Laser Electronic Compass

Due to a change to the Laser class rules as of 1st January 2018, the use of an electronic compass is now legal. For years, sailors had debated whether or not to use an analog compass. For a long time, they were bulky and added too much weight to the boat and as such, a lot of top sailors chose not to use them. Then in the last few years, a large number of sailors began to use the Carbonparts Analog compass which reduced the weight penalty of using a compass significantly. Now, with the change of class rules, I see no reason for you not to use a compass on your boat.

I recently began using the Tacktick Micro Compass – one of only three types of compass currently allowed on the Laser, with a Carbonparts mount. I can say quite honestly that this is one of the few Laser upgrades which has significantly changed my sailing. Using an electronic compass has helped make strategic and tactical decisions as close to thoughtless as possible.

The Tacktick Micro is solar powered and comes in a triangle shape to allow easy viewing on both port and starboard tack. Also in-built in to the compass is a start watch feature however, I have found that I still prefer to use my regular start watch as it saves me from playing around with the compass too much. Further, the Micro has both a bearing (reading your actual heading) and a tactical mode which estimates the wind direction based on your bearing and pre-set tacking angle. Both of these modes can be used to help pick wind shifts, but I have found that I prefer using the compass in the tactical setting. This allows me to relate the changes in bearing/wind direction to the bearing of the course.

Whilst this compass isn’t specific to the Laser, when using the Carbonparts bracket, you can mount the compass anywhere on the deck using the 3M Dual-lock velcro included. Whilst some sailors have experimented with mounting the compass in front of the mast to promote vision outside the boat, I’ve found that this leaves the compass too vulnerable to booms and/or being washed overboard.

To conclude, allowing the use of electronic compasses on the Laser is a huge leap forward for the class. Nearly every other class uses electronic compasses, and now it is a no-brainer to use one in the Laser.

Zhik Clothing Chart

Zhik has a wide range of clothing options to suit your dinghy needs. I frequently get asked about which material is the best for certain conditions. At a glance, it seems that there are multiple options for the same conditions. This chart aims to help make your clothing choices easier.

In this chart, the items that were considered are the following.

Bottoms – Superwarm Skiff Suit/Robert Scheidt Hikers, Microfleece Skiff Suit/Robert Scheidt Hikers, Hybrid Suit

Tops – Superwarm Top, Orspan Top, Zskin Top, Hydrophobic Top, Spandex Top

For any other Zhik Gear not found our website, please contact us  for the best price on the market!



Zhik Robert Scheidt Hiker Review

In trying to stick with my goal of 1 post here per month, this is my slightly delayed February post. Another post for March can be expected later in the month!

For many years, Powerpads were the only hiking pad option available from world-leading sailing apparel brand Zhik. However, with the help of 9-time Laser World Champion Robert Scheidt, Zhik released the “Robert Scheidt Hiker” in late 2016. I was personally quite slow to adopt these hikers as I initially didn’t see the need for them, but having been using them for over six months now, my opinion has changed completely.

These hiking pants feature fixed 4 batten hiking pads with the option to add an additional foam layer for extra hiking height. They come in either a Microfleece model for warmer conditions, or a Superwarm model for when it gets colder. The pants are full length with shoulder straps to adjust the height of the suit. The placement of the pads seems to be pretty good, but this can be dependent on the proportions of your legs. As for the sizing of the wetsuit, I would recommend erring on the smaller side (especially for the Microfleece model) as the neoprene tends to stretch with age and water. For example, I know sailors who would suit an L on the Zhik size chart, but wear an S in this wetsuit.

Powerpads vs Robert Scheidt Hikers

Now that Zhik have two options for hiking pants on offer, which one is the best for you? Personally, I’ll be using the Robert Scheidt hikers from now on. However, the original Powerpads still have a place for those who enjoy the flexibility of them. Powerpads can be used with any combination of sailing shorts/wetsuit, whereas Robert Scheidt Hikers lock you in to one of two models. This can be a nuisance in extremely warm conditions when even a Microfleece wetsuit is too warm. However, the lower profile of the hiking pads and the fixed nature of them in the Robert Scheidt Hikers is more important than the flexibility, at least in my mind.

