How to Rig Your Boat Like an Olympian

How to Rig Your Boat Like an Olympian

The guys and girls who get to sail for their country at the Olympics spend a lot of time sailing their Lasers. They also spend a heap of time optimising how they rig their boat, to make sure there’s nothing stopping them from performing at their best. 

Here’s a few insights on how the world’s best sailors set up their boats. 


Anyone who has sailed the Laser competitively knows you need to use a lot of vang to make the boat go fast. As such it’s also one of the most highly loaded points in the boat, and it’s not uncommon to see breakages in the vang key or at the mast tang. Here we see Tom Burton using his ‘custom’ vang set up, which is now commonplace throughout the Olympic circuit. Using a spliced dyneema loop, combined with an Allen high load shackle, Tom has been able to add a ‘spare’ vang key in case one were to break mid race. You also see him using a high load Allen block here, but most high load blocks should do the trick.

Here’s a close up look at how the system works. 

Similarly, Sam Meech has also added a high load block in the photo above. You may also notice that Sam has taken one of the purchases out of his vang secondary line. This makes the vang harder to pull on, but requires less pulling to get to the desired tension pre-start. Another upgrade Sam has made is to use a Harken T2 block for his secondary lines. 


You may also notice Tom using a ‘3 point’ cunningham system. With the ILCA 7 MkII sail requiring additional cunningham tension, many top sailors began adopting this system, which is a good balance between additional purchase, and not having too much rope in the cockpit. This can be constructed using 3 single blocks from nearly any brand. 

Another alternative is to have a double block near the cunningham eye, which is what Sam has done. You’ll also notice that both Tom and Sam have attached their bottom cunningham block around the mast, instead of at the vang body. This helps keep the cunningham system clear of the gooseneck, and removes load from the vang system. 


If you were to go through the entire Olympic Radial and Full Rig fleets, you would only need two hands two count the number of people not using the yellow ‘Rooster style’ mainsheet. Being slightly thinner than the blue version, it’s not so thing that it becomes unusable in heavier winds, and offers great feel in lighter air. This is a quick and easy upgrade which shouldn’t take too much getting used to. 

Even though the Laser is a one design class with little room to customize, it's always important to make sure your boat works like it's supposed to, and that your rigging doesn't stand between you and sailing your best. Hopefully some of these suggestions can make your boat that bit easier to sail.
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