December 15, 2016

Very Last-Minute Christmas Ideas

By Doug
Great news - Brett Beyer will be giving a clinic at the International Sailing Academy in April. This is a rare chance to train with and learn from the best.

And this is my all-time favorite gift from Pam:
We use these whenever we talk about starts, shifts, or tactics. It's a great teaching tool and way to visualize different scenarios on the water. You can buy this from these suppliers.

December 11, 2016

Last-Minute Christmas Ideas

By Doug
One of the most experienced Laser coaches on the planet is Brett Beyer who sometimes offers online coaching. This would make a great gift.

For owners of a GoPro who would like to video their form on the water, check out Julian Soto's GoPro Mount.

For sailors tired of having their wind indicator hooked and then ripped off by someone's mainsheet, consider Ryan's C-Vane.
On January 1, the 2017- 2020 World Sailing Racing Rules go into affect. If this is for a youth, consider highlighting the section on Rule 42.

Update: click here if you just want to see the significant rule changes (thanks Cameron).

Of course the new Laser sail would make a great gift. They last longer and, as I found out at the last Master Words, they sometimes point higher. Available from your local dealer.

The new carbon top sections will be available in the next few months. We don't know how they'll perform but they're sure to please any Laser sailor. Again, check with your local dealer.

And finally, the ultimate gift is Pedro's foiling kit. We have a set and, yes, they're a blast. Above the water, it's so fast that the steering becomes really sensitive, so much of the control is with the mainsheet. It's a completely different experience!

December 09, 2016

Paul Elvstrøm 1928 - 2016

By Doug
We've have lost one of the greatest sailors of all time. Paul won four consecutive Olympic gold medals and pioneered many of the things that revolutionized our sport: hiking, automatic bailers, boom vangs, and cleats.

In 1966, I went to junior squadron at Pointe Claire Yacht Club in Montreal (home the home of the Laser) and the winner that year was given an Elvstrøm lifejacket. It was a pretty big deal.

Paul's FD crew was Hans Fogh who later opened up the Elvstrøm sail loft in Canada. Ian Bruce asked Hans to design the Laser sail which is why the Elvstrøm logo can be seen in early Laser pictures.

A recent post about winning and Rule 42 violations reminded me of my favorite Elvstrøm quote: "You haven't won the race if in winning the race you have lost the respect of your competitors."

For his contribution to our sport, Paul was named Danish Sportsman of the Century.

December 07, 2016

A Great Christmas Present

By Doug
If you're looking for a great Christmas present for your spouse, favorite teenager, best friend, or yourself, look no further than a clinic at the International Sailing Academy. Like everything in life, there's coach and there's first class. The this is first class. Here's an example of a starting drill:

I've been to many clinics over the years and trained at the ISA for the recent Master Worlds. Here's what you can expect:
·       Great sailing conditions in the open water with lots of different types of waves that make for great practice.
·       Excellent coaching with subtle tips that make a difference. For example, check out how to manage changes in pressure going upwind.
  • New boats from the 2016 Worlds, with all the spare parts you'll need.
  • All-inclusive room and board, with outstanding meals by chef Petra.
  • Helpful staff. I had to visit a doctor and Max took care of everything.
And being a tourist destination, there are lots of other things to try like the zip line that Pam and I enjoyed. The whole experience was first class and would make an excellent Christmas present for some lucky person.

December 02, 2016

November 07, 2016


by Pam
Doug and I split tacks this weekend with me being dropped off in Austin and Doug heading a little further south to compete in Wurstfest, the last regatta of the season. The common highlight of both of our weekends were two 17 year olds.

On my end, my brother's wife lost her battle with cancer a couple of weeks ago, leaving my him a single father of a 17 year old, whose world had suddenly changed. A reality check for me on how fleeting life can be and how important it is to enjoy every moment.
Doug, on the other hand, found himself sideways with a 17 year old, two parents and a coach, which ended a little like how our US presidential debates and campaigning have gone.

Now really, which story do you want to hear about? The correct answer is neither. Surely, we’ve all had enough reality TV type drama with the US presidential election.

However, in hearing about Doug's weekend, compared with my own, my perspective was one of trying to find the good in the situation and I was surprised at how much good there was to be found.