To wrap up, the new hiking pants offering from Zhik, the Robert Scheidt Hikers, are an eye-opening product well worth considering when looking for a new hiking solution.


Purchase your new Robert Scheidt Hikers from the sail27 online store

3 New Year’s Resolutions for Every Laser Sailor

With the advent of 2018, people around the world are setting goals for the new year. Here are a few that Laser sailors around the world can adopt to help improve their racing.

  1. Hike more!

You’ve probably all heard the saying ‘good boat speed makes you look like a tactical genius’. With that being said, the single, most effective way to improve your Laser sailing is to improve you boat speed. One of best methods to doing this is to improve your hiking fitness. If you’re able to hike harder, and for longer, I have no doubt that your upwind speed will improve.

I’ve heard from numerous Laser Olympic medalists that they try to ‘hike every day’ – this can be on the water or off the water. Whilst we don’t all get the opportunity to go sailing in full hiking conditions every day, we can still improve our hiking fitness by using a hiking bench when we’re not sailing.

If you haven’t got a hiking bench, I would recommend either purchasing one such as this model by Optiparts  – as seen in the video below featuring dual Olympic medalist Marit Bouwmeester – or, if you consider yourself to be a handyman/woman, making one like this from Improper Course.

So what do you do once you have a hiking bench?

Personally, I set mine up in front of my TV, turn on Netflix and try to complete the following workout recommended by Juan Maegli in this article by Sailing World.

“I’ll try to do sets of 45 seconds on, 15 seconds off–but in those 45 seconds I’m hiking 100% and max out. When I’m fit, I’ll do 40 of those”.

I’ve also heard of various other combinations such as 10 minutes of hiking as hard as you can for the whole period, or other doing weighted hiking. The best thing would be to start off and then experiment to see what works best for you. But remember, fitter = faster.

2. Sort out your control lines.

Whilst having easily adjustable, friction free control lines probably won’t improve your racing, having poorly set up control lines can definitely hinder your results. All too often I hear some of the following around boat parks “I couldn’t pull on enough cunningham upwind” or “my vang wouldn’t release properly”. A lot of sailors put time and money in to purchasing new sails, masts and foils, but often neglect one of the most frequently used parts of the boat; control lines.

A large part of setting up your boat comes down to personal preference, but there are a few things you can do regardless of your set up to make sure your control systems work properly;

  • Make sure that none of your lines cross over. Lines crossing over themselves or another control line is a guaranteed way to create friction.
  • Ensure that your blocks are running smoothly. If they aren’t, try spraying them with some lubricant in and around the sides of the block, but not where the rope runs through!
  • Set your systems up with enough purchase for your strength. The Laser Class rules allow a bit of freedom for the amount of purchase which can be used in the control lines. Make sure that you are able to pull on all control lines fully.

If you are unsure how to set up your control systems, or would like to upgrade, don’t hesitate to contact me and I’d be happy to assist you with tailoring your control lines to suit your needs.

3. Educate yourself!

The masters of any sport often consider themselves to be ‘students’ of their sport. There are a wide range of books on sailboat racing available, but here are some I personally have read and would highly recommend;

  • Laser specific – RYA Laser Handbook by Paul Goodison. Written by Olympic Gold Medalist Paul Goodison, this book is hard to beat when it comes to Laser specific boat handling, setup and more.                                                                                             
  • Tactics – Positioning – The Logic of Sailboat Racing by Stuart H. Walker. Walker has written numerous books on improving your race results of which all are ‘must-reads’ but in my opinion, “Positioning” is his magnum opus.                                 
  • Strategy – Wind Strategy by David Houghton and Fiona Campbell. Widely referenced in nearly any discussion on weather and how it affects boat races, this book is short, but in depth explanation on all you need to know to pick the best route on any race course.
  • Fitness – Sailing Fitness and Training by Michael Blackburn. Written by the legendary Laser sailor and coach, this book is what most would consider the ‘Bible’ of sailing fitness. I think I’ve personally read this book 5 times cover to cover and still learn something new every time.                                                                                              

For those of you more electronically inclined, there are also great resources online from websites such as Improper Course and Dream Big Sailing.

