Laser sailing is a contact sport.
No, no, no. I don't mean you're supposed to hit the other sailors. I mean that to sail a Laser fast you have to be working the boat all the time. So if you are a kinetic genius trying to emulate Robert Scheidt, the points of contact between you and the boat are critical to your success in transmitting your body movements to the boat.
On the other hand, if you are an overweight unathletic old master sailor like me you, if nothing else, those 'contact points' are important for your comfort. So over the years I've experimented with almost everything that connects me to the boat: gloves, hiking boots, sheet, tiller, hiking pants. I'm pretty happy with my current options in these areas. I can't blame my mediocre sailing performance on my equipment. It's all the fault of the nut on the end of the tiller, as they say.
But until Jim Myers asked me to evaluate and review his Intensity Sails Gription Hiking Strap, I hadn't given much thought to that other point of contact between sailor and boat, the hiking strap. I've been sailing for the past twelve years with the strap that came with the boat when it was new, a padded blue strap about 2 inches wide. Having sailed with the Intensity Sails strap for a couple of weeks now it's become obvious what I have been missing.
So how is this new technology hiking strap different?
Wide. Wow, this strap is wide. Almost 4 inches. I'd never realised the advantage of a wide strap before. Much more locked-in feel when hiking. And it doesn't twist and turn over like my old strap used to sometimes.
Firm. The Intensity Sails strap is padded (for comfort) but is much firmer than my old strap. Again this contributes to that feeling of being solidly connected to the boat.
Sticky. The Intensity Sails strap has a grippy rubber-like material underneath which is supposed to grip rubber hiking boots well. I must admit that I've never really seen the need for sticky hiking straps and I still don't. I've been using it with a pair of Zhik hiking boots which are designed to take advantage of grippy straps, but I never used to find a problem with my feet slipping around with my old strap. But if "sticky" is your thing then I think you'll find that this strap's gription is as sticky as your sticky little feet could desire.
Comfortable. I've found the strap very comfortable on all points of sail. One factor that contributes to this is that the rubbery material is wrapped around the edges of the strap. My son has been using another vendor's wide strap which has much rougher edges and he has found that this other strap has been chafing his lower leg when he puts his leg across the strap downwind. This won't be a problem with the Intensity Sails hiking strap.
Fast. Scientific tests have shown that Lasers with the Intensity Sails Gription Hiking Strap are on average 0.38 of a knot faster than other Lasers. No. Sorry. That was a joke. I've no idea if it will make me sail faster but it can't do any harm to have a hiking strap that helps me to hike effectively, makes me feel locked-in and in control, and that is comfortable over a long day's sailing. And I will point out that when racing in the Leukemia Cup against a certain local sailor who had beat me by a few places at the Buzzards Bay Regatta, we'd usually arrive together at the windward mark and then I'd smoke him on the reaches. And I've always thought of reaches as my worst point of sail relative to my close competition. Could it be the change to a more effective hiking strap? Maybe.
Cheap. Once again Jim Myers obviously has no idea how much he could charge for another superb Intensity Sails product. He currently has it on sale for $19.99. I just checked out the website of a certain other Laser specialist on-line vendor and the three hiking straps there are from two to three times that price!! Crazy!!! Rush to his website and buy up all his stock now before he comes to his senses.