So, yeah, there was a junior in the full rig fleet with a Rule 42 protest against him by the District 15 Secretary and Doug was called in as a witness. The protest committee ruled something along the lines of even though he jibed repeatedly and he did indeed come out of the jibes faster than he went in, he still didn't actually gain through the activity therefore it wasn't a violation. The District Secretary doesn't agree and will be appealing the ruling. Before the protest when Doug went to speak informally to the coach … well … things turned south. The coach, the parents and the junior did not agree with Doug’s interpretation of Rule 42 and vice versa. It will be interesting to see how the appeal turns out. There’s more to the story but you get the picture. Drama!

Here's the deal. That little disagreement was a cluster and there is fault to be found on the part of all parties. Here you have a junior whose parents and coach have done a good job of developing a talented sailor who is now competing at a level where he is a contender on the full rig course. That is to be commended. On the flip side, you have a Laser district with a leader who is looking to develop a competitive district that adheres to certain standards where everyone feels they are competing fairly and respectfully. That too, is to be commended. As the two merge, the junior into the full rig fleet, there are bound to be some bumps. If either handles the bumps too abrasively, they run the risk of discouraging and losing a talented sailor and/or ticking off an entire fleet. Neither has a good outcome that is for the betterment of sailing and competition.

But, you see, this regatta, for that kid, was his graduation. He had arrived. He was accepted as being on the same level as the adults. Getting called out was a compliment that says he's no longer a junior on the course and he no longer gets a free pass on his behavior because he’s a junior. His coach and parents have taken him to this point and now it's time to let go and let that oddly nuanced fleet polishing experience take place. That transition where he learns to play nice with a different peer group and somehow emerges a more humbled, respectful, experienced and confident human being.

Several years ago, Doug and I were sailing in the Sunfish fleet against a very young and talented Stewart Draheim. A name that I'm sure will be around in sailing and well respected for many years to come. Stewart was aggressive, highly talented and kind of an ass to sail against. I intensely disliked sailing anywhere near him. At one regatta, Doug finally had enough and decided to engage him. Doug spoke to Stewart’s mom and she gave him the green light. She knew that Stewart had to earn the respect of his peers and she seemed to recognize that even though he was pretty dang young at the time, he was essentially being invited to graduate from junior status and into a different peer group. The Stu that emerged in the next year was a sailor I respect, admire, trust and enjoy sailing against. He was always a good sailor and a good kid but the contrast from the boy he was then to the man he is now, is night and day. A coach and parents can provide the tools and opportunities but they really can't teach a kid that transition. It seems to happen on the race course and I couldn't even tell you how. It hasn't happened to me. I must not be good enough or tolerant enough to be "polished." I would, however, advise that if a young sailor has reached that level and is being invited to graduate, jump in with both feet and let the fleet do their thing and find the diamond within.

Once upon a time, I blogged about
A Father’s Gift of Sailing. The transition I’ve seen several times still puzzles me as to how it happens but maybe what happened this weekend with Doug is how it begins.

October 30, 2016

2016 European Masters

By Doug
Here's a quick update from Roberto who completed in the European Laser Masters this week. It was held in Hvar Croatia (not far from where next year's Master Worlds will be held in Split). The results can be seen here.

We had the well-known northeast wind called 'bora' blowing at 20-25 knots with a lot of shifty gusts. Jose Lius Doreste won in the overall and the GM fleet (actually the first 3 in overall are GMs) while Peter Seidenberg did very well with a 4 and 5 in the radial fleet.

Too bad they didn't have this sign for swimmers at the Rio Olympics.

September 26, 2016

Laser Sailing Update from Down Under

By Doug
Here's an article just published by the Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron which is just opposite the Opera House on Sydney harbor. At the recent Master Worlds, Pam's vantage point for taking pictures on the finish line was good because we got close-ups of how people sailed. Another good shot is this one of Brett finishing - with the way he punches out, I wonder how many people have actually seen how he sails (who knew his outhaul was so tight?) We're looking forward to more good pictures at the next Master Worlds in Split Croatia.

