July 06, 2022

Great Report from a First-Time ILCA Master World Sailor

Al Sargent has written great report about the recent Puerto Vallarta ILCA Master Worlds. He’s sharing lessons learned, helping others improve in their Laser sailing, and encouraging others to attend regatta like this one. There’s a goldmine of info, here’s just part on starting and another on working with a digital compass:

Starts: I had good starts in 11 out of 13 races. What worked:

·    Using a compass. It was crucial to use a compass to find the favored end. Right after we had our 5-minute warning signal, I’d sail up to the committee boat’s flag, bear away to a beam reach, point at the pin end, and get the compass bearing. Since my vang was max eased and mainsheet luffing, I was pretty much motionless. I’d wait several seconds for the compass to settle down, get the bearing, then add 90 degrees to get the perpendicular heading. I’d sail down the line, get clear air, and take a wind shot. Again, vang off so you don’t get knocked in the head. So much more accurate and quicker than having to sail upwind on either tack and guess!

·    Practice starts. Once you've done a wind shot and have a hypothesis on where you’ll start, do a practice start at that end. This will inform your time/distance thinking as well as laylines to the pin or boat.

·    Agile strategy. I’d get one or two more wind shots, the last one around two minutes to the start, which gave me enough time to sprint to the favored side. This allowed me to make the right choice even if the wind direction shifted late in the starting sequence.

·    Not taking huge risks. I didn’t try to win a side if it was risky. For instance Adil Khalid (UAE) lined up so close to the pin boat that he could barely clear it without luffing head to wind and sculling. I was happy to start one up from him since, by the time we cleared the pin, he’d slowed so much that we were even.

·   Seizing opportunities. At the same time, if a side of the line was uncontested, I wouldn't hesitate to start there. In one race, eventual regatta winner Adonis Bougiouris (GRE) tried to win the committee boat (right side). Problem was, he was next to the committee boat at 45 seconds to go. Even with doing a downspeed backup maneuver (backing his boom), he still allowed enough of a gap for me and Adil to safely start to his right. See below.

Al second from left, winning the boat despite Adonis trying to close the door

·   Quick bailouts. When getting shot out the back at a start, I’d very quickly bear away and tack onto port and duck boats. Typically when I started my tack, there’d be several boats to duck. But since other boats were bailing onto port at the same time as me, I’d only end up ducking maybe three boats — much less painful.

·    Quick parks. If I ended up next to someone prone to backing up (i.e., Adonis), quickly pushing out the boom for a second to stop allowed me enough of a gap that his backups wouldn’t impact me.

·    Drive-by snakes. When sailing on port, oftentimes starboard tackers will bear away to keep you from taking their hole. In these cases, it’s best to casually sail by, uninterested, then when you’re off the leeward corner of their boat, in their blind spot (since they’re looking ahead and to leeward), tack and take their hole. Credit to my squadmate James Espey for teaching me this one. Doing this, you need to comply with the rules: approach so there’s a ~five-foot gap between you and the windward boat (so they can initially keep clear), and sail straight until your pivot point (daggerboard) is ahead of theirs. Then slowly luff so that you lock them to windward of you, again while providing them with ample opportunity to keep clear. It’s aggressive but rules compliant.

What didn’t work:

·    Down-speed weakness. In one start that was pin-favored, Adonis did a downspeed backup, which kept me from moving forward. Not able to match his move, I got shot out the back and had to do one of those bailouts.

·    Sloppy rigging. In another start, the tail of my outhaul tie-down line was in front of my timer on the mast. At 20 seconds to the start, I leaned forward to tuck it away. “No harm to fix this, we’re all luffing,” I thought to myself. Bad idea. The boat to windward sheeted in right as I did this. I sheeted in a second too late and got rolled.

What to do differently:

·    Get better at downspeed maneuvers on the start line: backups, double-tacks, and half tacks.

·    Ensure that your gear is 100% ready for the start. What can go wrong, will.


Not assimilating wind data. This one’s a more subtle mistake with a major lesson. In race 12, in the restart, I did a wind shoot and saw a wind heading of 260 degrees. After the start, halfway up the leg, I found myself on starboard between Adonis and Ernesto Rodriquez (USA) — good company, right? Our starboard tack heading was about 208, and we were well left of rhumbline.

