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Splashdown...basic question


New Member
Coming from cat sailing and still feeling my way around in a laser. Here's a basic question: When I'm fully hiked out (properly according to various guides found here) and get to the point where the boat is nice and flat, I constantly get smacked by waves. I don't mind getting wet (much) but it tends to slow the boat way down. This is in the ocean where there is wind chop and swells. Suggestions? Like...don't hike out as much? Don't keep the boat as flat?


New Member
Keep the boat flat and keep hiking but h for the waves that look like they could hit you so you need to move in and out kind of dodging the waves. Do it quickly so the boat stays flat.


There are two styles of hiking - true straight leg where there is no gap between the deck and the back of your knee and bent leg hiking where the knee is slightly bent and there is anywhere from a 1 to 3" gap between the deck and the back of the knee.

If you model it out using stick figures, you can see that straight leg hiking keeps your butt higher from the water then bent leg. So that's the first thing I would look at.

If you are already straight leg hiking, the next consideration would be a pair of hiking pants. They will lift the thigh (and therefore the butt) up from the edge of the deck approx .5" to 1" which can sometimes be just the difference from waves smacking to clearing.

It may also be a body type issue - if you have more junk in the trunk (like me) versus the skinny kid whose boardshorts fall while walking, your just going to have to accept the fact that the occasional wave is going to smack you.


New Member
Thanks for the advice. Will try these tips.

I also wonder if it could be partly the boat. She's a '78, sails great, doesn't leak, but the deck is soft all the way around. Real soft...like, everywhere. Bought the boat for very little so I don't mind, and the plan is to sail until she breaks.

Is it possible that with the flexiness of a basically deckless boat, it's bending in the middle and dropping my (normal-sized) butt into the water?

Yeah, that's what it is..the boat! Not me!


If it makes you feel better, yeah sure the boat is bending... ;)

The soft deck problems are in the cored area which is approx 1" out from the cockpit wall and the 1" in from the gunnel. So basically your body load is away from the core (edge of cockpit and the rail) is not subject to core failure. The rail is usually the strongest part of the whole boat, so if it's flexing there you have bigger problems than a dragging butt... :D

Good luck and have fun.
I think you're asking about getting the boat through the waves without losing your momentum, correct?

In that case, there's a tecnique (well, a couple) that's easy to describe but takes lots of practice to do correctly.
first, you should have the boat flat. it won't work if the boat is heeled over.
secondly, the hull should only weigh 130 lbs or so, which is lighter than you most likely. this means that what you do with your shoulders and torso affects the boat a lot. try to bring your torso back to lift the bow out of an oncoming wave, and lean forward to put the bow down the other side. You have to do it a lot sooner than it feels comfortable, you should be lifting the bow before it hits the wave and pushing it down just before you reach the crest due to the time delay in the boat's motion.
If the waves are steep and close together, you might also have to use some steering to get through them. try to steer the boat directly into the wave going up, but steer to one side or the other on the way down so the wave doesn't leave the bow hanging in the air.


I know the straight vs bent leg hiking argument has been thrashed to death here before, but I recently re-read a few old laser books. Steve Cockerill, former world champ from Rooster, recommends using straight legs to get that extra bit of bum-height, so allowing the boat to be that tiny bit flatter. Earlier this season I started using this style, and found that I was unable to make it work. I tried it for about 3 months. Then I read the olympic gold winner Ben Ainslie's book where he says that he doesnt believe in straight leg hiking, and always has the boat heeled to leeward slightly. I've now switched back to this style, and i've found a lot more speed and height!! When its breezy and lumpy (and it gets BIG here!) I can throw the boat around a lot more to get over waves too.

I guess the moral of that is: Do what feels best to you. there's more than one fast technique, its just a case of finding the one that suits you!

Ooh I almost forgot, my boat's also a '78, and the deck flexes about 1/2 an inch if i press it with my thumb! The actual hull sections dont seem to move at all tho, or I think I might be a little slower!


New Member
Yeah that actually makes sense to me...the not having the boat quite as flat part. Check out these photos (fotos, in this case). In the second one, the helmsman looks like he's 3 feet off the water and the form looks good.


I think this link is from someone on this forum. Nice shots! Must be a river-mouth given the color of the water?


Some hiking pants have extra thick battens/padding that lift the sailor a few inches higher than normal.

I think this is why a lot of people choose these for major regattas.


I've just looked at those pics and although I dont advocate keeping the boat dead flat, I think they've both got a bit too much heel! If you zoom in on the second pic, you can see that her tiller is a long way off centre, which makes for a lot of extra drag. Great hiking form tho! In the first pic, you can see how the corner of the boat is dragging in the water. Also he's fairly tired, drooping well below the gunwhale. Personally, I keep just a tiny bit flatter than the girl in the second pic, aiming to keep my tiller less than 3" off centre.
I agree with madyottie. I think the 3rd picture down from the top has the best form and heel.

The boat wants to be heeled slightly for a couple of reasons. Firstly, especially in light air, the laser hull will respond to "fourth mode" sailing (that description is from Bethwaite's book). if you sit forward and heel the boat to leeward, you can get a lot of wetted surface out of the water. This still holds true as the wind increases. Too much heel slows you down, and if the gunnel is in the water like in picture 1, it's still slow. Secondly, the rig wants to be held a little to leeward to keep flow attached on the sails.