August 31, 2016

International Sailing Academy - More Less Hiking

By Doug
The ISA has another great article about conserving energy when hiking. There are some subtle ideas, like the one about using the cunningham to fine-tune weather helm. It makes sense, but I've never thought of it that way.

August 17, 2016

Kirby v. Laser Performance, et al.

by Pam
And we finally have a decision on the pending lawsuit ...

(of a 14 page Order from the Judge)
For the foregoing reasons, the motion for summary judgment by LPE and QMI (Doc. #186) and the motion for summary judgment by ILCA (Doc. #183) are GRANTED in light of my conclusion that plaintiffs Bruce Kirby and Bruce Kirby, Inc., have no standing to maintain their claims. The motion to dismiss by ILCA (Doc. #174) is DENIED as moot in light of the granting of its motion for summary judgment. The motion for summary judgment by counterclaim defendants Bruce Kirby and Bruce Kirby, Inc. (Doc. #180) as to several of the counterclaims asserted by counterclaim plaintiffs LPE and QMI is GRANTED in part (as to Counterclaims III and IV) and DENIED in part (as to Counterclaims V through IX). The motion for summary judgment by counterclaim defendant GSL (Doc. #184) against LPE and QMI is GRANTED in part (as to the claim of overpaid royalties for the Laser Radial and Laser 4.7) and DENIED in part (as to the claim of overpaid royalties for packaging).

But what does that mean ... basically, it appears the court is recognizing the sale of Bruce Kirby's intellectual property rights to Global Sailing and not recognizing the return of those rights to Bruce.  So, really it's just a passing of the torch (pun intended) to Global Sailing.  Global Sailing can now bring suit against Laser Performance and begin another 3 years of limbo for the Laser class. 

July 22, 2016

NS-14 Photo Contest

By Doug
I've used this picture on a few posts and would like to add a little more about its story.

It's from way back in 1971 when I jumped into a small runabout and took pictures of Frank Bethwaite sailing with Julian at Northbridge Sailing Club. Most sailing pictures are boring because they're taken too far away, so my goal was to get some close-up shots.

The NS-14 (which stands for Northbridge Senior) is an amazing "development class" because, as you can see in the picture, they're planing upwind with no trapeze and the boat has just 100 square feet of sail. In fact, its DNA can be found in many other classes including Julian's 49er.

Frank commented at the time that the pictures were the best he had seen for NS-14s and he later used this picture on page 254 of High Performance Sailing

Thirty years later told he how this picture changed his thinking about how rigs work. 

So, who can tell us what Frank saw and why it changed his thinking?

July 13, 2016

International Sailing Academy - Less Hiking

By Doug
The ISA has started a series of articles that will help you hike a little less going upwind. I'm really impressed with their coaching, so if you haven't checked them out this would be a good time. Their clinics, conditions, and facilities are first class.

July 06, 2016

International Sailing Academy - Head Cam Videos

By Doug
Most of our readers have never gone to a Laser Worlds, and many have never sailed in open water. And many have never sailed in a really good clinic. Because of a broken thumb, my training for the Worlds was derailed and consisted of second helpings and very little exercise or time on the water.  As a result, I was heavily reliant upon the sailing clinic just prior to the Worlds to get me ready. On the last day, I wore a head cam so that you can ride along and see what it was like.

The camera that I use is shown here, and I like it because it takes Hi-Def videos, is light, and has a low profile so it's less likely to get snagged by the mainsheet. Because it's a sealed unit, there is only muffled sound which I have turned off.

The first part is going downwind and while there are less boats than in a Worlds fleet, it sometimes feels like a real race because the boats around limit the wave selection and options. I was practicing a downwind technique shown here that for me was new, and I wasn't good at it. My speed was very average... there's still lots to learn and I will definitely return for more training. They have excellent downwind clinics at the International Sailing Academy in La Cruz, Mexico. It is almost impossible not to improve after doing one of these clinics.

Because of my vision issues, I have no depth perception. So, you'll notice that I judge the size of a wave by its color. I'm envious of people who can actually see the size of the waves around them.

The second part of the video is a short clip that shows what it's like in a good Laser fleet when you don't set up early enough. Getting a crappy start is a waste of good boatspeed!