What’s wrong with this picture? A 208 degree heading + 35 tacking angle implies a wind direction of 245 degrees. We were eating a 15-degree header and letting boats get to the right of us. As it turns out Peter Hurley (USA), who was behind us at the time, got right, and saw a starboard heading of 230, implying a wind direction of 265 degrees.

Rather than cruising into oblivion with Ernesto and Adonis, I should have tacked on that 208 heading.

June 15, 2022

Next ILCA Master Worlds - Thailand!!

by Doug


February in Thailand.  Mark your calendars.  The ILCA 6 Master Worlds will be from February 8-16 and the ILCA 7 Master Worlds will be from February 18-26. The NOR can be seen here. I checked the airfares from the US and they were a surprisingly affordable $1,100.  I interviewed Richard Vine about the event and  it looks like it will be great venue.

June 08, 2022

Warning to Traveling Laser Sailors

by Doug

On my return trip from the Master Worlds in Mexico, I had problems with the Puerto Vallarta airport security. They would not accept my tiller as carry-on luggage. By the time I got back to check it as luggage, they were no longer accepting luggage. The supervisor was blunt – my options were throwing it away or missing the flight.

I considered taking it to lost-and-found with the hope of having someone else pick it up for me, but then I saw Ernesto Rodriguez (USA) checking in for his flight to Miami. He would have had the same problem, so I asked if he would tape our two tillers together and check them as baggage so that he can ship mine to Dallas … thank you, Ernesto!

So be warned. Wonder if the ILCA can get some sort of pre-clearance with a travel document we could use that ensures that others do not have this problem in the future.

June 01, 2022

2022 ILCA 7 Master World Championships (Nuevo Vallarta, MEX)

by Doug

If you’ve ever wondered what is would be like to take a break from sailing for a few years and then have the chance to attend a Laser Master Worlds on short notice, this post is for you. Pam insisted that I attend superb Brett Beyer’s (AUS) downwind clinic at the ISA in 2018 but I never got the chance to use it… a busy schedule and then Covid got in the way. We knew it would be rough, but the LMW Worlds in 2016 at the same location was the best and missing this was not an option. Unfortunately, Pam was caring for a family member and could not attend.

[Note from Pam: When Doug said he wanted to attend this event, I said 'you shouldn't go because you are not ready.'  Doug said, 'I'm not ready so I can't not go.' I went to run an errand early this morning before heading to the airport later to pick up Doug and saw a man step out onto his front lawn to get the paper.  He was about Doug's age, if not a little younger, and he had this gadget that extends your reach by about 4 feet. Instead of bending down to pick up the paper, he used this gadget to retrieve it.  And then I realized something I don't say very often ... Doug was right.] 

Practice Day

It’s good to be back after a 4-year break from Worlds competition. The flight from Dallas was uneventful until we landed and they instructed everyone to put on their masks … many people were not happy with the Mexican rules.

I went for a sail on Monday and it was not too windy but the waves were the biggest I’ve sailed for many years. There were lots of sailors much better than me. My GGM fleet is small with only 17 sailors, but we have 3 former world champions and 4 runners up, so there will be some good competition.

The practice race was today and the wind was stronger, perhaps 15-20. This is no problem on a Dallas lake, but the waves here were the biggest I’ve sailed in for perhaps 10 years. I went left, tacked on a header, and rounded a close 4th with the two Brits leading. The run was awesome and, for me, a little scary with the waves. They’re not at right angles to the wind so everyone needs to sail by-the-lee on starboard. The speed down a wave takes the pressure off the sail which can lead to an accidental jibe that might not end well.

Most stopped sailing this practice race after the run and I was pleased to still be in 4th. This could be a very good finish for me in the Worlds.

Day 1: Plan for today - 12 races scheduled and we get 1 discard, so rule #1 is do not use my discard on the first day! The waves are, for me, big and it pays to be aggressive to catch them, but rule #2 is tipping is worse than missing 10 waves. So the plan for today is to sail hard upwind and hang on downwind.

Race 1: This picture is the start of the first race, I’m 3 from the right and the race winner is 6 from the right. There are several faster upwind than me and a shift at the top of the leg pushed me down to about 10th. We’re sailing the inner trapezoid course so the run was with some big waves. Using techniques from Brett Beyer’s downwind clinic from 4 years ago helped me pass 2 boats to round in 8th. Tried to hold off several on the next beat and it turns out that I did not pace myself because on the top reach I was knocked out of the boat by a wave with my feet still under the straps and did not have the strength to sit back up into the boat. The same thing happened at my last Worlds in Ireland, but this time I tipped and did not have the strength to get going quickly. Finished second to last.

