Nearly everyone who’s sailed dinghies for a few years has some experience in the ILCA class. The ILCA is one of the best classes to hone your racing skills in, and improve as a sailor. There’s boats all over the world, and large fleets with plenty of great sailors. Here’s ten things you should know before diving in to ILCA sailing.
1 There’s lots of knowledgeable sailors who are willing to help you out
The ILCA sailing community consists of a wide range of sailors who are attracted to the one design nature of the class. Many of these sailors have been part of the class for years, and are more than willing to impart their knowledge with newcomers. Don’t be shy to reach out and ask for some advice.
2 The Laser can handle a variety of wind and wave conditions
ILCA dinghies have been built to be quite robust, and can withstand a wide range of conditions. You can get out on the water in as little as 2-3 knots, and depending on your skill level, as much as 35. As long as your equipment is in good condition, it should be able to handle such extremes.
3 The fastest way to sail the ILCA downwind is usually ‘by the lee’.
Unlike most boats which have ‘stayed rigs’, the rig of the ILCA is supported through the inbuilt ‘mast step’ in the hull. One interesting feature of sailing a boat with an ‘unstayed rig’, is that they usually prefer to sail downwind in a ‘by the lee’ position. This means that the wind flows from the clew end of the sail, towards the mast. Mastering this will help you sail your ILCA extremely fast downwind.
4 ILCA dinghies can start planing quite easily, and are great for surfing waves
The ILCA is designed with a very flat ‘stern’ which allows the boat to stay planing quite easily. Once you have built up enough speed, you can move your body weight towards the back of the boat, and the bow will begin to exit the water. This also makes the ILCA great for surfing, and I’ve enjoyed numerous sessions where I’ve surfed breaking waves alongside people on surfboards while entering the harbour.
5 You can transport your boat on top of your car
When originally created, the concept behind the ILCA was to create a boat which could easily be transported on top of a family car to be used by parents and children alike on holidays. This remains true to this day, and one of the best ways to transport your boat is on your car’s roof racks. You can read more about transporting your boat here.
6 Sailing an ILCA in windy conditions requires a lot of vang tension
Since the introduction of the turbo vang, ILCA sailors have been able to use more and more vang tension. Using the vang is one of the best ways to depower the boat in strong wind, and you will often find that you need to use more vang tension than you would expect.
7 Local events and training are often run through your district class association
The International Laser Class Association is made up of a wide network of continental, national and district class associations. In order to join ILCA, you usually need to become a member of your district association. They are responsible for running local regattas, organising training, and promoting ILCA sailing in your region. You can find a list of associations here.
8 There are over 200,000 ILCAs which have been produced, and the hull number is often a good indicator of age
When built, each ILCA receives a unique serial number, and sail number. The serial number will tell you exactly where and when your boat was built, but it’s harder to interpret. The sail number on the other hand, isn’t exactly accurate, but it does give you a good indication of the age of a boat, as sail numbers are handed out on a sequential basis. Current boats being sold have 220xxx sail numbers, meaning there are more than 220,000 ILCAs which have been produced. The years various sail numbers have been produced can be found here.
9 To change rig sizes, you only need a different bottom section and sail
One of the best things about the ILCA is that no matter your weight, there is probably a rig for you. The ILCA class features three main rig sizes – the standard, the Radial and the 4.7. Each one caters to a different weight range, and in order to switch, all you need is the relevant bottom mast section and sail. The boom, top mast section, running rigging and hull are compatible with all of the rigs.
10 Sailing an ILCA is a great workout
ILCA sailors are known as some of the fittest sailors in the boat park, and it’s for good reason. ILCA sailing serves as a great cardiovascular workout, and hiking is a great workout for your legs and core. If you don’t want to go the gym, just head out for an hour of windy ILCA sailing and you’ll be feeling it afterwards.
Bonus: The ILCA is a One Design Class
The ILCA is founded on a strict one design principle, meaning everyone is using the same equipment and competing on a level playing field. In order to succeed in the ILCA class, you’ll have to do it through being the best sailor, rather than buying the best equipment. All ILCA equipment is produced at highly regulated factories, with equipment from only a certain number of builders allowed at major events.
There you have it, eleven things to keep in mind before starting your journey in the ILCA class. If you’re already looking to jump in and purchase your first boat, I’d recommend taking a look at this guide for buying an ILCA.