July 01, 2016


by Pam

For years Doug and I have been without a sailing club to call home so we have just called ourselves NOMADS (NO More Annual Dues Sailors). It's been rather perfect. But that all changed this week. Doug woke up on Wednesday to find that his usual honorary Aussie status has been upgraded to be an honorary member of Double Bay Sailing Club on Sydney Harbor in Australia. Doug felt so honored because it is his favorite place in the world to sail and Aussies tend to be his most challenging and rewarding competition.

The DBSC weekly newsletter is always quite a fun read with all the nicknames for everyone and a wicked sense of humor. Dear Leader and the Black Pope were both at the recent Laser Master Worlds in Mexico and were a heck of a lot of fun to be around. I believe the Black Pope dubbed Doug the "White Arrow" after watching a video of Doug winning just ahead of Dear Leader in Mexico. Perhaps that will be his DBSC nickname?

Loved reading about DBSC's limited space solution. Active racing sailors have priority on space. Not active ... move. I can't count the number of times Doug has commented on nonactive sailors turning sailing clubs into an expensive storage facility and killing the local fleets by not having space available for active racing sailors.

Yep, it's a perfect match ... except for that commute to the club ... a minor detail. 

June 26, 2016

Thank you Art Mayer

By Doug
The Aussies dominated the recent Master Worlds with Gavin, Brett, and Mark each winning their divisions. I've had a 40-year connection with Australian Laser sailors, but that was never the plan. I went to Sydney to learn how to be a better crew, not how to be a better skipper.

As I mentioned in this post, I arrived in Sydney as a 20 year old kid out to see the world and to crew on one of the famous 18-footers. My first stop was Double Bay that had one of the two two skiff sailing clubs. After some very strong beers (12% alcohol!) I was introduced to Art Mayer (related to Louis B Mayer) who owned one of the older skiffs. We went to his boat shed and I saw something that I had never seen before - lots and lots of controls on a low, sleek hull built for speed. 

After a few minutes of chatting, Art looked at me and said, "this is not what you want to be sailing."

I was crushed. "Why not? This is why I came to Sydney."

"You see, for every hour on the water, you'll have to spend three hours working on this boat."

"What would you do if you were me?"

Art paused for a moment and then said, "I'd call a gentleman by the name of Frank Bethwaite."

It turned out to be some of the best advice I ever got, and began a 45-year friendship with the remarkable Bethwaite family. Within 2 weeks of arriving in Sydney, I was helping Frank in his factory and taking pictures of him and Julian testing different settings.

Used on page 254 of Frank's High Performance Sailing. Years later, Frank told me how
this picture changed his thinking
about how rigs
At Frank's invitation, I became the race secretary of this development class, called the NS-14, and today its DNA can be found in every high performance boat in the world. Frank, Julian, Nicky, and Mark have all been at the leading edge and have all won world championships. Their friendship and mentoring changed my life.

So without Art's suggestion, what would skiff sailing have been like? And what would I have been doing as crew? I found this vintage gem made by Art perhaps featuring the boat I would have been sailing...

Of course, my path would have crossed with the Bethwaites because of the huge impact that Frank and Julian had on skiff sailing. Here's what it looks like today.

This looks like a blast, but it's not something that I could have physically done for very long. I could well have ended up crewing on bigger boats. For me, staying on as a skipper in smaller boats like NS-14s, then Moths, and then Lasers was definitely the best option for me. I treasure the pure competition that Lasers offer, the travel to events around the world, the sharing on this blog, and many friends that Pam and I have made.

Thank you Art Mayer. 

June 20, 2016

Mark Bethwaite - Winning the 2016 Great Grand Master Worlds

I first met Mark in 1971 soon after arriving in Sydney as a 20-year-old out to see the world. I watched him and his crew, Tim Alexander, work on their superb FD before the 1972 Olympics but was soon after transferred by HP to Melbourne. Four years later I returned to Sydney and sailed Lasers with a terrific fleet off Balmoral Beach. And yes, I sailed with Mark in his first Laser race - a long-distance race to the Opera House and back.

Mark switched to bigger boats and won the J/24 and Soling Worlds before returning to Lasers in the 90's. In 1998 Dr. Stuart Walker was asked who he thought were the best sailors in the world. His answer: Paul Elvstrom, John Kostecky, and Mark Bethwaite. Today, Mark focuses on the Laser Master Worlds which he has won 10 times. Competing with Mark is sailing at its best.

