Thursday, August 09, 2007

Laser Sailing Questions

JP, the author of Captain JP's log has been trying out a Laser and has some questions about Laser sailing...

One thing I've noticed is not everyone sails the same way: for example during tacking when does the tiller flip from behind the back - before or after? In the lesson we were told tack first then get the tiller on the right side but my nephew flips it over before the tack and says that's how he was taught.

Not sure if you're talking here about flipping the tiller extension to the new side, or swapping sheet and tiller hands.

Don't flip the tiller extension to the new side before the tack. Hold it in the natural position that you have been holding it for beating as you go into the tack.

As for the swap of sheet and tiller extension to the new hands, the way that's usually taught is to do the hand swap after you have crossed to the new side of the boat. That's what Ben Ainslie describes in his book. But in Ben Tan's book, the chapter on tacking shows the hand swap being done behind the back as the sailor crosses the boat. I think I do both in different circumstances. I've never heard of anyone swapping tiller and sheet hands before the tack.

Also which method is best for pulling lots of sheet in at once - wrap round knee or tiller? Which do you use or does it vary by circumstance or preference?

Knee? Tiller? Neither. Don't use your teeth either. (I've seen people do that too.)

The way to sheet in is to use both hands. With practice you can grab the sheet near the block with your tiller hand (while still holding the end of the tiller extension). Lift that hand upwards pulling in several feet of sheet (of course while steering straight at the same time). Then grab the sheet near the block with your sheet (front) hand and pull in several more feet. Repeat, alternating each hand. Of course you need a tiller extension long enough to be able to reach to the block without dropping the extension.

Both of these techniques, the hand swap and sheeting in, can be practised on dry land if a student is finding them difficult. When I was teaching kids to sail Optimists (that require exactly the same methods) we always went through these techniques on the land first.

Hope that helps. Any more questions, class?


Litoralis said...

How much do you play the mainsheet when going upwind in waves?

Tillerman said...

It depends.

Litoralis said...

...on what (does it depend)?

JP said...

Ta Tillerman - if its good enough for Ben Ainslie its good enough for me.

My nephew definitely switches tiller hand before the tack (I have a video of him I've watched many times) and says thats how he was taught. He was at the weymouth sailing school all last week doing a race training course so it will be interesting to see what they said.

Practice seems the name of the day. Pity I've got to this OU course to study this weekend.

Litoralis said...

I am having trouble understanding this strange technique of switching hands before the tack. It sounds like you would either end up crossing the boat facing backwards because your front hand would be holding the tiller in front of your body, or you would not be able to steer and roll the boat effectively because your hands would be behind your back before and during the tack.
Did your nephew learn to sail in a Topper? That's the only dinghy I can think of where sailors tack backwards.

Topper159 said...

Not anymore we have cnter main now but any aft sheeted boat you should tack backwards

DaviB said...

on pulling in the mainsheet at the leeward mark... Tillerman is spot on. Use both hands. One short pull with the tiller hand. One long pull with the off hand. I'm pretty sure this is the primary reason that God made universal joints.

Wanna good laugh? Try teaching this technique to a lifelong keelboat sailor.

Ben said...

Bit of a beginners question for you; How do you hold the tiller extension normally (not during turns)?

I was taught to hold it across the chest ("dagger style", not that I would hold a dagger that way!). The advantage of this is easily being able to use both hands for the sheet without having to feed the sheet across your body. But I'm finding that grip problematic for actual steering, as it seems hard to get enough turning force when the extension is pretty much out straight in line with the tiller -- I end up passing it under my arm or using my thumb to pivot off, which can't be good. It also seems like you can't hike out as far or as quickly as you could if you have the extension at 90 degrees to the tiller.

Have I been misinformed, or is it just a personal preference thing? If you do have the extension at 90 degrees, how do you pass the sheet across to that hand without getting tangled in it? :) Thanks.

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