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!!