How do you gauge your speed

Thread starter #1
Maybe this is rhetoric, but how do you gauge your speed? How do you know you are on the best tack and are trimmed ideally. Are there indications that other than trim just shy of leading edge luff? If you are sailing alone how do you know you are sailing the fastest that you possibly can? I watched the Lois Vuiton cup and I noticed those guys had some type of digital speed read out mounted on their mast. I suspect it was GPS linked or something of that nature. Since I am not about to put one on my boat I am wondering how everyone else does it.
Yes, those digital read-outs on the AC boats sure are nifty... and illegal in our class unfortunately =P. Umm it just takes practice I guess... I mean I'm no pro, so I'm not going to act like i know the answer to this question... but I'm sure it just takes practice... which is what keeps me wanting to get out on the water, I might have some kind of breakthough. This probably isn't the answer you wanted to hear.
Oh, and READ A LOT OF BOOKS. They're great tools and if you aren't sure what to do in a certain situation, laser sailing How-To's are great, and they're often written by some guys who know a lot more than a lot of us here do.


The only way to really gauge and fine tune your speed is to sail with one to a few other boats This can be during practice sessions (ideal) or during a race.

Solo practice is great for developing boat handling skills, endurance, and technique (as long as you are using good technique), but the speed diff between a well sailed Laser and a poorly sailed one is hard to pick up by yourself.


New Member
The only way to really gauge and fine tune your speed is to sail with one to a few other boats This can be during practice sessions (ideal) or during a race.
Not true. It's quite possible to just feel if the boat is acting better or worse.
I agree with mister 49208... i was going to say that you really just need to enter a regatta and try different things... you'll see quickly that since the last time you crossed someone they're now 5 boatlegnths behind you, you did something right... make notes to yourself, you can use a greasepen or something on the boat itself


Obviously I disagree with Josef. Perhaps we are looking at gross (you) vs fine (me) changes in speed.

I think most people, even those with lots of hours in the boat, would be hard pressed to feel the difference in speed that pulling any one the controls on or off one inch. Yet there is an effect.

I've run into very few people that can feel the difference in mast stiffness or tired sail vs new sail without having someone sailing next to them, yet they exist...

I'd also challenge anyone to figure out things like if pinching slightly in flat water results in a better VMG towards the windward mark vs a boat not pinching without the benefit of another boat to sail against..


New Member
Not to sound like I'm all that or something but I can feel the diffrence between very small changes.
This is probably due to me having been the only laser at my club for quite some time and that led to me practicing alone alot (every day during the summers pretty much, 2-3 times during the weekdays during the spring/autumn).

I hadn't really thought about why I would feel stuff that others don't before you made that post, but it kind of makes sense when I think about it. I know a bunch of sailers who are in similar situations like me and practice alot alone, and they seem to have a similar feel for the boatspeed.
Judgeing from that I figure it's something you can learn but I don't know if it's worth the time it takes learning =P

Edit: I can't feel the diffrence between switching from one mast to another, or one sail to another (assuming that we're talking about laser masts and laser sails). Cause well... it takes to long between the "tests".
What I can feel is diffrences if I make small changes during the sailing.
... digital speed read out mounted on their mast. I suspect it was GPS linked or something of that nature.
The mast read-out for speed can (and do) come from a number of sources. When I had larger boats never bothered with the GPS speed. The most useful are the standard log (which can be from an impeller on the hull or a ultrasound doper sensor - bother have different benefits and which is best depends on conditions and the water). Ultrasonic speed sensors tend to suffer inaccuracies when there are e.g. salinity variations (which are surprisingly common closer to the shore). Impeller sensors are a real pain in that they need such a lot of calibration. The hours I've spent running up and down measured miles at low/high water and still being a bit unsure of the final result !!

However, speed itself is not necessary useful. The (racing) systems tend to be fully integrated so you have a wind direction and compass so you can more usefully get VMG displayed. Often then useful to know not only what you are doing but what you should be doing so most such systems would have the boat's polar diagrams programmed-in and you you then display what you should be doing for the particular point of sailing (given the point of sailing and wind strength).

GPS speed is available but just so much more limited and tells you less.

etc., etc.


