heavy weight hiking


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Thread starter #1
Ok....so I'm around 220 lbs.and getting into an upper age bracket. I find unless there is consistent heavy air...like over 15 kts....the hiking out isn't required (just sitting on the high side with MILD hiking will do) and if the wind drops suddenly from 15 to 10kts....I'm rescuing myself from falling in the windward side, as the boat quickly will "right itself"...to the negative extreme!. Realizing it seems 160 is the ideal weight, I've obviously got that beat.
So... you guys packing some "rail meat"... how much are you actually hiking out and do you ever find yourself scrambling back towards the middle as the wind speeds change abruptly?

I watch all these videos with extreme hiking out and getting the butt wet....but if I go that far and I hit a wind lull....I'm taking a bath.
The rapid response "sit up" isn't is quick as it used to be.
I am about 200 lbs and race my Sunfish weekly. Back in the day, you needed to be about 165 lbs to be competitive, but with the current powerful North race sail and the newer daggerboard design, you can win at 200 lbs through a wide range of wind speed. Yes, if you do a full hike in puff/lull conditions, you need to be alert to a sudden lull, but that is just a matter of practice. At 200 lbs, you do need to power up the sail with an eased outhaul and gooseneck setting at 15" or less, and you need to sail very full on the wind and avoid pinching.
The modern Sunfish is more forgiving these days when it comes to skipper weight, but I would still rather be 170 lbs and 22 again (fat chance!).

Alan Glos
Cazenovi, NY


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22 ....ha!!! Put it this way...in about 1/2 yr I can start getting Medicare! I think practicing, sitting up quickly in a lull will just make me dizzy as well!
I am about 200lb/6'1" and have been thinking of getting rid of my hiking strap because I use it so little. In strong winds, sure I am hiking but not the full flat out hiking that I have had to do in previous boats. I am not sailing competitively, nor do I have the race sail, mind.


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Thread starter #7
I dont use my hiking strap much either. Just maybe one foot as it's more comfortable than the opposite cockpit side to hook under. Just really to " hold" me in the boat
I feel your pain Mixmkr, I am 185 lbs and 76 yrs. been sailing sunfish many yrs, never needed or used hiking strap. I also get "bathed" occasionally and most often on the windward side. Hope you get a chance to sail a large lake sometime. I sail the finger lakes in NY on occasion with steady winds and never capsize. At 220 lbs I bet you could handle 25 - 30kts
I'm 6'1" 190 pounds. On my lake we can get very gusty conditions (double the steady state conditions). Sometimes south winds at 10kts gusting to 15-22. Last year, I put on a hiking strap on conjuction with my rear inspection port and fat sack. I havent used the strap yet. Im long, and there just seems to be no need for the strap. In the big wind days, with my watershoes on, I can just hook my feet on the opposite cockpit lip and I am fully hiked out (butt hitting the white caps). So far, a hiking strap seems like it would be overkill for my routine environmental conditions.

As for the sit up problem - brother I feel your pain. The wind comes as quickly as it goes here. I spend a lot of my time trying to read the water and anticipating the wind trends. I will say that I have gotten a huge strength increase in my abdomen muscles. I sail a few times a week, and find myself having to adjust quickly; sitting up out of a hike, in order to keep from tipping once that big puff quickly disappears.

Once again, gents, I am far from a competative racer; but I love being on the water in my 1976, listening to the wind and my music, feeling the wind ebb and flow - trying always to sail her flat. Its a great workout for this middle-aged guy.

I offer no solutions to this problem, just empathy, old buddy. :)


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Ha ...thx all. More sailing time should help tone things up I reckon. I do have a wet suit to extend the fall season. Frost biting alone sounds like trouble.
Hey mix..
Over dinner, I was thinking...... in the really gusty days....instead of taking the bait and fully hiking out (knowing that the wind will die so quickly and we could end up in the drink, if you don't react quickly enough), instead of hiking out, maybe we could just spill the extra wind off the sail (releasing the sheet more during the puff). This should keep your weight more in the boat and less prone to capsizing to sudden wind gusts. You wont be able to go as fast, capitolizing on that short increase in wind speed, but at least you wont turtle! So instead of being fast with shifting of your weight, be fast with shifting the sheet!

Thoughts from our advanced guys? (and older guys who cant do 50 sit-ups any more?)

