Monday, June 15, 2015

Back to the Laser

I have been neglecting her.

No, it's worse that that. Ever since I took delivery of my RS Aero, I have been totally ignoring her.

We have had so many good times together - and helped each other through a few bad times - for so many years and yet I just put her aside.

Yes it is true. Until Friday I hadn't sailed my Laser at all since that memorable day when my Laser and I crushed my friends in their Aeros on the last race of the day on May 17. Crushed!

Michael O'Brien from Seattle who has also been committing boat bigamy with a Laser and an RS Aero warned me. He said in a comment on A Tale of Two Boats
"When you switch back to the Laser after sailing the Aero for a while, you will feel like you are driving a truck. The momentum and weight difference is dramatic."
So I took my faithful but neglected old Laser over to Bristol last Friday to give here some attention and renew my relationship with her.

I wasn't sure what to expect.

But it felt good.

It felt familiar

It was fun, even exciting at times.

It wasn't like driving a truck at all.

A truck

Phew! I was seriously worried that sailing an RS Aero for a few weeks might have killed my passion for  Laser sailing. Far from it. In fact it felt so good to be back in the Laser, almost as if my time in the Aero had re-energized my enthusiasm for the Laser. I guess I really am going to be a two boat sailor.

The next thing I was interested to explore was an initial answer to the question I asked myself in A Tale of Two Boats - would sailing an Aero help develop sailing skills that would also make be a better Laser sailor.

Sailing upwind in 6-8 knots I did notice three things…

  1. I was much more sensitive to weather helm. I think I had got used to sailing the Laser with a heavy helm - because I wasn't sailing the boat flat enough - that I had grown to tolerate it. The Aero is very light on the tiller and now I was more sensitive to when the Laser had weather helm and was naturally trying to reduce it.

  2. I was much more active in the boat - moving my upper body in and out a lot to balance the boat. Whether this was because I had got used to doing this in an Aero or whether it was in response to the extra sensitivity when the helm felt too heavy, I don't know. A Laser coach once told me that I am not active enough in the boat; I tended to lock my body in one position and hope that would work all the time. Sailing the Aero seems to have cured me of this fault in a Laser.

  3. My tacks seemed a lot smoother and under control compared to how they were before in the Laser. I really don't know why, because I don't really feel I am doing good tacks in the Aero yet. Perhaps I am really comparing my current Laser tacks to my current Aero tacks, but I don't think so. Or perhaps in struggling to get my Aero tacks right I have somehow indirectly made my Laser tacks seem easier.
It's early days yet, and I wasn't comparing my boat speed to another boat. But it does seem that sailing the Aero may develop skills that will positively impact my Laser technique too.

On Sunday, I took my Laser out for a sail on Mount Hope Bay. I was expecting to be drifting around practicing my roll tacks, but almost as soon as I launched the wind picked up from under 5 mph to more like 17 gusting into the low 20s from the south-east.

So, I cranked down the cunningham and cranked on the vang and hiked as hard as I could and worked my way through the waves upwind for a couple of miles or more, towards Roger Williams University.

I have nothing positive to report at all about how sailing the RS Aero may have helped my upwind technique in a Laser in stronger winds. In fact quite the reverse. Either I am not hiking hard enough in the Aero, or maybe the Aero hiking position is so different from how you hike in a Laser, that it's no real help when you go back to the Laser. Whatever the reason those two upwind miles felt like damn hard work.

I have a vague recollection that after dinner I fell asleep on the living room floor. This morning my back feels like it always feels when I go back to Laser sailing after too many weeks off.  Sore.

Memo to self: the only way to keep fit enough to hike hard in a Laser is to do a lot of Laser sailing in heavier winds. Seriously.

But going back downwind, even though the wind had dropped a little, was pure pleasure.

I love my Laser

I love sailing on the bay.

I am a two boat sailor.


Michael O'Brien said...

So glad to hear you enjoyed driving the "truck". I'm off this weekend for Laser Masters PCCs in my pickup in heavy breeze. I'll pack the vitamin-i for sore legs.

Tillerman said...

LOL. Good luck. I hear they will be doing Aero demos at the Laser Masters PCCs. I will be interested to hear what interest there is from fellow Laser Masters sailors.

Unknown said...

It seems I may have made a mistake buying an Aero. All the insights I thought I would get into why RS made the design choices they made are coming out in Tillerman's blog. In the latest ah ha moment I more fully realize the importance of keeping the boat flat athwartships to enhance planing in high winds and the strain that puts on the skipper hiking out. This re-enforces the possible value of anti-heeling hydrofoils and the usual bottom contours on my proposed Kitthawk14 experimental dinghy.

Thanks, Tillerman!

Skippy said...

We had a laser sailor teach us how to run a Whisker pole on a Cal 20. The thought process is your weight in the boat and technique is like sailing a laser. It was interesting.
Our fleet runs Spinnakers so this was fun.

Tillerman said...

Jay - the important thing to do when sailing off the wind in planing conditions is to get your weight back, way back. The bow lifts out of the water and the boat takes off planing on the wide flat back part of the hull. Sure you need to keep the boat flat but it's not really a strain.

Michael O'Brien said...

I've been making the mistake of being too far forward too. In light air, you need to be quite far forward. But the boat gets unstable around 12 knots if you are too far forward. You are totally right, in planing conditions ... get back, strap in, and launch.

Unknown said...

So glad you're back in the Laser. That love affair with the Aero was really getting me down. Especially when all the post sailing discussion turned to the Aero this and that. The Aero is lighter, The Aero is prettier. Look at my lovely transom that spills the water so beautifully! I felt bereft but SOOOO HAPPY NOW! And yes you can still talk about the Aero but we want equal Laser time too.

Tillerman said...

Thanks for the confirmation Michael. It's one of the best things in the Aero, rounding the windward mark in an Aero in 20+knots and that moment when you move back in the boat and bear away and take off on a seemingly endless plane.

Apparently one of my Laser sailing friends doesn't seem to like it when I talk about how exciting the Aero is, and how light it is, and how sexy it is, and how the cockpit drains so beautifully and how cool the cupholder is… but it's hard to be modest when you are an Aero owner!

I tried to be kind to one of those poor Laser sailors with Aero envy today and invite her for an afternoon of Laser sailing with the other members of the Boston Aero fleet in one of my favorite spots in Rhode Island. But she turned me down because she wanted to think about blogging or paint her toenails or something. Bad decision! It was one of the best (Laser) sailing afternoons of the year. Such a blast! Stellar!

Oh well. If you won't sail with the Tillerman, stay out of the kitchen. Or something.

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