By Mark Bethwaite 
I guess the LMW in Kingston Ontario last year is the logical starting point for my contribution to Doug’s blog.  My preparation for that regatta was not great and was set back further by not arriving in Kingston early as planned to train.  Carolyn and I made our way there by boat and were held up by high water levels in the Oswego Canal.  I was not really fit, not fast downwind and didn’t start well with two UFDs.  Alan Keen (RSA) sailed a great regatta and the points tie between us at the end of the series was (just) resolved in my favour.

I resolved to prepare better for Vallarta this year – I was looking forward to a rematch with Alan and whilst that did not eventuate I had seen what Doug could do in his first year in a new age bracket, having won the Masters in Chile in 1997 and Grand Masters in Korea in 2006.  Beware the Peckover in a year ending with 6 or 7!

I fell back on a proven strategy.  Get together a good group of sailors also going to the LMW, engage good coaches, schedule plenty of on water training after work and weekends, get the aerobic fitness up and train hard up to the last minute, fly straight to the LMW and come out of the blocks hard.

The four of us from Double Bay SC and Vaucluse YC were fortunate that Brett Beyer had time to coach us for several sessions between his commitments to Olympic aspirants from various nations.  After he left for European regattas then Vallarta, we had Mike Leigh for a number of sessions.  Both are great coaches and also diplomatic.  The ageing bodies of GMs and particularly GGMs are harder to train than the young, fit specimens they are used to working with, but it is in our head department that coaches find most difficulty.  Quite apart from declining eyesight and hearing, we tend to forget what we have learned from one session to the next, so there is a far amount of rework!

The fourth element to my training involved plenty of bike work. Nearby is the appropriately named “Heartbreak Hill” in Sydney’s annual City to Surf which attracts over 70,000 runners.  On most days during the months before Vallarta I pointed my bike at this hill from Rose Bay to Watsons Bay then again on the way home.  This plus near daily on water training closer to departure meant that I was fitter for Vallarta than I have been for some years.

One other thing was to have a gym instructor map out a stretching program which significantly reduced my post sailing recovery time.

Preparation for a LMW should enjoyable – I think it is important to train in a way which is not only beneficial but fun.  I don’t like indoor exercise but I do like bike riding and on water training - others may take a different approach.  In Sydney we are blessed with a great Harbour and weather and as the LMW approaches, I really enjoy the feel of the body getting leaner, hands getting harder and the brain clicking into fast mode on the water, reflecting in better results in club sailing and lead up regattas.

I was fast enough upwind in Kingston but slow downwind so I really focused on my downwind speed with Brett and Mike’s help.  It was great in Vallarta to be quick downwind.

In addition to preparation for Vallarta, Doug has asked me to talk about the regatta and my view on the Mark II sail.  What was not to like about the LMW and racing in Mexico?  Great onshore and on water facilities and organization, clean warm water and sea breezes that filled in each day like clockwork, with waves to slash through upwind and ride fast downwind.  Add to that great competition afloat and camaraderie ashore assisted by cold Coronas and margheritas – it was as good as Cancun in 2000 and that is the yardstick by which all subsequent LMWs have been judged – up till now!

I have been sailing Lasers now for 20 plus years and having previously shipped Flying Dutchmen and Solings to many overseas regattas, I really appreciate the one design nature of the Laser class which means that you never need ship a boat again. You pitch up with your sail, lines and sailing clothes and are allocated a charter boat.  That is until this year when for the first time there was a choice of sail! 

Having alternated between the Mark I and Mark II sail since the latter became legal late last year, I have formed the view that the Mark II with more built in shape is a higher pointing and better light/moderate sail but the Mark I flattens out and blades off more readily in the head so is lower drag and faster in strong wind.  I was a keen student of the wind reports from all three regattas at Vallarta preceding the “main event”, the Standard Masters Worlds.  The result was that racked by indecision, I pitched up at Vallarta with both sails! 