Race 2: Still pretty gassed, started at the committee boat end and tacked to go right. The plan was to avoid the crowd because I had not recovered from the first race. About 1 minute into the race, I pulled hard on the tiller and it came out of the rudder. The problem is that the rope supplied with the rudders is really thin and was obviously too small for my tiller cleat. So having $1,000 of carbon in my hand and no steering meant (1) don’t let go and (2) don’t tip. After a repair tying off the rudder line, I was under way again about 2 minutes behind. With such a good fleet, the race was effectively over, so I didn’t work hard but was able to catch 2 boats.

 This would normally be an appalling first day but I earned it:

  • Wolfgang Gerz (GER) sails full-time and goes to all the major regattas and clinics. He won both races.
  • The leaders have spent much more time practicing than me so they’re faster.
  • I took Brett’s downwind clinic 4 years ago and this was the first time since that I’ve sailed in waves… definitely recommend the clinic if you get the chance.
  • Pam and I are both committed to getting back into sailing and we’ll be spending more time on the water.

In spite of this slow start, this is the best way to spend a vacation! Bonus would be having Pam here [Pam added that sentence].

Day 2: Talking with people before we hit the water:

  • Luke Elliot is one of the top Aussie sailors who was in the Gold Fleet in the open worlds last week and is on a support boat mentoring about 10 of us. I was telling him how my upwind speed in a breeze is not as good as it used to be and he suggested sailing with no vang. It seemed counter intuitive to be powered up when already overpowered, but it helps punch through the waves without footing.
  • Luke also said that when sailing upwind in Australia you tack before the pressure hits whereas here he suggests you tack in the pressure, not before.
  • I asked Brett Beyer if he was powering up on the runs by letting out his outhaul, and he said yes. I had not played my outhaul once yesterday.
  • I also talked with Wolfgang Gerz who won both races yesterday. His strategy is staying with the leading group and then gaining downwind.

So my new goal is to improve every day, which will not be difficult after my results yesterday.

Race 3: Started in 12 knots with no real waves but a lot of chop. I played the shifts and rounded about 10th. Catching waves was not really possible so the key was looking behind and staying in the pressure. Gained a few boats downwind and then lost them on the next beat to people who banged the left corner.

Without meaning to, I was with Wolfgang for much of the race and at one point on the second beat we were even so he lee-bowed me. Wolfgang finished just ahead in 5th to my 9th which summarized our differences – he sails with his head out of the boat to take advantage of every little opportunity, while I’m sailing with my head in the boat focusing on the compass and waves directly in front. This is an obvious area that needs improvement.

Race 4: Started with a building breeze with waves now big enough to occasionally surf. Wolfgang started just above me which was certainly not the plan. Having no vang helped me point and he tacked away. The compass and speed worked well enough to round in 5th. The run was good by using some of Brett’s downwind techniques, but I lost two on the next beat by missing the last shift before the mark, so now in 7th place. The top reach was for me a little hairy as this is where I was hit by a wave that knocked me out of the boat yesterday. Lost 2 boats on the reach and then 3 more on run by getting too far right trying to catch waves. Finished 12th.

So, upwind today was a little better than yesterday but downwind was not because I made some tactical mistakes. My average finish was a little better.

Team Texas - Chris Henkel and his wife Maria from Austin, Texas

Got a kick out of the window display of the Men's Boutique in the background of the first picture - it's long been said 'don't drink the water in Mexico unless you want to spend the vacation on the toilet' - appreciated the store owner's sense of humor)

Day 3: Results

Race 5: Started later in the day with lighter winds like we saw yesterday. I wanted to start at the pin and go left so the plan was to approach on port and then tack into a hole. But the entire fleet kept moving down the line there was no hole, so I ducked everyone and started on port tack at the committee boat … that was a first for me. Some of the locals made the comment that the waves have been really big this year and there was a chop even though the breeze was just 12k. My speed was un-impressive and the compass didn’t really help because for some reason we were tacking in less than 90 degrees, even in the waves. Rounded 10th. The rest of the race was uneventful and I finished 11th.

