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

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