My Mark I sail has now won three Worlds (Oman, Hyeres and Kingston) and has a race winning percentage at that level well over 90%.  I joke that I keep it in cryogenic storage between Worlds, and that is half true!  Certainly I always feel very confident with it.  I used that tried and trusted Mark I on the day before the practice race and was happy enough with my speed.

Then for the Practice Race in a combined GM and GGM fleet in 10-14 knots of wind, I used the Mark II.  I started on Mark Bear’s (USA) hip, lifted off him (which gave me great confidence as in similar conditions in Hyannis in 2002 he had beaten me to a pulp), was third to the top mark, second to the bottom and then drew away to win the race by an “Australian country mile”.  My sail selection decision was made!  That was the last time we raced as a combined fleet as the GGMs wanted a “gentlemen only” event and the GMs wanted no more of us either!

I have read and concur with Brett and Gavin’s observations on the Mark II sail.  With greater built in shape, the adjustment ranges for the downhaul and outhaul are smaller.  As the breeze gets up, I use progressively more vang as the Mark II is definitely harder work to windward than the Mark I.  Comparing notes with Doug after Race 4 at Vallarta when the breeze built to maybe 18 knots, he was working his sheet from block to block to about 15 cm whilst I was operating from about 15 cm to 30 cm (US sailors still using archaic feet and inches will have to do their own conversion!).

The next Laser Master Worlds will be contested at Split, Croatia in September 2017.  I have cruised the Croatian coast from Pula in the north to Dubrovnik in the south and Split is the pick of it – it should be an outstanding venue, combining Croatian history, culture and cuisine with great sailing conditions.  Be there!

June 16, 2016

Brett Beyer - Winning the 2016 Master Worlds

Brett Beyer (AUS) just won his 12th Laser Master Worlds and is on his way to breaking the all-time record of 13 held by Keith Wilkins (GBR). What makes Brett special is that he's not only a great sailor but he's also a great coach, and is working with the sailors from Singapore and South Africa for the upcoming Rio Olympics. This means that he has very little time to practice but instead spends lots of time watching other top sailors. 

The 2006 Jeju Worlds was different because we all sailed in one fleet, and it's the only time I've actually been able to watch Brett compete. Here's what I wrote in my journal: 

Followed defending apprentice world champ Brett Bayer (AUS) on the port tack lay line. Looks a lot like Olympic gold medalist Robert Scheidt (BRA) in the boat – tall, smooth, and just more speed. Beautiful to watch. Brett rounded 2nd and went on to win by 100 yards. 

Brett is a frequent contributor to our blog and he has kindly shared how he won.

Winning the final race, taken by Pam from the finish boat. Notice how flat Brett's sail is.

By Brett Beyer
The Masters Worlds in Mexico was one of my most enjoyable regattas for a long time. Sailing conditions that suited me as well as great race organisation and on-site accommodation were all things I had been looking forward to – and I wasn’t a bit disappointed.

My decision to compete with the old sail was always going to be a little risky, but I feel it is a more versatile sail upwind once you get some wind and waves, which was the expected conditions. I don’t regret that decision but nor do I think it contributed in a meaningful way to any of the results. I see the new sail as being an improvement overall but not in performance, just in sail shape and longevity. Each of the sails have advantages and disadvantages but it is impressive as to how close in performance the sails compare to each other.

During and after the Worlds, I had many discussions with sailors questioning how I can produce boat speed that is at times dominant. Especially given it is not fitness nor training related. And it is a question that I too have pondered, but don’t take for granted. I applaud Gavin and others that progress via the tried and trusted routine of hours on water and analysis. But this routine is not unlike my own, with the exception that I am not on the water sailing, but on the water coaching. Watching others in detail is ‘training’ for myself. My Olympic coaching has me doing less and less sailing over the years but improves my own sailing in ways I had not expected – mainly technically. And it is this technical understanding and improvement that I rely on so heavily, as opposed to on water training or fitness benefits.