Race 6: The committee boat seemed favored so I started there and my group tacked to go right. Vann Wilson (USA) was beside me and he punched out with good speed, mine was not. Rounded 7th, the waves for me were hard to catch on the run where I lost 2 more boats. The next beat was shifty so you could be constantly up or down 3-4 positions. Rounded 10th, and Jeff Loosemore (AUS) rolled me on the top reach. On the second run the boats just in front went left in more pressure and really stretched out, so again finished 11th.

For the first half of the race Wolfgang Gerz (GER) was behind me. He sailed beautifully to round the last mark in 5th and then passed 2 more boats on the final short beat. It was very impressive.

GGMs Doug and Don Hahl sporting the 2016 US team shirts Pam designed

Day 4: Saturday is a rest day and we continue for 3 more days starting on Sunday.

Our hosts take Covid very seriously.  This lady's job is offering people hand sanitizing

Day 5: On the water before the start, I asked Luke Elliott (AUS), who raced last week and finished a very respectable 29th, to take a look at how I’m setting up my sail. He said it was too full at the top and suggested more cunningham and vang and a fuller foot. 

Races 7 and 8: Both races were similar … a good start in a good lane, not much speed upwind, rounded about 10th, played some very catchable waves, worked hard to hold my position on the next beat, and ran out of gas. Conditioning has been a problem and on the top reach of the second race, I lost my balance, again fell out of the boat, and was dragged in the water with my feet still under the straps. After a few seconds of trying to reach the grab rail, I got out of the boat and then back in again. I have not seen anyone else have this problem and I’m sure it’s from just being totally exhausted. Pam knew that I was not in shape for this event but missing 4 worlds was out of the question, so we knew it would be tough if it was windy.

An interesting comment: the Germans take special care of their equipment and both left their boats fully rigged overnight. I’ll have to ask them why.

At the 1994 Master Worlds a competitor from Taiwan drowned. Ever since then, the race management has had an ambulance on site during the racing. We appreciate that.

Day 6: Results

Races 9 and 10: Races 9 and 10 were a little different because the breeze did not pick up until the second race. I started the first race at the pin, went to what some called the favored left side, sailed on a knock coming back, and rounded 10th. Things remained the same until the final beat and I misjudged the finish line to finish 12th. The race was won by James Jacob (USA) who went right on the first beat and led for the entire race. He said that he had maximum vang upwind which surprised both Brett and me.

In the second race, I started near the committee boat. Tim Law (GBR) crossed me, so I tacked to watch him as he will comfortably win my GGM division. There was nothing unusual about his body movement or steering, just very smooth and fast. Tim apparently trains with the GBR Olympic hopefuls.

Sign beside our launching ramp that few have noticed

Day 7: Results

Races 11 and 12: The breeze was lighter all day. Started close to the committee boat and Richard Vine (THA), hit the line perfectly at full speed and he rolled me. Went right and had just terrible speed, something that has not been a problem for me in previous Worlds in lighter conditions. Downwind was a little better. Wolfgang had a bad first beat but managed to finish 4th, Tim won the race and the championship and is the new GGM world champion. There’s no secret to sailing a Laser, he was the best prepared and has been very fast all week.

James had led for most of the first race so I asked him to sail upwind with me for a few minutes. He’s sailing with lots of vang which is counterintuitive… but it worked as he won the final race in very impressive fashion.

The final race was again sailed in a lighter breeze. Started near the pin in better speed but realized that playing the shifts in choppy conditions is hard to do accurately with my old Silva compass, so this will be its last event. Passed a few boats on the final beat to finish 9th. Wolfgang again had a terrible first beat but sailed a superb race to finish 2nd. He too was at the Brett downwind clinic and his speed on those legs was very impressive.

So Tim easily won, Wolfgang finished second, and Peter Vessella (USA) was third with seven top-3 results. I got what I deserved – 13th pace – because Laser sailing gets a little tougher each year.

There’s lot more to cover as we’ll have updates from the fleet winners, what can be learned from the open guys last week, the Master Worlds next year in Thailand, and more, so stay tuned.

On the right, what world champions eat. On the left, screw it I'm hungry.

The breakfast crew with 2 world champions: Grand Master Brett Beyer (AUS) and Apprentice Andres Heredia (ARG). Thanks to Rod Barnes for insisting that Pam and I continue blogging.

