Thursday, March 06, 2014

Don't Bite the Sheet

The Laser has a very long mainsheet. There's a lot to pull in at leeward mark roundings etc.

Some rookies have trouble with this. They think they have one hand for the tiller and one for the sheet, and they can't work out how to pull in all that sheet with one hand. So they use their teeth.

Pull in a few feet of sheet. Put the sheet in your teeth. Move your sheet hand back to the block. Repeat and rinse. Don't forget to floss.

It's actually not that hard to use both hands to sheet in. You just need to figure how to hold your tiller extension and the sheet in the same hand. Once you've got the hang of it, it's very easy and very efficient to sheet in hand-over-hand using both hands.

That's the approved official bestest method that every coach teaches.

If you see someone with his sheet in his teeth you know he's a rookie.

Rule #3 in Laser Sailing: The Rules clearly states...

Guide the uninitiated.
Novices should be guided in the ways of Laser sailing.

Here is a guy who sheets with his teeth

It's OK to shout at him and tell him he's doing it all wrong.

Here's a video of the same guy…

What is a little weird is that you can see in the video that the sailor clearly also knows how to use his tiller hand and his sheet hand to sheet in.  The approved official bestest method that every coach teaches. But sometimes he uses his teeth instead of his tiller hand. And he keeps the sheet in his teeth most of the time he's sailing. Very strange.

Oh look. Just after 3:30 in the video he even attempts a tack while holding the sheet in his teeth. And promptly capsizes. Ha ha ha. What did I tell you?

And then at 4:05 he does another tack and uses his teeth to enable him to swap his sheet and tiller hands. There's also a way to do that without using your teeth. It's the approved official bestest method that every coach teaches.

At 6:30 he is sailing downwind and puts the sheet in his teeth again. And then he immediately death rolls!!!

Do you believe me now that holding the sheet in your teeth is not a good idea? Quite apart from all the yuk in the water that most of us sail in, not to mention the likelihood of expensive dentists's bills, it really isn't a very efficient way to sail.

Today I received my copy of the 2014 Laser Class handbook.

Here is a picture of the front cover.


My head is spinning.

That is Robert Scheidt, current Laser World Champion and without a doubt,the most successful Laser sailor of all time.

With the sheet in his teeth.

Can somebody please explain this to me.

Does Robert sail like that all the time?

Or is there some special reason he has the sheet in his teeth at this moment?

Do I have to relearn what little I thought I knew about Laser sailing technique?

Did I miss the memo? Is "two hands and your teeth" now the approved official bestest method for sheeting-in that every coach teaches?


Tweezerman said...

An old video. You can tell by all the bits of string and knots to make a multi-purchase vang before you could buy the hi-tech Harken or Holt all-in-one gizmoo. The fellow is a competent Laser sailor, he just chews on the mainsheet just like Jerry Tarkanian liked to chew on his towels when leading UNLV basketball; a nervous habit. His capsizes had nothing to do with the mainsheet in the mouth. The first was when the brain was saying "this is how you cross the Laser in a tack" and the feet weren't doing it, a classic "Feet done failed me".

Tillerman said...

You're probably right. But there's still something scary about holding the sheet in your teeth while tacking a Laser, or even sailing it downwind in a breeze.

So are you saying Robert's chewing of the sheet is a nervous habit too?

laserista torpe said...

There is also something else Robert Scheidt does, and every coach I know told me not to do. Robert uses clam cleat to change hands while tacking, as you will see at 1:14 in this video

Tillerman said...

Well spotted! It's just for a fraction of a second. And it probably is faster than the usual method. As long as you get it in the cleat securely and it doesn't pop out!

I was wondering if what he is doing in the photo from the handbook is making sure his sheet isn't tangled before a windward mark rounding? Maybe there's some way that using his teeth helps in that?

Unknown said...

I am a very old and slow Laser Sailor - I used to be younger and faster but still only won at local events and went to National events to learn how slow I really was:-

I always use the cleat upwind and tacking - it seem perverse to me not to!

Anonymous said...

Doesn't everyone do Scheidt tacks? I do, ever since I read about him using the cleat while crossing hands.

Years ago, the top guys in our club got us using a toggle on the end of a short length of rope attached to the very end of the tiller extension (they were shorter in those days too, pre-carbon fibre). To change hands you slid your hand up the extension until you got the toggle and as you turned to sit on the new side you passed that hand over your head. Swapping of tiller and sheet was then done easily in front of you. I got the toggle hitting me in the face and teeth a lot though. Sorry, reminiscing...

Teeth - yes, I use my teeth, but only when I'm sorting out a ball of mainsheet in the footwell while trying to stay upright in a blow. I've had a few comments that my teeth will get ripped out but I think I might have enough sense to let go before that happens as I assume it's preceeded by pain.

I've never had a sailing coach. Probably explains a lot.


Tim said...

I don't think you are comparing apples with apples by comparing the techniques used by a World class sailor like Robert Scheidt with a beginner, or relatively inexperienced sailor. I will admit to "very occasionally" using my teeth as an extra pair of hands. I'm 54, have been sailing since I was 11 and still have my original teeth. I've never experienced a situation where a rope/sheet has been snatched out of my teeth, but then I wouldn't use them to hold a sheet on something like a yacht, where the potential forces are significantly greater. I agree the chap in the video seems to have the sheet in his mouth too much, but he does appear to be chewing it like you would a comfort blanket. I can understand why a beginner would be told never to use their teeth as it's not a good habit and there are times when it is definitely something you shouldn't do, but they wont have the experience or knowledge to know when that is, so best they never do it. That way they will never get it wrong.

Tillerman said...

Good point Tim. As with many pursuits from writing to sports to music, there are "rules" for beginners and average performers but the real experts and geniuses know when it works to break those "rules". (And I don't mean Racing Rules. Just the way we teach the "right way" to do something.)

But I am intrigued to know why he is doing this. Some times you can improve your technique by watching how the experts do it.

Tillerman said...

And no Anonymous, not everyone does "Scheidt tacks." I don't. I hadn't read about it before. And only last year a coach was teaching me how to fix a fault with my hand swaps after tacks and he never mentioned the idea of cleating the sheet either. Does Robert do this in every tack? Does he do it when gybing too? I need to study some more video of him!

Doc Häagen-Dazs said...

This ancient, ex-Laser sailor recalls using rachet blocks on his mainsheet, until one locked up. They're probably not legal? Right?

Tillerman said...

Ratchet blocks are legal. In fact the boats are supplied with a mainsheet ratchet block.

And Rule 3 c iii says - The mainsheet block may be replaced by any type of single block with or without an internal or attached jamming device, and mounted in the position shown on the measurement diagram. The block may be supported by a spring, ball, plastic tube or tape.

I think "internal jamming device" means "ratchet."

Anonymous said...

I seem to remember reading that Scheidt always uses the cleats on tacks.

But Tillerman you ask if he does that on gybing (I don't know) and that got me thinking: What do I do when gybing? Again, I don't know!

In a blow, I'm way too aft to use the cleats, I think. Maybe I use my teeth. I should know, shouldn't I?!

Time to get my beloved Laser out of my friend's barn for the season and find out.


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