What am I doing wrong?

Thread starter #1
Last weekend I was in a multiclass regatta with an average wind of 12 knots but many waves and a total path of 6 miles.

In the longest leg (upwind) I just couldn't manage to get speed enough and I don't know why it was so difficult to me. To put an example, I was clearly overtaken by a vaurien (it took me like 4 or 5 minutes of advantage!).

I have the feeling that the wind was stronger than 12 knots during this leg (I could see many white horses) and after some time hiking and fighting with the waves I felt physically "broken". I guess I did many things wrong, but could anybody suggest which of the following should I try to improve first?

1) When being so tired: should I give more importance to a proper "wave-driving" than to hike and keep the boat flat? In the beginning I payed more attention to this, but in the end, I just begun "ignoring" the waves.

2) In these conditions, should I just cleat the main and head up when a gust is coming instead of trying to keep the boat flat without changing the direction?

3) or perhaps, should I have given more priority to depower the sail as much as possible? As a matter of fact, I had some problems with the outhaul and the vang and they weren't completely tight...

What could be the main factor explaining this really poor performance?

It's a bit discouraging because it was really hard for me hiking, while the guys in the vaurien were there just sitting and talking as in a picnic, you know? :(

In a second race, the wind came down to 8 knots and we had a standard and smaller windward-leeward field. Then things went much better and I ended third.

Thank's in advance for any suggestion.

--- Pedro
de powering your boat is usually most important along with keeping you boat flat. those are the things you should keep at the top of your list of things to do at a heavy wind regatta

Ross B

seeing as I don't know what a "vaurien" is, I can't really help you with that matter...

but in waves especially if you are overpowered you want to be depowered as much as possible for those conditions. Lots of vang is good, and NEVER cleat the main, with the vang cranked you vang sheet and the boom just goes in and out, and never up, pull you outhaul on, but not to much, you still need a bit off to have power in waves, and crank on the downhaul. It doesn't hurt to bear off a degree or two to gain a bit of speed, and just work the waves. When you get tired, as we all do, don't give importance to other areas, everything is equally important, you gotta hike hard and do your wave driving, the races aren't that long and it will be over soon enough and you can have your gatoraide and granola bar.
Big ask there, Pedro, without seeing video footage or knowing how experienced you are.

Possibly your outhaul was too tight - nothing kills upwind speed faster than overestimating the wind strength and over tightening, especially in waves.

Other than that, it sounds like more training required in those conditions so they don't intimidate you or make you doubt your skill. Your brain needs to be on your side too, or you can't make sound tactical decisions.

If you're really worn out physically, the least you can do is make sure you're sitting far enough forward, rather than lose speed by bashing around.

The biggest thing I hear out of your post is your mind game getting loose. If you were thinking like this, that may be all it is. Just a bad day perhaps, as you say, you did alright in the next race.

Ross B

I wouldn't go that far, your still a prat in my book, but thats not what we're here to talk about.

back on topic, which we shall stay on for the remainder of this thread.

cabalar can you tell us how you have your downhaul/ outhaul and vang adjusted for these conditions? 6 inches from the end of boom for the outhaul? or in the metric equivalent?

Ross B

can you read?

back on topic, which we shall stay on for the remainder of this thread.
and Olympic rep's don't get voted on, they earn the right to represent their country with pride and honour

so cabalar what more can you tell us?
Thread starter #12
The trimming was more or less like this:

- cunningham completely and strongly tighten

- outhaul: about 8 inches from the end of the boom. I couldn't tighten more cause I was using this thing
for the first time, and it just got clogged :-(

- vang: I can't tell exactly but had the feeling it wasn't tight enough. The boom seemed higher than usual when upwind. I'm planning to use one more block or bowline there to be able to tighten it more.

- the sail was luffing, especially in the top: windvanes were point up all the time. If I trimmed the sail more I just couldn't get flat (and I weight 200 pounds)

I guess that you are all right: all the factors influenced. For instance, when I began losing concentration, I experienced a lot of weather helm and the tiller was really hard.

One more thing I remember now: I had to tack many times just because I was very tired of keeping the same position for a long time. Each tack practically stopped the boat. The vaurien just made 1 tack.

--- Pedro

BTW: a vaurien looks like this

http://www.vaurien.es/web/?q=node/329&folder=2007 Copa Esp Cangas 2&page=4#

length: 13,38 feet
width: 4,8 feet
weight: 209 pounds
main: 60 sq.feet
jib: 27 sq. feet
spi: 96,8 sq. feet
Everyone emphasizes hiking and it is important no doubt. But you know your own level of fitness, and whatever strength you have needs to be budgeted on the course.

