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Pointing, tacking in strong wind

Hi,

This Saturday was my first experience of a strong wind in my laser.

The water was also pretty choppy.
When on a beat I could not point nor bear away using the rudder as the boat was heeling. The rudder would not move. I tried hiking out but the boat was still heeling. There were a few times when the mainsheet was ripped out of my hand.
The only thing that seem to work was to let the sail out......but this was a problem in tacking as I capsized due to the sail being out so far. I also had problems trying to sheet in due to the power of the wind and heeling.....

How do you guys handle such a situation.
 

jeffers

Active Member
Hi Softshuffle,

FGrom the sounds of it you were seriously overpowered. The setup I use in strong winds is:

1) Outhaul - Set so the sail is approximately the width of your clenched fist away from the boom.
2) Kicker - on lots, you should see the boom bending (if you are still overpowered try letting a bit off but never have any less than 'block to block')
3) Cunningham - Just keep pulling until your wallet screams then pull some more. If it is seriously windy I get the cunningham eye down to boom level. When you do this you will see the leech go floppy and the excess power just shoots our of top of the sail roughly where the top batten is.

What also helps is a good technique. The sail should be moving a lot with the gusts and the lulls. Try to keep your head out of the boat so you can see the gusts coming and be prepared for them. Move your body weight back down the boat slightly so you are in line with where you think the center of effort is in the sail (around level with the back edge of the window). You will find the load on the rudder will reduce significantly when you are in the right place. Also try raising the daggerboard a couple of inches as some people who are lighter finds this helps.

Finally and most importanly you have to get the boat flat. This means hiking hard (so fitness is vital) playing the sail and steering through the waves.

As for mainsheet loads a decent pair of gloves and perhaps a thicker mainsheet may help in the stronger stuff.

What may also be an option is to use a smaller rig in the stronger stuff so you are not fighting the boat all the time. I quite often beg or borrow a radial rig when it is howling purely to have some fun but to get out there in the stronger winds (we are talking F6+ for me as I am tall and realtively heavy) to practice the technique without exhausting myself.

The other thing is practice, practice practice. Get out as often as you can and just practice and be committed, a positive mental attitude helps.

Also in strong winds dont try to point as haigh as you would, I find that by going a few degrees off the wind the boat is easier to handle. You may travel a bit further but you also travel a lot faster.

This is just my experience and 2p, doubtless others will pipe up.
 

jeffers

Active Member
No problem, I am sure other will have words of wisdom. Get along to a class training day if you can. We had one at my local club recently. The coach was good and gave everyone food for thought. I am definitely sailing faster since it (well it feels like I am).
 

AlanD

Former ISAF Laser Measurer
Paul is pretty much on the mark. Dumping the sail early is the key, if the boat heals, you'll just go sideways.

Whilst tacking you need to be careful not to get stuck in irons. This means being very positive with your steering so that the boat passes through head to wind quickly and it also means avoiding hitting a wave part way through the tack that stops you at head to wind, timing is critical. Having boat speed helps getting into irons. If you get into irons, raise your centreboard and ease your vang, then steer out of irons.

In really strong winds (survival conditions), be careful with how much vang you carry, as it will cause the boat to point up more and will also permit the boom to dig into the water if the boat does get healed. You might need to ease the vang to remain in control of the boat.
 

Kratos

Member
Everything that has been said so far should have you on your way, but just to emphasize: You want your vang tight enough so that when you ease your sheet, the boom goes out, horizontally, as opposed to up.
 

Krycek

Member
I'm hesitant with bending my boom....but yes... tighten everything down and PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE!!!!
 
Somebody said it above, but I'll reiterate it because it is THE most important thing -- you have to keep the boat flat & the only real way I know to do this is to keep your head out of the boat, so you see the puffs coming and ease the sheet before they hit.

Once the puff hits its too late to ease the main and you are heeled up and then all kinds of bad things start happening that make it more difficult to get the boat flat again.

Now if I could only do this as well as I say it !!!
 

Kratos

Member
I'm hesitant with bending my boom....but yes... tighten everything down and PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE!!!!

I wouldn't worry so much about that. Booms are pretty resilient. I've been out in 30+ knots and I don't think my boom was any worse for wear.

Also, with everyone saying to keep your boat flat. In big breeze and big waves, it will be very hard, nearly impossible actually, to keep your boat perfectly flat, the same you would in 10-15 knots, no matter how hard you hike.

It may not even advantageous. Your body will be getting hit by waves, which it will anyways, but this will increase that.

Also, your boat tends to "cut" through the waves a little better when heeled ever so slightly. 10 degrees maybe.

As others have said, focus on hiking to the best of your ability, but maintain your awareness. This includes focusing on the wave pattern, as well as looking upwind for puffs/lulls and maybe spotting a flat section to tack in.

I forgot to mention for sail controls: You'll want your vang and your cunningham buckled down, but don't be tempted to strap your outhaul. you want to keep some of the power in the bottom of your sail to help you get the drive through the waves. You should be sheeting constantly.

You don't want to be pinching, but actually footing a touch. There's nothing worse than hitting a bad wave and getting stuck in irons. Also, if you're pinching, you're generally going slower than you should be, which will eventually (not if, but when) lead to you getting stuck in irons. If that does happen, pop your vang, or else you'll never get out.

I got pretty longwinded there, but I hope it helps some more.
 

AlanD

Former ISAF Laser Measurer
With respect to the strength of the booms, it's extremely rare that you'll find a boom break these days if they are fitted with the longer sleeve (900mm) adopted a decade ago. However boom breakages were common place when the sleeves were only 710mm long and located closer to the gooseneck plug.
When a boom breaks, you are left with a piece of metal piping wildly smashing around the place which can damage the boat and yourself.

From a safety aspect, it's worth determining the length of your sleeve by sticking a straightened coat hanger down through the plug. By bending the tip, you can feel where the sleeve ends are, mark these points on the coat hanger and then back calculate the length.
 

Merrily

Administrator
When a boom breaks, you are left with a piece of metal piping wildly smashing around the place which can damage the boat and yourself.

Rock-a-bye sailor, in your Laser,
When the wind blows your sailboat will rock,
When the boom breaks, the sailor will shriek,
That ends the sailing; he's surely freaked.

Rock-a-bye sailor, in your Laser,
When the wind blows your sailboat will rock,
When the boom breaks, the sailing will stall,
Cause he didn't duck and his head was mauled.

Rock-a-bye sailor, in your Laser,
When the wind blows your sailboat will rock,
When the boom breaks, it ruins your day,
You'll need a surgeon and a new face.

Rock-a-bye sailor, in your Laser,
When the wind blows your sailboat will rock,
When the boom breaks, you'll need some new gear,
A boomsleeve and transplant on the list, never fear.
 

glasky

Member
Hey softshuffle, what do you mean 'the tiller did not move'? Is the tiller so loose in the rudder head that it catches on the traveller cleat??
 
Re: bearing away in strong wind

I want to emphasize again the importance of easing the sheet when you want to bear away in strong wind. The rudder is too small to do the job on its own. But don't let the sheet go too far out -- less than a foot should do it.
 
Hey softshuffle, what do you mean 'the tiller did not move'? Is the tiller so loose in the rudder head that it catches on the traveller cleat??
No, it means because the boat is still heeling and not flat , the tiller felt like a piiec of concrete....
 
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