2022 ILCA 7 Master Worlds - Practice Day

 by Pam

Practice Day and Opening Ceremony.  Doug's room is on the bottom floor and walking out his front door puts him about 6 feet from the boats.  The yacht club and launch ramp are just a few steps away.

They were under a postponement waiting for the breeze to come in. Doug decided to retreat to his room and take a nap and wait for the horn and the postponement flag going down. He thinks he is a light sleeper (he's not) and would hear the horn.  

Needless to say, he woke up and realized it was kind of quiet, stepped outside and all the boats were gone. So, he rushed to launch and said there was a strong breeze and he actually tipped in the harbor trying to get out. Next, he encountered 4 to 5 foot waves, not rollers but full on waves. He said more than once he had the thought 'I shouldn't be out here.'  I'm a little worried for him.

I was talking with him as he headed out to the Opening Ceremony and he had to immediately double back and get his mask. He said it's really impressive, everyone is wearing a mask. When checking in and waiting in line, they actually have people going through and telling people to back up for social distancing. Quite a change from the United States, especially Texas. I'm thankful for it.

Really wish I was there. Here is a video of one of the tigers at the hotel carrying around its newly acquired purse. I guess someone got too close?

May 29, 2022

We're Back??

    by Pam

Geesh, it's been so long since we blogged that it was a struggle just to log back into the account.  Doug is in Mexico getting ready to sail in the Laser ILCA 7 Master Worlds. I'm sitting this one out (supporting from home) and already regretting the decision. However, Doug's body will likely be in shock in a few days and he may be regretting the decision to go. We did not just stop blogging, we stopped sailing, and we got old, fat, and slow and we're finding that it's a long road back. The reason for the break is the usual: work/family obligations and a work/life imbalance. We've both been back on the water since the beginning of the year with Doug having to take a break for a couple of months to go care for a relative of mine in need. Each time we sail, we are shocked at how little it takes to completely wipe us out. Never stop sailing!! It's the beginning of the end and getting back to sailing shape when you are older is feeling like a monumental task.  

So, to catch up ... we skipped the Master Worlds in the Netherlands for a work/holiday trip to Switzerland. No regrets as we had some much needed down time. We planned to attend the Master Worlds in Australia and Doug went a week early and landed the day before the event was cancelled due to the pandemic. He spent more time in the air than on the ground for that one and flew back with a man coughing next to him the whole way.  Not fun but he did get to see some old friends.  After flying all the way to Australia only to have the Worlds cancelled, when the Spain Worlds were scheduled, then delayed, we betted on it ultimately being cancelled and Doug did not even register. So after three missed Worlds, even though Doug got diverted to Colorado and is not ready for Mexico, there was no way he was sitting this one out and was able to register late.  Game on!  

As to Covid, we are less concerned about it these days. We both got Covid sitting at home in our pajamas before vaccinations were available. A sewage leak necessitated workers in the house and despite being super careful, they brought us Covid. We both got vaccinated, then boosted and then Doug went to Colorado to take care of my relative and I went into the office for just one day for the first time since the pandemic began and got Covid again. Doug got boosted again before heading to Mexico. We feel like we're as protected as we can be and are not among those that get serious illness. It wasn't fun and is still scary to think what is now lurking in our bodies that might turn on us some day but it's the card we drew. 

Stay tuned for Doug's Worlds journaling.  He ran into a fellow in the lobby as he was checking in who had just sailed in the ILCA 7 Men's World Championship, who finished in the top 10, and asked how it went. I believe the word he used was that it was tough. Doug asked where the guys in front were making their gains, upwind or downwind, and he said both. Looks like doing well at this event will require fitness upwind and technique downwind. Not sure Doug is ranking very high in either of those categories so his report may be observations from the rear rather than tips from the middle or front.  But I'm sure he'll chat with those at the front and see what they might be willing to share.