Ernesto Rodriguez (USA) is supremely fit and a great sailor, he came 2nd in the regatta and is a good example. His fitness for sure contributed to his performance and I wish I had the time and motivation to do likewise. But I don’t and I know my best asset to rely on for performance will always be to technically sail the boat well. What does this mean? Well in waves, it means understanding shape and size of waves and attaching a specific technique and timing to each wave variation. This is not a general upwind formula but a very specific way to sail over/through each specific wave. In Mexico, the waves were different on Port and Starboard tacks, therefore the technique differed, as did the rig set-up, where often I was trying to sail faster on Starboard, compared to Port, which may seem counter-intuitive. This different wave pattern also offers the same gain potential for me downwind where applying a certain technique that has a tactical outcome was key. I often made around 30 seconds of gain each downwind, on the next fastest boat. This is something I simply can’t achieve with flatter water, or for that matter, better fitness.

But the problem with technique is that the outcome has to be measurable and quantifiable, and our sport doesn’t lend itself well to this form of feedback. So you either get a coach that can help with the feedback or, as most people do, ramp up the volume of training and learn via the trial and error format. Both ways work if you are curious and/or analytical enough to examine the outcomes. Boat speed is difficult to measure without a consistent training partner so using other cues to measure outcomes is a really good way to see if your technique is helping you or hurting you. For example:
  • Is the rudder too loaded?
  • Is the rig too grumpy?
  • Does the boat accelerate when flicking the bow away?
  • Does adding more hiking feel like it contributes?
  • Do I want wave direction downwind or go across the wave?
All these are reliable forms of checking to see if the boat is happy to go fast or if I’m in a battle with the boat, where speed will be the victim. This is the primary reason I haven’t got any marks on my ropes as I rely heavily on what the boat is telling me and I trust myself to make an appropriate change in sail shape or technique when necessary.

I am hosting Skype coaching sessions that started with Worlds debriefs as examples of improving technique and boat speed. The most requested topics I’ve received are: “Downwind wave catching” and “Upwind speed/waves”. This is where sailors felt most vulnerable last Worlds. Please contact me if you are interested for costs and other details at beyersailing(insert at symbol)

June 15, 2016

Gavin Dagley - Winning the 2016 Grand Master Worlds

Pam and I first met Gavin at the Hyeres Master Worlds where he finished 6th. At the Kingston Master Worlds Gavin finished 5th.

Gavin in Kingston
Getting a top five result is hard, but winning it is much harder. At the recent Riviera Nayarit Master Worlds, Gavin finished 1st, and a lot of people commented on how much he had improved.

Gavin winning in Mexico.
My experience was similar - 5th at the Wakayama Master Worlds, 5th at the Capetown Master Worlds, and then 1st at the Algarrobo Master Worlds. I shared how I did it but feel it may be even harder now to win. Gavin has kindly shared his thoughts about how he won his first worlds.

By Gavin Dagley
Wow. It still hasn't really sunk in yet. I actually got there - a Masters World Championship. Suffice to say I am pretty pleased.

This is my third trip to Masters Worlds and each regatta has been quite unique. At Hyeres, France, for my first Worlds I arrived knowing almost no-one - not even most of my Australian team mates. I was relatively new to the class and 500-odd Laser sailors all together can be a little intimidating. I think the thing that has meant the most to me is how quickly the friendships grow. The sailors are such a warm bunch that you can't help but be pulled in.

Doug and Pam introduced themselves on the second day when we were all trying to work out our places from the first day. (The scorers had been overwhelmed by the numbers and when anyone got missed at the finish they were simply scored DNF - and Doug had been one of those unfortunates.)

I also met David Rosenthal that day (AUS) who simply introduced himself and offered me an Australian team shirt. We ended up neighbours in the (very cramped) boat park. Tim Law (GBR) and I seemed to be in close company for most of the regatta, and it seems that that close rivalry has persisted into each of the subsequent regattas - we always finish within a very few places of each other, and there was only a single point between us in Kingston, Canada last year. That is the best part of the regattas - the annual catch-up.

Despite the friendly spirit of the regattas, the racing is not soft. It can have a distinctly determined edge to it. I realised after Hyeres, which is about 18 months ago, that I would need to do a lot of work if I wanted to ever have a chance at winning this event. It wasn't that my speed was so bad, but that any little mistake, or any speed weak-point, will be found out. Since my first worlds I have tried to put in a lot of effort into improving those weak spots.

