However... it always amazes me when readers of this blog ask me for sailing advice. Anyone who has read Proper Course for any time will know that I am a clumsy, uncoordinated sailor with bad technique who has found more ways to grab defeat from the jaws of victory than anyone else in the history of Laser sailing.
To be fair to Andrew, I did mention in Sailfit Revisited that, during the clinic in March with Kurt Taulbee, I had learned that I "need to change what I do with my feet when sailing downwind." So Andrew isn't really asking me where to put his feet. He is trying to find out where Kurt would tell him to put his feet. Fair enough.
So, leaving aside for a minute that I might quite possibly have misinterpreted what Kurt taught us, or remembered it incorrectly, or be unable to explain it properly, I will now do my best to tell Andrew where to put his feet when sailing downwind...
First of all let me explain how I sail a Laser downwind now (which apparently is wrong.) In any decent breeze I hook my back leg around the hiking strap (thigh over, calf under) and jamb my lower leg across the cockpit. I have my front knee on the windward side of the centerboard and my butt on the windward deck. So I am supported mainly on the knees and sides of both legs. In stronger winds I move my weight back in the cockpit but essentially maintain the same style of spreading my weight between both knees. Although I know now that this is not perfect style, in my defense let me say
- it feels stable
- I can shift weight side to side and front to back to balance the boat and in respond to changes in conditions (up to a point)
- when I gybe, my aft leg (front leg on new tack) is already under the strap and so I can hike hard on the new tack if necessary
- I've been doing it for years so it feels right.
Bur Kurt Taulbee taught that when sailing downwind in breeze you should keep your weight on your feet. His logic was that if you have your weight on the soles of your feet it is easier to balance the boat, to use boat trim to steer, and to be able to recover from the start of a death roll.
And to answer Andrew's question, where to put his feet when doing this... Kurt says he puts his back foot over the strap (but doesn't wrap his leg under the strap as I do) and then the front foot is on the windward side of the boat with the front knee pointing forwards. Or there is an alternative style (which Kurt called "goofy") where the front foot is on the leeward side of the boat.
At least that's what my notes say. As I said before it's entirely possible that I might have misinterpreted what Kurt told us, or that I can't read my own writing, or that I've confused myself and you in trying to explain it. Take it for what it's worth.
Disclaimer: I am not an expert Laser sailor. I am slightly deaf. My handwriting is awful. I get confused easily.
Anybody else want any sailing advice from a total duffer (me not Kurt) that may be totally wrong and/or impossible to understand?