear away. As soon as the boom crosses the center-line, reverse the tiller and start bearing away on the new tack. Remember your high school physics lessons about angular momentum? No? Well, when you gybed you started the boat, boom and sail all spinning in one direction. If they keep spinning that way you are going to to do one of those screw-up into the wind leeward-heel broach capsize glug-glug-glug maneuvers that I warned you about. So you need to stop that spin by bearing away before it happens. You will end up steering an S-shaped course through the gybe.
OK. That's two or three hundred words that have exhausted the sum total of all I have learned about heavy air gybes in a quarter of a century of Laser sailing. Some of you reading this must know more, or can tell me if any of the above is utter nonsense. Bring it on.