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.