March 13, 2019

How the Laser Rigs Work (and and can be improved)

By Julian Bethwaite

For calculating the Righting Movement and counter Righting Movement
99% of new design is from top down. I’m big (95kgs) and when being asked to design for 45-60kgs your first reaction is to scale down.
But I am also lucky in that we tried to do that, with Takao Otani San (PSJ owner) for the 29er and we learned that it did not work. The 29er is not a scaled down 49er, rather it is its own unique design and that’s possibly why 29ers are so much faster than the 49er at the extreme.
To appreciate the design, here are some of the terms we use when designing a rig:
  • CoE is the Centre of Effort, the point on the sail where all the forces are resolved.
  • CLR is the Centre of Lateral Resistance, the point (in the case of a skiff) in the centreboard where the forces are resolved.
  • Lead is when the CoE is in front of the CLR (causes lee helm).
  • Trail is when the CoE is behind the CLR (causes weather helm).
The Laser Rigs
So, when we started to get bogged down with the new C5 rig, Takao suggested that we forget about “Flame rigs” and go right back to first principals. We did an analysis on the Standard Laser Rig, the Radial Rig and the 4.7 Rig. We knew the 4.7 was great in a breeze which is why it has been so successful in Europe, but it’s poor in light air and with that in mind, we looked at hundreds of photos of Laser rigs and also of people sailing them. We also had lots of data from Olympic Gold Medalist Tom Burton from a program called SailEQ which is an analytical program under development.
We used the Standard Rig as a base line, and we determined that a well-sailed Laser was sailed at 6° heel, mostly to keep the skipper’s butt out of the water. We also determined that the Lead was about 130mm. In a boat sailed flat, this would lead to lee-helm but because a Laser is sailed at 6° this results in the well known weather-helm.
What we found with the 4.7 Rig was this Lead was upwards of 300mm so in lower winds with the skipper sitting upright and the boat is less than 6° heel, and without mainsheet tension pulling the CoE aft, you do get lee-helm and that has always felt awkward.
Laser’s have Leads because when the boat is heeled at 6° it wants to round up. A 49er has Trail because it’s sailed flat there is no round up.
The Rudder and Centerboard
The centerboard is designed to resist sideways movement while the rudder is designed to steer the boat. These are very different functions, so it's not smart to load the rudder up completely, but you are dragging it through the water and less than 5% of the time its steering, so you may as well make it do something.
Therefore we load it about half of the side pressure that you would on the centerboard. In a perfect world, you set up the boat to carry about 23-24kgs on the centerboard and about 2.5kgs on the rudder. So a gust hits, it automatically wants to “feather” to head up without putting an excessive load on the rudder (too much steering is like throwing a bucket over the transom, hence a “bucket curve”).
This is close to a Laser’s rudder. Above 2.2° the drag jumps, so the trick is to keep the rudder “in the bucket.”
In a breeze, the kids in Europe are good, they strap their sails down to the deck pulling the CoE aft, and they sail often at heels far greater than 6° that reduces the weather helm.
The next thing we found when we actually measured the area, a 4.7 is not 4.7m² it’s actually a little under 5.1m². In fact, we found all 3 Laser rigs are understated. It all depends on how you measure the area, and to be honest the area is just a number, what’s important is that you use the same system across the whole design spectrum.
Lessons from Other Rigs
Next bit gets interesting because we already knew that if you reduced weight aloft, as in going to a mast like a carbon rig, you have to increase sail area or you will skew the rig to lighter weights. With the 49er we tacked on 170mm of mast height and about 1.5m² onto the total mainsail area of 19m². But with the 49er we also wanted to increase crew weight from fabout 148-152kgs to 165kgs and to date, that’s exactly what’s happened.
We also had the Flame rig data and to a lesser extent information from the 29erC rig.
We knew we had to up the sail area, approx. 10%, so say 0.5m² was about the target, but we decided to hold that down to 0.4m² because the target market was smaller Asians and it also allowed us to reduce the mast height. So even though there was more area, the Arm (distance between CoE & CLR vertically) actually reduced.
To be honest, I don’t know where we ended up, because empirical testing always trumps theoretical but my guess is we are at 5.4 – 5.5m².
Fine Tuning
By this stage, we were committed to a square head at the top of the sail, but the big issue with a square head is how big should the length of the top batten be. If it’s too big/long then you have to use excessive downhaul tension to make it reactive. Too short, and it may as well be a pin-head rig and you lose all the advantages.
The big advantage of a square-head over a pin-head is the mast bend is only half! Long term, this leads to a near indefinite mast life. It also reduces problems with hoisting the main and having overly hooked leaches in light airs.
Ian MacDiarmid and I worked on this along with mast stiffness and position of the bend so that we could end up with reasonable downhaul tensions which allows us a wide range of crew weights and without excessive vang loads. We reduced foot lengths, but the big breakthrough was being able to “splice” (grind) the mast at deck level. This allowed us to drop the whole mast further aft, it allowed us to use a stiffer topmast, and it got the Lead down into the 120-130mm in all wind ranges. All this made the helm feel good.
Later, Takao made some unilateral decisions to reduce the “splice” to reduce the helm when sailed at 6° and Clive Watts (CST owner) was able to deliver us a “kinked” mast at deck level and that reduced weight and cost.
Late last year, Takao and I played with vang lengths which allows us control over lower mast camber. Sure, we threw away some booms that had become Swiss cheese and the lower mast of the now C8, it’s quite hard to believe it’s still standing but we had something really special.
The original C8 mast now has about 40 holes in it from various fitting configurations, what you are
seeing here is three versions ago. Quite amazing the mast is still standing.
In February, I happened to be in Longchi, China, working on the 29erC rigs and I watched two smallish Chinese girls struggling with a 4.7 rig. Everything Takao had talked about was there in front of my eyes. The precise Standard Laser Rig Lead is 136.83mm but would obviously be less than that with the main sheeted hard down. The precise 4.7 Rig Lead is 295.84, more than double. By splicing the mast and going to a square head, we got that back to about the same spot so the boat feels so much better.
We have the splice at 7.5° in this, we ended up less after Takao opted for less weather helm, we also ended up a bit bigger than this shows, with longer cord lengths. I need to re-do those measurements.

