One of the fun things about rigging a Laser is attaching the clew of the sail to the boom. In the good old days of Laser sailing when Gary Jobson was a lad and Anna Tunnicliffe wasn't even a twinkle in her daddy's eye, we used to tie the clew to the boom with a piece of line inventively known as the "clew tie-down".
One thing you need to know is that it's always been part of Laser legend and folklore that you have to have the clew tie-down tied as tightly as possible. This is something to do with leech tension but as I never really understood how sails work in the first place please don't ask me what a tight leech has to do with going fast or pointing high or both. But all the top guys believe it does, so that's good enough for me.
It could be quite a challenge to tie the silly bit of string, oops I mean "clew tie-down line", through the clew and around the boom a couple of times and then finish it off with a square knot (or reef knot as it's known in the civilized world) with the sail flapping around in 30 knots of breeze and the end of the boom trying to knock your nose sideways. Good news was that if you tied it tight you knew you had a tight leech and that was goodness. Bad news was that if you tied it tight the friction between the silly bit of string, oops I mean "clew tie-down line", and the boom was so great that it would be almost impossible to adjust the outhaul but you can't have everything. Actually in the original version of the Laser rigging, before Mr. Tunnicliffe got the twinkle in his eye, it was pretty well impossible to adjust the outhaul while sailing anyway, so it was a moot point.
Anyway all the trouble that we used to take to tie our clew tie-downs tight, tighter, tightest was, in reality, a total waste of time and effort. Because, even though you had used super low-stretch line for the clew tie-down, and even though you had used a double keeper stopper triple overhand square knot to tie down the tie-down, after the first beat you would look at the end of the boom and see that something must have slipped and there was now a quarter of an inch of daylight between the clew of the sail and the boom. This was devastating psychologically because you just knew that you couldn't hold a lane upwind without a tight leech and once the tightness of a man's leech was in question he lost all confidence and was soon being flushed out of the back of the fleet on every start.
But them some bright spark invented the clew tie-down strap. This was a major step forward in naval architecture, up there with the triangular sail, roller furling and spinach. It revolutionized Laser sailing. It's just a little nylon strap that goes through the clew with some velcro patches and a D-ring on it, and you poke one end through the ring and wrap one end over the other and then another flap over the first bit, and hey presto it's fixed.
Yeah right, we all thought. A couple of pieces of velcro are going to stay stuck all day and hold the clew tight to the boom better than my double keeper stopper triple overhand square knot? We really laughed at the first guy who didn't read the instructions correctly when his velcro came undone halfway through the race and he was left with his clew dangling in the breeze. Ha ha.
But we were wrong. The clew tie-down strap does work (if you read the instructions). The velcro stays stuck all day. It's now pretty well standard equipment for all Laser sailors who understand the value of a tight leech. (And it even works for Laser sailors like me who have no idea of the reason for a tight leech but are just sheep and follow the crowd.)
So in the fullness of time along comes Jim Myers of Intensity Sails and he starts offering a Laser Clew Strap at a ridiculously low price. Really I don't know how he does it. He sent me one of his clew straps in July of last year and I've used it in all the sailing I've done since then. It has worked perfectly every time, and the amazing thing is that it isn't showing any signs of wear after 15 months of hard sailing.
You don't even have to read any instructions. Just watch the video below instead. What could be more cool?
So go and buy a Laser Clew Strap from Jim. His are half the price of the others and twice as good. Well, just as good as far as I can tell. Buy one for yourself. Buy some more as Xmas stocking fillers for all your Lasering friends. Buy some just in case you make some more Lasering friends. Buy one so that the girls at the yacht club will see your tight leech and think you are cute. Buy one so that the boys at the yacht club will see your tight leech and think you are cute. Be one of the in-crowd. Buy an Intensity Sails Laser Clew Strap. Do it now.