As for my New Year’s Resolution, I plan on posting a new article here every month, so stay tuned, and keep me accountable!

Thanks for reading,

Dan Self

Laser Carbon Mast: What Do We Know So Far?

Here it is, the world’s first review of the Laser Carbon Top Section written in conjunction with two-time Olympian Youssef Akrout of Dream Big Sailing.

Dream Big Sailing Academy just finished a training camp with professional Laser sailors where we focused on finding out the differences between the carbon and the aluminum masts (dynamically and statically).

Longevity, uniformity of quality, and no more bent upper masts!
– The average carbon mast weight is 2.4 kg- 2.42 kg.
– The aluminum mast weighs between 2.6 kg 3.2 kg.
– Lighter means less momentum and less power needed to flatten the boat.

More rigid:
Carbon fiber is used in industries where high strength and rigidity are required. Scientifically, for the same weight, the carbon offers about 28% more rigidity compared to the aluminum mast, but because of the lack of information about the right composition of the upper mast, the rigidity can be between 12% and 28%.

What we found out:
– The result of our two weeks training and comparing both masts, our sailors have agreed that the carbon masts make you accelerate faster (much less loss of energy when pumping to accelerate).
– The carbon mast gives a better shape to the sail, better trimming, and facilitates the air flow within the sail.
– Thanks to the carbon mast the sailors can feel that torquing the boat is more effective and helps you go faster.

Small problems with the masts:
A few problems have been noticed with the European carbon masts where the carbon around the bottom plug is breaking because of the existence of only one rivet instead of two, which makes the plug move and ends up damaging the carbon.

This is how the mast looks without the plug:

Calculating the static difference between both masts (same boat, same sail, same traveller settings, same outhaul settings, block to block…)

Youssef Akrout is a two-time Olympian, a physiotherapist, an athletic trainer, a sailing coach, and a founder of Dream Big Sailing, which provides multiple services for dinghy sailors as a sailing academy. 

For more information:

Laser Regatta Travel

One of the great things about the Laser is having the ability to fly to nearly any country around the world and race. In order to do this, a lot of the time you’ll have to charter a boat, which also means bringing a lot of your equipment with you.

With ever increasing restrictions on airline luggage, it can often be difficult to bring larger pieces of gear such as sails, tillers and extensions with you (not to mention trying to stay under the weight limit with all of your everyday essentials). Over the few years I’ve been travelling overseas to sail, I’ve trialled a whole heap of different methods of getting all of my gear on to the flight. I’ve tried packing my sailing equipment (ropes, sail, clothing) with my clothes and checking them in whilst bringing my tiller extension as carry-on (both unprotected and in a postal tube). I’ve also tried bringing most of my sailing gear (tiller extension included) as carry-on. After a few attempts, and some advice from some more experienced travelers, I finally settled on (what I think to be) the best solution; a longer bag (at least 1.2m) made for other sporting equipment (ie golf bag, snowboarding bag etc.). Personally, I use a 1.28m snowboard bag which I check in. This allows me to fit everything from my tiller and extension to clothing in the one bag, and spares me from pushing the boundaries of carry-on allowance.


The photo above shows my fully packed bag which I took to the Sailing World Cup in Miami. In this one bag, I’ve been able to include;

  • Tiller and extension
  • Folded MkII Sail
  • Lifejacket
  • Entire ropes kit for my boat (vang, outhaul, cunningham, mainsheet + various equipment and spares)
  • Zhik 360 boots and 60 boots and Zhik GripII Hiking Strap
  • Zhik Microfleece Skiff Suit, Superwarm Top, Hydrophobic Top, Titanium Top, Hybrid Shorts and 2 x Lycra Tops
  • Foam roller, exercise band, hockey ball and a few other bits and pieces used for recovery
  • On-water nutrition for the entire regatta (hydration tablets, energy bars and gels)
  • Clothes for four days, towel, toiletries etc.

