Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Intensity Sails Laser Clew Strap

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.


Laser Runner said...

I'm confused - if the velcro is "...now pretty well standard equipment for all Laser sailors who understand the value of a tight leech" why are you promoting sales of it through one specific retailer ?

Carol Anne said...

Interesting ... When I got my Etchells, it had a Velcro strap to hold the leech down, but that strap went missing. Gerald used a stitching awl and some supplies from a sewing store to make a new Velcro strap, but after about a year it broke. Since then we've been making do with string, but we're looking for a good, sturdy Velcro strap.

Meanwhile, on another topic, you were looking for sailing blogs from various states. I don't think Gerald's blog, "(Enter Title Here)," (http://gbyrnes.blogspot.com/) qualifies yet, but you might keep an eye on it as a candidate for a sailing blog from Arizona.

Right now, he is (I hope) keeping busy with his studies, so he isn't doing much with his blog. And he's had some problems with software glitches, so his blog isn't accepting comments right now (getting that fixed is waiting until he has a break in studies -- again, I hope).

But he's sailing on the ASU sailing team, and he has just had his first millenial visitor (number 1001, not the artificial number 1000), who happens to have been from Rhode Island.

tillerman said...

Good question Laser Runner.

a) Intensity Sails sent me a sample of their strap to review. I used it for over a year. It worked well. This is the review.

b) It is cheap compared to other makes.

c) If any other vendor wants to send me a clew strap, a sail, 10 years supply of energy bars, two new boats.... whatever... I would be happy to review them.

d) Nice blog.

tillerman said...

Thanks carol anne. Actually I did stop by Gerald's blog a few days ago. Hope he has a good time with the sailing team and finds the time to blog about it. I see Pat also has written about Arizona sailing so I could always use him for New Mexico and Arizona.

Anonymous said...

In terms of fixing the velcro strap, how tight is "tight"? Tight enough that the lower edge of the sail sits neatly on the boom? Or tight enough that the cringle itself is nearly down onto the boom?

Tillerman said...

How tight is tight? How fast is fast? How high is high? This is getting very Zen.

Seriously. How should I know? I've already admitted I don't know why tight is goodness. And if you've read this blog at all you will know that I may well be the worst Laser sailor in the world who has been sailing the boat for 25 years and sails 100 days a year (perhaps).

But for the record, I always tie the strap as tight as I can. Much tighter than the one on the photo. So tight that the cringle is lying alongside the boom.

Then again. I could be wrong. It has been known.

Laser Runner said...

My mother told me never to say "cringle" in polite company. Maybe I'm confused again ......

tillerman said...

If you are looking for polite company, you are in the wrong place.

Polyphony said...

Now that I think of it, Tillerman, I did take instruction from you on my maiden Laser voyage to strap that baby down as tight as I could get it...and I complied, sans explanation. In light of your "leech tightness" confession, take some comfort in knowing that some readers take your word as gospel...for at least their first weeks of Laser sailing. :)

Tillerman said...

Polyphony, see also Andrew Campbell (USA Laser Olympic sailor) writing in Sailing World.

"The clew tie-down is all about keeping the clew as tight to the boom as possible, which keeps the leech tension tight. In the past you'd do this by wrapping a line several times around the boom, passing it through the grommet, and tying it. The problem was the wraps created friction and inhibited the outhaul from being eased quickly and easily. Reliability of the knot was also an issue, as was the type of line you used (stretchy line equals poor leech tension). The legalization of a Velcro strap (like a watchband) eliminated the need for tying knots at the clew and lessened the friction."

He's a far better sailor than me but I think my version of "tightness is goodness" was funnier, (and longer).

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