Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Manly Men Sail Radials

On our first Tuesday at Minorca Sailing this year, as I have mentioned before, we were scheduled to go on a Sea Sail. Before we left the beach, our instructor warned us that Force 5 winds (17-21 knots) were expected and that, because it clearly wouldn't be practical to return to the shore to swap rigs if any of us found we were overpowered once we were out of the bay on the open sea, we should all consider sailing a smaller rig than usual. We all complied with his warning. I and most of the other full rig Laser sailors chose to sail with Radial rigs for the sea sail. And the sailors who had been using Radials went out with 4.7 rigs. (I think one sailor did opt to set out in a full rig but early in the trip he peeled off for some reason.)

I have written before about the pros and cons for me of using the Radial rig in such posts as Random Radial Ramblings in 2010 and Egotist or Masochist or Manly Man earlier this year. And uber-sail-blogger yarg wrote the classic post on this topic Why Manly Men Never Use a Radial Sail. As you may detect from my posts, the older I get the more I am warming up to the idea of buying a Radial rig to use on windier days. There was one very windy, gusty, shifty day at Lake Massapoag this year when I was definitely overpowered in a full rig Laser and some of my friends in Radials were regularly beating me. Hmmm!

I still wasn't all that enthusiastic about the Radial as we set out on our adventure on the Bay of Fornells. I'm a big guy. I'm a manly man. Surely I will be too heavy for a Radial, I thought.

But I got a big surprise. I estimate the wind was actually about 15-18 knots. We sailed out of the bay and then sailed a long port tack close-hauled leg across towards the next headland where the instructors set up a race course for us. We sailed three informal windward-leeward races before heading back in. I was surprised to find that even although I was probably the heaviest sailor there (or maybe because of it) I was usually faster upwind than all the lighter sailors in Radials and could hold my own with them downwind. Hmmm!

And then the trip back to the mouth of the bay was a long starboard tack broad reach riding wave after wave after wave. It was a blast! I was faster than all the other Radial sailors on this leg too (probably because Kurt Taulbee at SailFit explained to me how to sail a reach properly a few years ago and I discovered I had been doing it all wrong for 25 years.)

Sheer Lasering pleasure! I can't remember ever having more fun in a Laser than I had that morning.

Would I have had even more fun in a full rig? Probably not.

Would I have actually been overpowered and struggling to keep up in a full rig? Possibly.

Some dude (who is not me) having way too much fun sailing a Radial

Correction - thanks to Anonymous 9:44 AM, October 28, 2014
That's actually a dudette called Marit Bouwmeester
I need new glasses

OK - this one really is a dude - a manly man
Scott Leith of New Zealand sailing in the 2010 Laser Masters Worlds

It was the best day of the holiday so far and it gave me new respect for the Radial rig, and left me thinking I really should get one when I got home.

I think I had a very large beer for lunch (probably with a very large tuna roll too) and was very likely babbling away to anyone who would listen about what a great experience I had had in the morning.

Manly men sail Radials!


Anonymous said...

I think that dudette is Marit Bouwmeester

Anonymous said...


Tillerman said...

LOL Anonymous 9:44 AM, October 28, 2014. I think you are right. My eyesight is definitely getting worse.

Anonymous said...

Sailing out of Marblehead last Sunday I was the only radial out of about 12 sailors. The winds were blowing 15-18. I had no problem keeping up with the fleet up wind. Much better control. Especially rounding the mark and having to weave between the downed sailors who got knocked down when jibing. Although my thingie was smaller I was able to use it with a little finesse and edge my way up the pecking order. It was a good day for a radial.

Tillerman said...

That's good to hear Anonymous. It gives me confidence that if I use a Radial when frostbiting on very windy days I might actually do better than if I sailed a full rig (because I would be one of those "downed" sailors with a full rig.)

Keep Reaching said...

I have been having similar thoughts, especially after getting beaten up for several days at the Masters. Frankly, beating into waves with 20 knots is not a lot of fun in a Standard. On the other hand, at our club we rarely see winds above 15. After reading your post, I will definitely try a radial next time the wind is up - I have never even tried one.

Tillerman said...

I heard that a number of the full rig sailors at Hyeres had the same experience KR. I think I'm old enough now to realize that my manhood doesn't depend on the length of my thingie.

R1 said...

Sounds like the beginning of the Rule #5 re-write: "HTFU, unless its windy."

Seriously, I think you should go with the fleet. No point in being the only one in the Radial or Full rig. I just need to convince my fleet that Radials might be good - not that I've ever tried one.

Tillerman said...

There is a lot of sense in "going with the fleet." A lot of other other sailors in our fleet at Minorca were switching between Radials and full rigs a lot more than I was. But one afternoon in the racing, one of the sailors got frustrated because he had chosen a Radial and his main competitors had chosen full rigs. He wasn't any happier when I told him he might have won the race on handicap; he wanted to have the fun of racing on equal terms and getting involved in tactics etc.

Unknown said...

"Kurt Taulbee at SailFit explained to me how to sail a reach properly a few years ago and I discovered I had been doing it all wrong for 25 years."

Okay, give .... (please). I've been slow reaching and not sure why. All tips greatly appreciate.

Anonymous said...

I was the 1st to use a radial in my club and got a lot of ribbing about racing against the girls, now most of the guys have them. A radial feels lighter and more agile than a full rig on a windy day, go on try one, you know that you want to!
Laser 41420

Tillerman said...

Michael - what happens in Clearwater Beach stays in Clearwater Beach. But it's actually something very simple. Maybe I will blog about it one day. Watch this space ;-)

Steve - You are so right. The day I wrote about in this post finally convinced me.

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