March 06, 2019

The New Laser Rigs Explained

The Laser class is now more than 50 years old and some are trying to cash in on the inevitable improvements that the class will take. The best candidates by far IMHO are the rigs being developed in Sydney under the leadership of Julian Bethwaite. I’ve know Julian for more than 45 years and we’re pleased to share the development process that will help keep the Lasers class relevant. The C-Rigs are the new family of rigs, and the process started with the C5 for people currently using the Laser Radial…

2016 drawing and turning point for understanding the 4.7 problem
By Julian Bethwaite
It’s been about 4 months since Eric Faust (ILCA Executive Secretary) showed the C5 video at Sarasota, which was then shown on Sailing Anarchy, Scuttlebutt and other social media platforms. Some suggested that I should not add facts to spoil a good conspiracy theory.
It’s time to just set the record straight so the conversation can be re-centred. C-Rigs, as they have become known, spun out of a far more comprehensive rig development project that Up Marine started in 2012. In chronological order:
  • Up Marine is a disruptive Hong Kong company that decided to use the Laser because of its vast success and its simplicity.
  • In 2014, Chris Caldecott (GM, PSA) learned about the project and asked if we could ‘screw’ the development to generate a new carbon rig for the Laser. MoU’s were generated and we altered focus a little. At the November ILCA conference, Chris showed photos and reported on the development.
  • In 2015, an International Patent was filed by Up Marine and has been subsequently granted as a unique and novel invention. The ILCA conference in October reviewed the larger C8 rig, liked it, and the focus changed from the C8 to the smaller C5 and the issues of the lighter Asians. At the time, 4.7 rig was hugely successful in Europe but not elsewhere. Hugh Leicester (VP ILCA), Chris Caldecott and I met in Sydney and the C5 progress was called exciting. The development process to date included 28 masts, and 4 sails, with testing by sailors that included Tom Burton, Gerard West, Brett Perry and many others. At this point, the project was nicknamed Flame Rig.

  • In 2016, Tracy Usher (ILCA President) flew to Sydney for one day to sail the C8. Subsequent meeting Tracy, Hugh, Chris and myself started to map out a process but at this stage, the Asian issue and the lack of traction of the 4.7 started to come to the fore. Mid-year, lead builder started to move from PSA to PSJ, mostly due to the physical stature of the principals. Chris is 95kgs, whereas Takao Otani San (PSJ owner) is significantly lighter.

    Takao and I had met in Montreal in 1978 under the watchful eye of the late and great Ian Bruce and we had become lifelong friends. Takao was pivotal in the 49er and 29er programs being a founding partner. The 29er just would not have happened without Takao, so there was considerable history between the two of us.