I try to sail three or four times a week most of the time, and do fitness, flexibility and strength work most days in some form or other. I sail out of Port Melbourne in Australia and, though the Club has a number of very talented Laser sailors who will come out to train at times, most of my training time is alone. (Although there was one very notable training session last year: dawn on a weekday morning - 7am, 4 degrees C [about 40F], frost on the ground, with 20 knots of wind chill - and there are five Lasers training together off Port Melbourne.) Quality hours in the boat seem to really count for a lot - and I'm afraid that is neither new nor welcome news.

I have also found it is very easy for me just to go through the motions in training - get down to the boat a little late, do a few laps and a few tacks and think I have trained well. Because I do so much of my training alone, I think one of the keys for me is to be quite analytical and disciplined in my approach. I try to stay focused on the areas I most need to improve (this last year has been about building hiking strength and downwind speed) and set up some specific tasks for each session, as well as always including some handling and starting practice.

I also spend time after each session very deliberately trying figure out what I have learned – just trying to understand what is going on or how I might be able to do something better or fix an issue. As a result I have a number of exercise books full of notes, and I think that processing has really helped. I am always surprised at what subtle new learnings are lurking out there.

I think the biggest challenge for me has been downwind – particularly running in small to moderate waves. The techniques that make a Laser fast in those conditions seem like they are a “black art.” Coming into this regatta my mindset has always been trying not to lose too much on each run (rather than looking to gain places) – because the boats behind seemed consistently able to roll up to and over me. It also seems like it is a very tricky art to explain to someone who doesn’t get it yet. I don’t think I have yet come across any explanation that has really worked for me in a complete sense.

Having said that, I felt fast in this regatta, and was able to pull places back downwind. I suspect the difference might have been in lots of hours practicing the up-turn and the down-turn. I’m not quite sure. My logbooks are full of writing where I am trying to make sense of downwind technique and I am still trying to get my head around it. I suspect there is no short answer, but I just hope the new speed lasts.

I ended up using a Mark II sail for the regatta and fielded a few questions about what I thought of it. The short answer is that I prefer it, because it responds in a more familiar way to me than the Mark I, but I cannot honestly detect any consistent or significant difference in performance. Cristian Herman (CHI, 2nd GM) and Brett Beyer (AUS, who won the Masters for what seemed like the 100th time) seem quite able to make the Mark I devastatingly fast. The differences between the sailors seem to account for so much more than any differences between the sails.

The thing that I have found with the Mark II is that the settings are a bit more fiddly and precise. As a result, I use marks on the outhaul, cunningham and vang to keep track of the fast settings. (The best place for the outhaul and cunningham marks is on the ropes in between the blocks at the base of the mast and the cleats – the ropes don’t need to move nearly as much as for the Mark I sail, and using these marks it is much easier to get really accurate settings.) My set-up principles are:
  • don't move the outhaul much (and you don’t need to as there is very little stretch) - between half-a-handspan and a handspan of depth at the boom is right for most upwind conditions (and despite the greater depth through the middle of the sail [compared to the Mark I] it is easy to over-flatten the foot);
  • until fully powered always use enough cunningham to stay only just ahead of the wrinkles (which is less tension than is required for  the Mark I) - and when overpowered just pull really hard (some things don't change); and
  • go easy on the vang – you don’t seem to need quite as much through the middle and upper wind ranges as you do with the Mark I.
In flatter water (compared to choppy conditions) I go a little easier on the cunningham, about the same on the vang, and a little flatter in the foot.

I also believe that the sail needs a good amount of breaking in time - two or three times more than the 60mins of full-cunningham upwind sailing that the Mark I seems to need. I used a brand new (Hyde) sail for the regatta. I had done a couple of hours of sailing with it in 15 knots or so of breeze before the regatta, but felt quite slow in practice and during the practice race. The sail did not feel right – as if it was not properly broken in. So after the practice race, in the building sea breeze, I stayed on the water for another couple of hours just giving the sail a bit of a smashing, and it felt better after that. (I have used the Pryde version of the sail in our Australian Nationals and it is also really nice.)

So, what now? I hope to be in Split, Croatia for the next worlds. We'll see. It certainly promises to be another ripper of a regatta - they always are.

More pictures by Pam on the finish line. Keep in mind that this is the end of the race and everyone is exhausted!

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