Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Laser Starting 101

It's time for me to go back to school on big fleet starting Laser style 2010. Today was all about getting off the line in good position, or in my case, looking for a quick escape from bad starts. The right side of the starting line and the wind shifts both heavily favored the right side of the course all day today. This made the committee boat and windward end of the line overly crowded at every start. If you elected to move down the line to a less crowded area, you would end up outside the big "righty" and not rounding in the top group at the first mark.

In a jam-packed rail to rail start, the objective is to stay parked head to wind for the final minute. It is extremely difficult to do with any sort of wind or chop like we had today. The boat wants to sail backwards at a high rate of speed. The way to counter this is by legal sculling (only to bear off without the tiller crossing the center line of the boat), constant mainsheet trimming and vang to control the bow, and using your body to pressure the center board.

At the golden moment to bear off and accelerate, you must scull like hell (6-8 times) down to a close hauled course, give a few body pumps (just enough not to get flagged by the judges), and hope you did a better job then your mates around you. Sometimes you are so close to the other sailors that your tiller is hitting the windward boat while the guy to leeward is hitting your boat with his tiller. Sounds easy? Miss a beat and you are squirted out the back and left in the dust looking for a quick escape and clear air.

Photo credit - Walter Cooper and US Sailing

This generation of sailors have come up through the Optimist class where I'm sure they have perfected this start technique. It's gonna take me a little more time before I can make this technique automatic. Overall, once I got clear air and a clean lane I was in the bottom half of the fleet scrambling to make something positive happen. I had my moments and happy about my overall speed.

Check out results and pictures here.

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