All of this came to a total of 24.9kg. Despite being over my one-bag limit (allowed 2 x 23 kg), it got on the plane with no dramas (thanks Virgin Australia). With most other international airlines, this would’ve been well under weight restrictions. Be sure to check restrictions with your individual airline prior to leaving! I also could’ve easily lightened the load by bringing a larger carry-on bag – I only brought a backpack with me.

I paid roughly $200 for this bag a couple of years ago. It has definitely been a worthwhile investment, saving myself a lot of hassle having to deal with multiple pieces of luggage and/or equipment.

Laser Standard MkII Sail – One Year Later

With the MkII sail having been released a little over a year ago, the jury is still out over everything from useful life of the sail, to setting the sail up, and how to rig your boat whilst using the sail. I caught up with Australian Sailing Squad members Mitch Kennedy and Luke Elliott to get their thoughts on the sail after only recently converting.

Image result for Laser Mk2 sail

In November 2015, the International Laser Class Association announced the release of a new Standard sail – the ‘MkII’. Whilst it wasn’t used in the 2016 Olympics, it has been legal and used at a wide range of events since then, with Masters sailors being the first group to adopt it en masse. The purpose of releasing the sail was to try and provide a solution to the poor life of the original; often losing its shape after only a few regattas. This was remedied by producing the MkII with 50% heavier cloth – 4.5 oz Dacron vs 3 oz. To ensure no speed differences between the MkI and MkII, the MkII was designed with a bi-radial construction (panels radiating from the clew and head), with a 5-times bigger window.


Given the aim of creating a longer-lasting sail, the general consensus is that the MKII sail has a much better longevity than the MkI. Mitch Kennedy thought that ‘whilst elite sailors will be using new sails nearly every regatta, the MkII offers the club sailor a much longer lasting sail’.  The extra life the new sail offers also affects the ‘break-in’ period required to get the sail to its optimum performance, with some sailors saying up to two weeks of sailing is ideal (in comparison to two-three days with the MkI).


Due to the heavier cloth and reinforced Cunningham eye, boat parks around the world have seen sailors shifting from the traditional 6:1 system to 8:1 systems as mentioned in this article. Whilst a 8:1 system offers more purchase and precision, it is not without its downsides. Both Mitch and Luke have chosen to stick with the 6:1 system as they feel that the 8:1 leaves too much rope in the cockpit.


The top two blocks of the 8:1 system (linked to a single block at the base of the mast).

A change in sail construction also means a change in sail shape, and as a result, a change in how the boat is set up. Luke spoke about this great video from SportVid about the depth of the new sail, and the use of the Cunningham. As shown in the video, the MkII sail has a much more depth throughout the sail, with the deepest part being just above the window. This changes the setup of the sail, with outhaul having less effect on changing the depth. Both sailors agreed that the Cunningham and vang would the first port of call when trying to depower the new sail.
As soon as the MkII sail was released, many sailors felt that the new sail had slightly more power than the MkI as a result of the consistent depth throughout the sail. Both Mitch and Luke felt that this could shift the optimum weight a bit higher, and would help keep heavier sailors competitive.

With the Standard MkII having been available for just over a year, most sailors are starting to feel a lot more comfortable with the sail. There’s no question about the longer life of the sail. Despite the slightly higher price, there’s no doubt that investing in one of these sails will keep you competitive for longer.

Welcome to the Layline.

The Layline is a new blog covering all things Laser sailing – tips and tricks, class and regatta news, reviews, rants and more.

Upcoming topics to look forward to include; sailor’s views on the Australian Laser Nationals, clothing around the boat park, and some news on the MkII sail, to name a few.

Stay tuned for future posts.


(Not quite a Laser, I know).