Ross B

after sailing alot, you can gauge whether your going slow or fast, it just has that feel, you'll get it soon enough

flat is fast
Thread starter #12
Trusting that "feeling" that you are going fast isnt evidence you are truly making the boat perform its best. If you sit in a chair and spin around with your eyes closed long enough your senses tell you that you arent spinning any longer. When you drive down the freeway without looking at the speedometer can your body tell you that you are driving 65? Would you trust that feeling under the highway patrols radar gun? Honest officer it only felt like I was going 65. Even sailing next to someone can only tell you that you are going faster than them. What physical indications do you use to tell you that this is the fastest that I can make this rig go and there aint any more?
When I go practice by myself I work on boat handling skills. Leeward mark roundings, windward mark roundings, luffing in place, getting up to speed from being stopped, tacks, gybes, long distance hiking upwind, sailing shifts. There is alot of things I can do by myself.

For boat speed, I find some good guys to boatspeed with. Specifically some guys who have won worlds events, nationals, or equivellent. If I boatspeed with someone who is slow I will not progress. I need faster guys to practice with to make me better. Another point to be made is that two brains are better than one.

I prefer to train with someone who is better than me.
lol. I have no such qualms about opening my opinion filled mouth. :D Who would I be scared of annoying? lol.

When I start asking whether I am going fast enough when training on my own, I need to consider whether i'm just having a bad day or have overtrained.

If I take a rest of a week and then go back to it, I get a different feeling. Feeling only goes so far. Rest is a training technique that has to be learned too. Everything is connected.

If you can maintain a control point of feeling, it's quite accurate, but if you are angry or worried etc, the control point unavoidably shifts. It's the same problem with any feeling base measure.

The most obvious speedo I have is the colour and shape of the wake. All things being equal, and with enough remembered versions of wake in waves, flat sea, planing etc you can get a near enough indication when you're on your own that isn't totally feeling based. Of course if I were to describe the finer details of my wake to you, it may not be accurate for you. Depending on your body weight and local conditions, and what you think you see, it will be different for all of us.

For me, major improvements in speed through practiced technique come like revelations. They feel like someone else has suddenly trimmed the sail properly and found the "sweetspot" of technique and trim. Everything feels different, and good different.

Like tripping over the "stone of enlightenment", its a happy accident and you "get it".

The sudden change is obvious. Normal training may be improving your speed by increments you cannot feel or notice accurately until a few months have passed.

It's possible Olympic standard sailors still have moments of increased speed like that, even if the speed increase, if measured by GPS, is actually very small. You'd have to ask them to be sure. Otherwise, how is it that someone can continue to win the worlds four years in a row? What have the other sailors been doing - they've been practicing and improving, the title holder is practicing and improving.... If there was a finish line for laser sailing technique and speed, then it would be the only human activity in the world that could not be improved on.
What physical indications do you use to tell you that this is the fastest that I can make this rig go and there aint any more?
You are never making the rig go the absolute fastest it can.

do you want to set records or do well racing against other people ?


Ross B

Saw, will you work with me?? Come on, I'm an Olympic campaigner, I just know when I'm going fast and in the groove, I know what it feels like when my wake is good and all that jazz lol :)
A "olympic campaigner" (whatever thats suposed to mean) dosn't really make you right on everything =P
Anyway, of course I do agree with what you're saying, also I understand why those who don't have the "feel" dosn't understand it.
It's just to complicated to explain.

Of course as someone stated, the feel isn't always there, sometimes if your in a bad mood or something and can't concentrate you won't get it and in conditions you're not used to you might not get it.
Also I do think that speedtraining is easier if you have other fast boats to compare with, but saying that the feel dosn't exist is just ignorant.
Thread starter #19
I understand the "feel" and being a pilot understand how the feeling can be deceptive and unreliable. What I am trying to establish is; if I am training alone and "feel" that I am in the groove when I am not, that I will be learning the wrong technique. So I am looking for indicators that tell me that I am either doing what I should be, or not.
I am not denying that you can get sensations that tell you what the boat is doing. I just want to correlate that with the proper indications.
Why is it the wrong technique? I find it quite usefull during racing too as I need to spend alot less time thinking about how to go fast and just focus on where the wind is coming from and tactical moves.
I find it incredibly usefull in REALLY light winds when it's really hard to "see" if you're going fast or not. I never really figured out how you would go really fast in really light airs without feeling the flow in the boat.