Warm regards,
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So I just got back from a sail. The steady winds were out of 190 degrees at 15 kts. The metar at KNFW (where the nearest weather station reports, showed no gusts today. WRONG!). I was at 15, gusting now and again to 20-ish kts. (Im a pilot and have spent most of my professional life judging and responding to the wind). That being said, during the two-hour sail today, I was thinking about your post and how I was, as I get older, going to keep myself sailing in my 6o's. I want to!

So today I tried a "no hiking" approach to sailing - practicing for a day in the future where I am no longer able to hike it out over the edge and then react quickly to the even quicker fading gust that I just hiked into. Todays sail showed me that one can totally sail in biger air if one is not trying to get anywhere in a hurry. Today I used a combination of sheet agility (easing and releasing the main sheet to depower it as necessary) and rudder agility (when the winds gusted to 20+kts, I would simply give up my line of travel and sail further up wind while the gust lasted). You sir, are no rookie to sailing, but many of us here are, so these easy learning points are more for them. As the gusts hit my sail I would sail upwind more and hike out way less. I would quickly return back to my original line of travel after the gust dissapeared. It was very easy and I was able to sail her relatively flat most of the day. For me, it took constant attention to the winds, but it was doable.

The downside to this technique was that I only planed out the sunfish once - in big winds! Which sucks! All day, I never went fast. It felt as if it took forever to get where I wanted to explore on the lake. Sailing up wind was slower and I took a longer beating than normal. Also, it was not as relaxing as normal - I was constantly scrutinizing the wind; preparing my course of action for the next gust. (Normally when a big puff comes, I can read the rougher water coming toward me, prepare to shift my weight, hike out as it hits the sail, hold this position as needed for 30 seconds to a minute, then sit up, hiking back in the boat when the gust is gone. This is easy now, at the tender age of 47 - but it wont be as easy at the ripe old age of 67.). So why not start using all my tools available now. The sheet - the rudder - my weight. (Im certain the advanced sailors here are yawning at this topic, as they learned these lessons years and years ago!). Maybe it will help some new lover of the sunfish who is older in age.

Strictly anecdotal evidence here, from a second year rookie, and frequent sailor. (so take it for whats thats worth :) - probably not much!). I was able to do it today. It wasnt as much fun as normal. It was more work. But its seems totally possible to sail her if you are unable, or just don't want to hike out.

Two cents from a rookie,
Whitecap :)


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Thread starter #14
Mr Cap...
Thx for the detailed replies. As a "rookie"....heading out in 15-20+ kts... I think you've graduated out of your "guppy" class. Some very good thoughts and I appreciate your taking the time to think about my post and responding. At 47, you're still a pup....so enjoy your "youth". ;-)
One last thing to consider....if you're brave enough...in the puffs you can also bear off and reduce the healing forces as well. Done incorrectly and of course over ya go! I know in keel boats in heavier winds and wanting to keep the boat healing less (for your white knuckle crew, guests or visitors...), sailing down wind is a much easier ride than beating upwind.
Only once on a plane that day, eh?? I understand... I like to keep my launch points downwind if possible, so I also spend a lot of time tacking upwind away from the ramp. Then the "RIDE" home!
Thx again.
Thats it! I love to be on a run headed home!
My launch point is almost ALWAYS an upwind tack - which can be a difficult start.
(My dock is on the North side of the lake, and the winds are generally from the South). Running and then dropping the sail and coasting into my slip, at the end of a day on the lake, gives me great satisfaction.

(Never sail toward your dock at a faster speed than you want to hit it! - ask me how I know! :))

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My return to the dock is a fast downwind leg 90% of the time. the trick is to lift the dagger-board to 1/2 height and carve an aggressive 25' diameter circle ending with the bow facing up-wind bumping the dock at 1 mph. You will not capsize with the board 1/2 up.


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Thread starter #17
My return to the dock is a fast downwind leg 90% of the time. the trick is to lift the dagger-board to 1/2 height and carve an aggressive 25' diameter circle ending with the bow facing up-wind bumping the dock at 1 mph. You will not capsize with the board 1/2 up.
I agree and usually try and do the same. You "skid" a bit more with the board up...especially when the wind is on the beam...but take that into consideration when circling....IF you need to pull the board up.


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Searching Google for "Miami Yacht crash", one of the larger images was that of Olympic Gold Medalist, Laser-sailor Anna Tunnicliffe "hiking out". :eek: 'Turns out, the Laser forum has links to a similar—but more family-friendly—photographs.

Naked Ambition

I'm no athlete, but athleticism definitely has a place in the sailing sports. :)