Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Top Five Questions From Brave Novice Laser Sailors

From time to time I receive emails from folk who are interested in taking up Laser sailing. Typically they stumble upon this blog and after reading a few posts develop the dangerous impression that when it comes to Laser sailing I know what I'm talking about. So they fire off an email to me with a few questions. This is fine with me. I love to talk about stuff even when I don't know what I am talking about. It's genetic. I caught it from my son.

Here's an inquiry I received a few weeks ago...
I have sailed a Laser exactly 5 days in 2008. I (and the mast) spent about equal parts above and below the water during this time. This is 5 days more than the previous 46 years, and approximately half the total amount of days I’ve spent in any kind of sailboat. So clearly the next step made sense: I acquired a used Laser about 3 weeks ago and hope to get it into Long Island Sound this weekend, although I’m still gear short – no wet suit and certainly no dry suit (and none of them fancy schmancy socks you write about).

Well, at least this guy learned from this blog how important socks are to Laser sailors. (Only joking.)

The email goes on with "the questions". I have started noticing a trend in "the questions". To wit, they're the same ones over and over. Again, I don't mind answering, but I really should share.

  1. Are there any good books, or other resources, about Laser sailing?

    Indeed there are. And a great place to start is to browse through the books and DVDs available at Laser Library on the International Laser Class website. The international office is based in the UK so all the prices on this list are in pounds sterling. But you don't have to buy them from ILCA. You can find most of these books at amazon.com, APS and other sources. (Hmmm, why does that link to an amazon.com search for 'laser sailing' display an Anne Cole Halter Mio with Laser-Cut Detail? Weird.)

    Anyway, my own brief comments on the list...

    Dick Tillman's book is a classic. Been around for a while but has been updated. A good choice for someone new to Lasering.

    Ainslie's book is excellent for racers, but perhaps the best all-round book on every aspect of Laser racing is the one edited by Ben Tan.

    The Goodison book is new and I haven't seen it yet, but ideas on Laser racing technique do change a bit from year to year so it may be worth taking a look at the newest book from one of the top Laser sailors in the world.

    And if you really want to learn the secrets of Laser technique, especially in heavy air, you have to see Steve Cockerill's Boat Whisperer DVD's.

  2. What should I wear for sailing?

    A good starting place could be to read the advice in Steve Cockerill's article on All Weather Clothing. Of course he is promoting his own Rooster Sailing gear but it gives you an idea of how you will use layers in different temperatures.

    To simplify, in warm weather you will need a rash-guard or similar top, hiking pants, and hiking boots. As it gets colder you will add more layers to keep warm, perhaps a spray top, a wetsuit, and in the coldest weather a dry-suit. Don't forget PFD (a.k.a. life jacket), hat and gloves... and of course socks (only joking.)

    But talk to other sailors in your area. See what they are wearing in different conditions. Some of those books above also give advice on clothing.

  3. How do I transport my boat?

    You basically have four options.

    • Upside down on a roof rack on top of your car.

    • Upside down on a trailer with suitable supports for the deck.

    • Right way up on a purpose-built Laser trailer that supports the hull under the gunwhales. Trailex and Kitty Hawk make excellent trailers of this type and I have used them both.

    • Right way up on a launching dolly on a trailer, so you can just slide the dolly off the trailer and you are ready to go. There is a Seitech set-up for this but many Laser sailors make their own slides and supports.

    Each method has pros and cons which are pretty obvious. (Or if they are not obvious to you fire me an email and I will write a post on Top Five Questions About Transporting a Laser.) Personally I have a Trailex trailer with a swivel front support which means I can unload the boat by myself. But I'm thinking of switching to option 4 which has the same advantage and is slightly more convenient to load and unload.

  4. Where can I sail?

    Almost anywhere with a suitable beach or a ramp to launch your boat into a puddle, pond, lake, river, bay, sound, sea or ocean. That's one of the beauties of a little boat like a Laser. You don't need a marina or a hoist. You can do it by yourself if that's your thing. If you don't know where there are launching sites in your area use The Google.

    But do check out your local Laser fleet and go sail with them too. To find them go to the Laser Class association website for your district or region. In North America go to the ILCA-NA website where there is a clickable map of Districts in North America which will lead you to information about fleets in your area. Or find out who is your district secretary and ask them.

  5. How do I find out about regattas near me?

    Same as above. Your local class website should have a schedule. Here, for example, is this year's regatta schedule for the New England district

Strangely enough nobody bothers to ask the question that my friend Edward, the brave oceanic sailor, often receives from folk who are curious about his brave oceanic sailing, "How do you go to the bathroom?" Maybe because I already answered it here.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Personally, I think the most complete Laser book is the one by Ben Tan. Very thorough!

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