Monday, May 18, 2009

Eleven Crazy Things You Can Do on a Laser

Those Laser sailors are an imaginative group. Over the years they have invented an amazing number of weird things you can do on a Laser. Some of them have practical value; some of them are good training drills; and some of them are just plain silly...

1. Stand in front of the mast facing backwards, hold the mast and rock it from side to side. Laser sailors soon discover that (lacking a paddle) this is the most effective way to propel the boat back home when the wind dies completely. When I attended a Laser seminar run by Gary Bodie in 1995 on Lake Cayuga he had us doing this maneuver as a drill. He claimed it helped light wind boat speed. Either that or he had run out of other things to teach us during a week-long clinic with practically no wind.

2. Tack the boat by running round the mast. Absolutely no practical value as far as I know other than to show off to your friends. And I guess it does avoid the risk of hitting your head on the boom.

3. Sail standing up.
Kurt Taulbee used this as a drill both years I attended his Sailfit clinic. He had us sailing upwind standing on the side deck. I guess it teaches balance. I have terrible balance in any sport involving standing up. That's why I sail: so I can sit down most of the time.

4. Sail standing up on one leg. One of my buddies did this last year as we were sailing out to the race course on Buzzard's Bay. I think he does yoga classes. Not sure what use it is other than to show off to people who can barely sail standing up on both legs.

5. Sail upwind with your eyes closed. A great drill for learning to use sound and feel instead of sight to keep the boat in the groove. Do not attempt by yourself in a major shipping channel.

6. Climb up the mast until the boat capsizes. This was a contest that the Laser sailors at my first club liked. Highest climb wins. No practical value except to cool off on a hot day.

7. Do a headstand on the foredeck. This was some kind of rite of initiation for full acceptance into the Laser fleet at my first club. Geeze, I can't even do a headstand on dry land.

8. Sail without a rudder. A classic training drill in two-sail dinghies. I never worked out how to do it in a Laser though I suspect somebody has.

9. Sail without touching the tiller. At this year's Sailfit clinic, Kurt had us doing this as a drill. You leave the rudder down but are not allowed to touch the tiller. For me this was somewhat easier than sailing without a rudder at all. The secret is to move your body weight way forward. I found it easier to sail upwind by holding the boom rather than using the mainsheet. One guy on the clinic said he couldn't tack the boat when sailing like this; I could barely stop the beast from tacking all the time. Go figure! I guess the drill teaches something about using boat trim to steer.

10. Maximum heel drill. Another one of Kurt Taulbee's favorites. Sail downwind heeling the boat to windward as far as you can. If you never capsize you're not really trying. Teaches you how far you can heel to windward without doing a death roll. There was one kid from the Clearwater youth team who joined us for the weekend of the clinic who could heel the boat to about 80 degrees from the vertical in a solid breeze and then not only recover from the death roll but also go straight into a gybe. Amazing!

11. Tack the boat by stepping through the gap between the sail and the boom. Another way to avoid hitting your head on the boom, I suppose, but it does look incredibly silly.

Thanks to Segling till 2Tusen12 for the two videos.

Anyone know any other crazy Laser tricks?


Litoralis said...

The best way to accomplish #8 is to combine it with #1 and steer by heeling the boat.

Another fun trick is to stand on the stern holding the mainsheet and pull the boat backwards until it is standing on its stern. Serves no practical purpose except checking the strength of your mast step.

Boating Rob said...

what bizarre things to do while sailing! but man that sounds like fun!

Anonymous said...

My favorite trick - sailing backwards upwind, tacking by putting the stern through the eye of the wind.

O Docker said...

Ah, good old number nine.

Before I took regular sailing lessons on keelboats, I got a family-style dinghy, read as much as I could about sailing, and headed out on the local lake to learn what I could. I'd read a lesson, then try it out.

What a revelation the day I learned you could actually steer just by heeling the boat! You really have to do it before you feel how much turning force is generated by the hull moving through the water assymetrically, and how much you're slowed if you try to correct it with the rudder. Many think weather helm comes completely from sail balance. But beyond a certain angle of heel on a lot of boats, it's more from the water pressing on the hull.

My Catalina 30 is famous for humongous weather helm when heeled. But it's amazing how many sailors refuse to believe the boat is actually faster in heavier air when reefed and sailing flat. OK, maybe it wasn't a Laser, but it WAS a dinghy that taught me that.

Jevans said...

I think my favorite has definitely got to be standing on the back quarter whilst reaching, I did it in about 40 knots once, almost pooped myself!

I'm going to try sailing backwards upwind when i go for a sail later, sounds cool.

Tillerman said...

Good luck with that sailing upwind backwards, Jon. Let us know how it goes.

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