October 08, 2017

Brett Beyer - Winning the 2017 Master Worlds

Brett Beyer (AUS) is a frequent contributor to our blog and has kindly shared some of the things that helped him win his 13th Laser Master Worlds – a record that ties the all-time record held by Keith Wilkins (GBR) as well as the consecutive wins held by both Brett and Keith.

Brett was coaching in China prior to his trip to Croatia. He’ll be giving much more detailed coaching about this Worlds via Skype, so contact him for more details.  In addition, last April he was a guest coach at the International Sailing Academy which I missed last year but if he gets this close to the US again, I will definitely be there.
Here’s a quick summary of how he trained and what worked.

By Brett Beyer
2017 Worlds Summary
With the expected lighter conditions of Split, it was my first time I’ve made a deliberate effort to lose weight in preparation for the Worlds. At a weight of around 86kg, I could really notice the extra power of the new sail upwind as well as fantastic downwind speed.
Upwind speed in a breeze has never been a problem for me so the slight risk of this weight loss seemed worth it. With the light conditions, the risk of over-sheeting again becomes the biggest issue in destroying sail shape.
To mitigate this risk, a deeper outhaul setting and a boat with more mast rake is preferable. Given that we don’t have control of the mast rake on our charter boats, then simply being very aware of outhaul and mainsheet tension upwind is critical.
I look most often at the top of the sail as this is the area that gets too flat with the first sign of over-sheeting. I’m comfortable with carrying high rig loads to the point of the sail becoming too high drag and holding you in a high mode too long. Once I feel this occurring, it’s time to vang on and begin playing sheet to drive the boat lower and faster.
I don’t use marks on my set-up preferring to rely entirely on sail shape and feel. But with the new MarkII sail, I have introduced what I feel to be the most important reference on the boat and that is a minimum upwind vang setting. This mark on my vang is a great reminder not to have too much vang off as this just deepens the sail excessively and creates massive drag, resulting in no pointing and no speed. Not a good combination. So this vang mark is for say 4 – 8 knots where you need the smallest amount of vang to lock in sail shape.
In lighter winds than this and also fresher winds, then you will be requiring more vang. It seems counter intuitive to use more vang in 2 knots than you do in 5 knots but you won’t be using much sheet tension in 2 knots so are forced to bend the mast with vang tension alone. The new MarkII sail is quite vulnerable to upwind vang inaccuracy but is more broad in forgiveness downwind.
My upwind speed at these Masters Worlds was quite average in the lighter winds but as usual, once it was near hiking and some waves, then fitness and technique takes the lead role and boat speed amongst the fleet is quite varied.
Positioning yourself with some space to leeward on start lines and upwinds without a lightweight European sailor under your bow was one of my main strategies. I can’t compete with their height, nor do I want to as it’s a VMG disadvantage to be going high and slow. I once called out to an Austrian in my fleet at a critical moment to “go fast, go fast”. He replied, “I’m sorry. I do not know how to”. I laughed at his response, then tacked away for clear air so I could again drive the boat to my satisfaction. And this is the case with many sailors that are good at a high mode only, but haven’t the fitness, urgency or technique to go lower and faster at times. This is a skill that needs training. As a fringe benefit, a broader range of tactical options opens up for you.
My downwind speed was exceptional. Rig set-up doesn’t play as much of a role here and the specific timing on each wave is where the most value lies. I for sure overtook nearly all my competitors downwind rather than upwind. This is still one of the biggest mysteries to Master Laser sailors and is not easy to understand or to train for – hence the massive speed differences downwind.
The waves were not large or offering great rides like Mexico. Rather, they were smaller and more compressed, but no less important to boat positioning and making gains. I apply some simple formulas for comparing boat speed and wave speed downwind and this is the way I train my Olympic sailors as well. This focus keeps the boat speed and technique more consistent.
My traditional weakness in the Laser is racing in winds of around 5 – 8 knots.
Before the regatta I practiced some techniques that provided me with great power feedback and confidence. Despite now winning 13 Master Worlds and taking sailors to the past 4 Olympics, it seems there is always something we can all get better at and practice. What a sport!!


  1. Thank you all for this post!

    What is meant by high mode sailing? Is it possible to properly set-up sail without the marks on control lines before bottom mark rounding?

    1. Brett has asked us to post this: ‘High mode’ is typically block to block or close to it and the sail is beginning to luff/twitch a little. In other words, pointing as high as possible. Many people sail this mode by default but it does have risk with waves and also is tactically limiting.
      The sail set-up can be approximated before the bottom mark. Outhaul setting is very easy and I like to go hard on the downhaul as it’s easier to release than pull on if you get that setting incorrect. This just leaves vang which is fine because you can’t get full upwind vang tension whilst going downwind anyway. Certainly pull on vang quite firmly but wait until after the mark to sheet on and then decide exact vang tension. In a way, the lack of marks forces you to make a conscious decision as to what the sail shape should be given the wind strength and wave conditions. This isn’t a system that works for everyone and getting the sail shape based on marks is OK if it gets you in the groove sooner.

    2. Thank you, Brett!

  2. Congrats on lucky 13, Brett. Very impressive and an excellent article. The following sentence, however, puzzles me: "Given that we don't have control over rake on our charter boats ....". Are you saying that in Australia you can specify a rake preference when you buy a new boat?

    1. Hi Andy, Brett has asked us to post this:Many people i know measure the boats mast rake, both for AUS boats and UK boats. There is some variation in the rakes and sailors seem to have a preference for what rake they like. Most simply buy their new boat and accept whatever the rake is. Others measure a few boats from their dealer before selecting their new boat based on mast rake, or for that matter, based on hull fairness or whatever variables new Lasers may have. I’ve never measured a Worlds charter boat rake as it’s just a number that doesn’t mean that much and we can’t change it anyway. My main point is that sail shape is a result of sheet tension which is a function of outhaul setting and mast rake combined.

  3. Thanks Brett for sharing your story. Congrats on your 13th World Championship.

  4. Congratulations of the 13th world title, great article too!

    1. Thanks Simon.

      Your dad Keith Wilkins is a great guy and a fantastic sailor. We missed him not sailing with us.

  5. Congratulations. I finished 15, but only fight with you in a race

  6. Great article, thanks. "minimum upwind vang setting" Can you describe how others can replicate this?

  7. "apply some simple formulas for comparing boat speed and wave speed downwind" Can you describe what these formulas are at a high level? Thanks!


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