Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Hiking Styles

In my continual (and usually futile) quest to improve my upwind speed in a Laser, I've been wondering if the reason I am so slow is something to do with my hiking style.

Hiking, for those not familiar with the term in this context, is what a dinghy sailor calls it when he hangs his bum over the side of the boat to stop it tipping over. 

Laser coaches are fond of shouting things like...

Hike harder

The harder you hike the faster you go

If it's not hurting you aren't hiking hard enough.

But I think the truth is a little more subtle than that. There is a lot of technique to hiking.  Do it wrong and you might injure yourself.

I came across these three pictures of different hiking styles in one of the many sailing books gathering dust on my bookshelf.

What do you think of the three styles?

What's good?

What's bad?

Which one would work best?


Anonymous said...

Second style, definitely (in my opinion).

A sailor is more "at one" with the boat using a tight strap, so body movements are more effectively transmitted to the boat. Adjustment of the strap for downwind sailing isn't as critical with it tighter. Also one's butt is higher, which allows the boat to be sailed flatter without the butt dragging in the water.

First style is definitely the worst. The rounded back places tremendous strain on muscles, discs and bones, which could lead to injury. Additionally, the rolled forward shoulders and compressed chest reduce breathing efficiency. Unfortunately, this is the most commonly seen hiking "technique" seen among casual racers.

Marc Jacobi

Unknown said...

Though I think the ultimate (read unattainable to mortals for more than 30 seconds) is the form of (2) with the strap loose to allow more extension.


Tillerman said...

Great points Marc. I think #2 is definitely better than #1 for the reasons you suggest - and maybe others.

Your last sentence is very true too. When I saw these pictures I realized that in most of the photos of me sailing upwind I look more like #1 than the others. And that's not good.

Tillerman said...

Probably right. And even more important for sailors who aren't very tall.

Tillerman said...

And I seem to remember a coach shouting at me years ago, "Open your chest!"

Anonymous said...

Buy and see "The boat whisperer - Upwind" (Steve Cockerill DVD). The movie starts with a guy struggling big time with waves and gusts. He hikes really hard, but with zero effect (hiking strap loose, body plank horizontal).
Long story short: Steve is a style #2 advocate.

Brian said...

Three thoughts...

1) Positions 2 & 3 illustrate something all of the coaches I've had yell at me... "Shoulders outside the hips!"
2) Position 2 may become inefficient if the sailor has the strap too tight. Fighting to straighten the legs, when the strap is so tight that this is nearly impossible can fatigue the leg muscles (especially the quads).
3) We all seem to focus on quad strength/endurance (see above). Yes, that helps, but my personal observation has been that engaging my glutes is the real key to effective hiking, whether I'm trying for a few seconds to be in position 2 or somewhere between 2 & 3 (tight strap but more upright upper body).

bonnie said...

2 just looks cooler.

Anonymous said...

As Marc already pointed out, style 2 is close to the one seen by the top guys in windier conditions. For instance, follow Slingsby and Kontides during the first upwind leg from the Olympic medal race (15-20 mph winds).

One can start at minute 16 or so, if one wants to skip to prelims:

I also love the tactical aspects of this race...


Anonymous said...

I agree with everyone that #2 will be the fastest. But realistically, I can't hold that pose for long. I probably spend more time as #3 because I can stay more comfortable and thereby do things like boat handling and tactics. However, I will do #2 at points where squeezing a little extra is worth it: off the startline, getting passed someone, whatever. If I do #2 all the way up the beat, I'm in danger of reverting to #1 on the next beat!


Keep Reaching said...

I agree 100%.

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