Friday, August 31, 2007

Super-Heavy Weight Laser Class Association

Another email from a reader prompts another post. This time on the subject of heavyweight Laser sailors. Here's the email (with a few details changed or redacted to protect the anonymity of the writer).

Just happened on to your blog as a result of scanning the inter-net for information on Laser sailing. I too am a grandfather. (I'll turn 58 in February) I have been a member of XXX Yacht Club since 1976, but in recent years the thought of rigging my Thistle for even a casual sail causes me to cringe. I want to simplify my sailing and rely on me, myself and I while on the race course, without the hassle of finding and training crew to handle the Thistle.

Seeing your blog is encouraging to say the least. I asked one of our Club's Laser sailors if my 260lbs. would greatly lessen my chances of being competitive in a Laser. He smiled and said that perhaps I should begin a new category of Laser sailors and anoint myself the founding member of the "Super-Heavy Weight Laser Class Association".

Now being a person to never shy from a challenge, I immediately began to envision how sweet it would be to coax a nearly submerged Laser over the finish line well ahead of this granola eating twig of a human. I've raced sailboats long enough to know that there are optimum and minimum weight factors that greatly increase ones chances of winning in a competitive one-design class such as the Laser; and my weight would be on the heavy side for racing a Finn, but what's wrong with dreaming?

I will keep trying to find a stiff boat with the updated rigging in hopes of hitting the start line next sailing season. And I will continue to read your blog for inspiration and a truthful dose of reality. Keep up the good work...perhaps I'll see you on the water in the future.

A Super-Heavy Weight Class. What a great idea. It is true that in such a light boat as a Laser, the weight of the loose nut on the end of the tiller can have a major effect on boat performance. I have noticed it whenever I race against my son, who is a good few pounds heavier than me though perhaps not in the Super-Heavy Weight Class.

In moderate winds a sailor over 200 lbs seems to be at a real disadvantage. If nothing else the heavier you are, the harder it seems to be to get the boat planing.

But as soon as the wind pipes up over 20 knots the heavier guys have a definite advantage, at least upwind. Many a time this summer I have been straining every sinew, hiking flat out in a vain attempt to keep the boat flat, only to see my son disappearing fast upwind casually sitting on the side deck.

Surprisingly in super light air, the playing field is pretty level again. Either you know the technique to keep a Laser moving in a breath of wind or you don't. Either you can spot the tiniest of puffs and position your boat in front of them, or you can't. I seem to recall that some guy called Isaac had a law about acceleration being inversely related to mass, so I guess heavier sailors must take longer to reach maximum speed. But then there is all that momentum and they take longer to slow down too, so they can coast through the lulls better than the "granola eating twigs".

So should we have a special award at Laser regattas for the Fat Boy category? Just like we do for women and masters? I can see arguments both ways. More thoughts on this in a post coming soon at a blog near you.


JSW225 said...

For those of us who are that big, I think you just need to find another boat. I never had a problem with speed on the laser, however my size (tall and big) makes an inherently instable boat even more so. While I can sail it just as fast in most conditions (and oddly enough for such a big guy, faster in very light conditions), it's that sudden change that really hurts me. Like the wind backing off 2 knots or so, or a rogue wave. Just that tiny little difference that magnifies my righting moment's power.

JSW225 said...

Also, how many more awards are we going to give at any given regatta. Should we just not keep score, give everyone a trophy and call them all winners?

I never found intramural soccer trophies that satisfying...

Anonymous said...

I'm sure its not just me, but wasn't there an under 70kg class, and an over 90kg class at high level Laser events a few years back? At the moment I weigh around 100kg (220lb) and can appeciate exactly where you are coming from!

Just as a side issue, has anyone seen the new Rooster 8.1 rig? Fits straight onto a laser hull, just with a longer bottom section.

And NO, I dont have any affiliation with rooster!

Anonymous said...

Rooster 8.1:

(Also no connection with Rooster, but an 18-20 stone mate of mine has an 8.1 and he loves it!)

Anonymous said...

yep Rooster sail seems like the way foward

I do have an afiliation with rooster

EVK4 said...

It can be like have lightweights, welterweights, super smidgenweights, middleweights, light heavyweights, heavy lightweights. Honestly, it doesn't end up giving out trophies just for showing up, it ensures TRUE ONE DESIGN RACING which, I believe, is the goal of you dinghy sailors.

Imagine the pre-regatta weigh-in skirmishes at the Super Bantamweight Masters Laser Regatta, all the smack talking, the ear-biting.

People, it's sporting evolution, don't stand in its way.

Tillerman said...

I think you're on to something Edward. I always take solace from the fact that in every Laser regatta I always win the category for "sailor between 58 and 60, who was born in Europe, is over 190 but under 200lbs, has run a marathon in the last 12 months, and is the author of a blog." Unfortunately they rarely award trophies for that category.

SteerRollDash said...

Instead of a PY (Portsmouth Yardstick) handicap, howabout a FB (Fat Bastard)handicap!
I've often wondered how I would do against the twigs if they had the same weight in the cockpit as I have.

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