If you become so tired by hiking that you're no longer able to effectively trim the sails and steer the boat, you're not sailing effectively. If you doubt this, consider the following:

Who will get to the top mark first:

1. A sailor who's not hiking at all (sitting up straight) but trimming and steering the boat effectively for the wind and the waves or

2. A sailor hiking for all he's worth, but (because of fatigue) so focused only on his body and holding the hiking position, that he doesn't notice that he's sailing 5-10 degrees low, and who consistently gets knocked over (not capsized) in the puffs because of failure to ease the sheet?

I say sailor 1 will beat the hiking pants off of sailor 2. We all know they'll both be beaten by the fit-young-stud-sailor who can hike, drive, and trim well all at the same time. But the question is how to sail now, while presumably becoming more fit (which takes time.)
The vaurien is probablly a faster boat first of all. You should gauge your speed against other Lasers of course. If you weigh 200 lbs and have a hard time keeping the full rig down and getting tired I reccomend the gym. I was out of shape then started doing squats and hack sqauts and leg extensions and now I can out hike everyone in whatever wind conditions.
If theres alot of waves you need to make sure to have decent power in the boat and rather go low than high. If you go high or don't have enough power you'll pretty much stop every time you hit a bad wave.
Also try to look ahead and avoid bad waves and if you can't, ease the main abit and bear away so you get some extra power to get through the waves.
This is the order that I do things when I can not keep it flat.

1) Tighten Vang.
2) Tighten Cunningham
3) Tighten Outhaul
Do these over and over, little by little until they are all on as tight as you can get them. Once this is done:

1a) Play the main - let it out and let it luff.
1b) Head up into the wind as until you are no longer heeled over.

Doing 1a and 1b together will be difficult at first, but with practice you will be better able to get the right balance point. In a laser, heeling over is slow - ALWAYS.

The amount of hiking that you can do will dictate to what extent you need to do all of the above. the more hiking the better, but not at the cost of everything else.

Kind of late to answer, but I'll give it a shot?

I agree with your conclusion that it was a combination of a lot of things. If you have a long beat in any kind of moderate wind like that then you will need to depower a lot. However, you need to keep your outhaul kind of loose to get over those waves, although I don't really have any indication of how chppy it was.

In the chop it will help to keep steering up and down the waves, do not just ignore them because in a long race like that it means a lot more. If it's really windy and you just can't keep your boat flat then it will help to head up when you go up a wave and bear off when you go down, because your rudder will cause your transom to rise or sink into the water when you steer when your boat is at an angle. Use this control to keep your boat going up and down the waves smoothly.

Some time in the gym will help your stamina, but don't expect yourself to straightleg hike for 6 miles. Running helps hiking stregnth. Work on arm-stregnth too because you need to be using your rudder and sheet all the time. Don't cleat that stuff. Try that, good luck!
some other sail trim tips might help. i'm a little concerned that at your weight (200 lbs) that you needed super max cunningham. also, were your battens in the sail, it seems like a lot of extra "luffing"?
sounds like after you get the outhaul figured out and the vang running correctly, you will see marked improvement. make sure to check with diagrams on how to properly rig the outhaul and vang.
good luck.
Thread starter #20
Waw! almost everybody is sending me to the gym: do you get any kind of commission for that?

Ok, I recognize I'm just a weekend-sportsman. Probably some extra strength from the gym will help a lot.

Still, it seems that most of you didn't realize that the upwind course was very long: more than 1/2 hour. So, extra strength would have likely meant surrendering later. I think that Steven's (bjmoose) advice is quite wise: when fatigue appears (sooner for me, later for an athlete) it's very important to focus on trimming and correct sailing, and I didn't. You won't be first in the goal that way, but you won't destroy yourself against the wind and the waves either.

To sum up, reading all your comments I realize that the list of errors could be:

1- the vang should and could be much more tight. Probably this was the main trimming error. I read yesterday Tillman's book chapter on strong wind upwind and found a quote by Ed Baird saying that a tight vang is essential.

2- I think waves were not too choppy. Each 3 or 4 waves there was a big one that moved the whole boat. In the beginning I tried to drive these big ones, but as I said, in the end I ignored them... Probably this was the 2nd main error

3- The boat was probably heeling too much: as I said, I experienced a lot of weather helm.

4- Last but not least, I must increase my strength to stand hiking for more time. This will help me to get tired later so, at least, I won't need to do so many tacks.

As for the cunningham, it was very tight just because I thought it would be necessary. I didn't try to ease it and see what happened (battens were ok). On the other hand, I assume by your answers that the outhaul was not that bad after all (?) It was around 8 inches from the boom end (perhaps a bit loose) but many of you recommend to get some power for attacking the waves.

WRT the vaurien, I'm not sure: in lighter conditions I'm usually much faster with the laser. There were other 3 lasers, but they are school boats and 2 of them got damaged while the 3rd sailor just capsized, so I couldn't compare.

I'll try to improve these points in the next similar race and see what happens.

Thank's a lot to all of you!

--- Pedro.