    By late 2016 a complete re-thinking of the smaller rig had started and we tested various breakthroughs, the biggest one was the spliced mast which allowed us to get the Centre of Effort in the right place WRT the CLR (centre of lateral resistance) which in turn leads to weather helm (or in this case lack of it) without ridiculous mast bend, which leads to longevity and ease of pulling the mainsail up.
  • In 2017, the C5 was being sailed at Sydney’s RSYS by their junior program and a continuous development program led to fitting development evolved at a rapid pace. There’s nothing quite like arms length testing. There were various meetings between Tracy, Eric, the late Jeff Martin, Takao and myself, mostly at World Sailing conferences.
  • In 2018, Takao tested the new C5 rig in Sydney in windy conditions. Takao had not seen the larger C8 so I sailed it. Videos were sent back to Tracy and the ILCA. In March, Up Marine and PSJ entered into a contractual arrangement for the C-Rigs. Midyear, Tracy and Eric traveled to Sydney to see the C5 and the “talking head clips” that you see in the video were done then.

    A C5 rig was flown to Japan for Takao to test in the local market. That lead to some subtle but significant modifications. There was also a meeting at the Sarasota World Sailing Conference between Takao, Tracy, Chris, Jeff, Eric and myself about introducing the C5. Late in the year, the ILCA/ALCA decided to test the C5 nationally in Australia. Ken Hurling (ALCA President, ILCA VP) fully supported the project.

    The C5 rig then went to Tasmania so Sarah Kenny (Chair of WS Events) to be sailed by as many kids as possible, and then more testing and refinements with the C6 by Takao, Ian MacDiarmid.
The last four months has been chaotic. We knew that if you are going to have a family of rigs, then you need to have plans for all of them. For example:
  • We decided that a rigs should be small enough to fly on commercial flights. The C5 and C6 are relatively easy but the larger C8 was more complicated because it involves three pieces.
  • CST owner Clive Watts has developed a new technique to “kink” the mandrel in the winding process, so it comes off the machine finished.
  • ILCA wanted the C5 rig with a full specification “suitable for the LCM" (Laser Construction Manual) so they engaged Clive Humphries (ILCS tech officer) to generate the whole spec. Clive traveled to China with Ian to oversee the whole sailmaking process, he also liaised with Clive Watts about the mast making process, and has a full set of drawings/3D files.
  • Two days ago, Chris, Ian, Clive Watts and I put every rig in a Laser and checked the whole process and then sent the C5, C6 and C8 rigs to Valencia, Italy as an insurance policy.
  • The plan is to produce 100 C5 rigs for Australia over the next 4 months and scatter them across the country with a few leaking into Asia and no doubt to other parts to test the whole process that we have gone through to ensure that these rigs are ready for the market. Specifics about how PSA will do this can be read at the ALCA Annual General Meeting.
Arms-length testing is critical, we have learnt that time and time again, nothing beats it. From my point of view, the C5 is near perfect as a final product.
Takao and I have sail the C6 but I have not seen a young 60kg girl or boy sail it. The C6 has been sailed extensively with glowing reports, but we need more testing to be sure. The plan is to make five C6 rigs for testing this year.
I’ve sailed the larger C8 in everything from 5 – 30 knots, have tried to break it, and have tested it capsizing. We’re not done with the “checked luggage” solution yet, but the rig looks good. Chris believes it’s “fit for purpose!” The plan is again to make five C8 rigs for testing this year.
The feedback from Ken, the analysis of the feedback coming from social media, particularly the interest coming from Asia in particular for the smaller C5 tell me that Tracy and the ILCA/ALCA have hit the nail right on the head. This has all been a clever, think outside the box, structured plan.
There will always be change, and change is always painful. But if done well, it will always leads to significant up-side. For example, the Radial rig and the Carbon rig on the 49er/FX both have led to significant growth in their respective classes. It will be a busy year.
Julian Bethwaite
Sydney, Australia

February 09, 2019

New Laser Carbon Rigs - and Update

By Doug
This year, the Laser is 50 years old. It's truly amazing how well Bruce Kirby's design and Ian Bruce's production techniques have stood the test of time. But change is inevitable and the Mark II sail was an attempt to extend the life of Bruce's original design.

This year we'll see the introduction of brand new carbon rigs that will extend the life of the class. There are several firms working on different designs, the following are by far the best we have seen. Watch this space for pricing and availability.

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