Saturday, September 26, 2009


We have some big boat sailors that are converting over to Lasers and I find I am teaching the hand exchange again.

If you look at the Rick White DVD you will see some good stuff on the hand exchange, including the exchange on the cross over.

In the Laser we are holding the sheet in the forward hand and the tiller extension in the aft hand. When you tack or gybe, you do it facing forward with the back foot going over the hiking strap. When you sit down on the other side your foot automatically will be under the strap and you can lean or jump back right away. You hold on to everything. Extension is in the forward hand and sheet aft.

Now when you are on the other side, you have the tiller extension behind your back in the forward hand and the aft hand has the sheet. You can continue steering with the front hand behind your back and holding the sheet in your aft hand, if you are not going very far ( and you don't have to hike very hard). Just tack back and you don't need to exchange hands.

But most of the time you need to change hands, so let a little sheet slide through the aft hand and move it back to to get hold on the tiller extension. Now you are holding the tiller extension in the aft hand along with the sheet. You can steer and /or open your hand an let a little sheet out to flatten the boat if you need to. The forward hand lets go of the tiller extension and reaches for the sheet at the ratchet block. You drop the sheet from your aft hand and the exchange is complete.

The tiller extension is behind your back. You can sail this way with the "frying pan" grip, but will probably want to do a little finger roll with the tiler extension over your head so it is in front of you with the "microphone" grip.

Sounds complicated and is strange if you are coming off a big boat with a steering wheel.

If it is new to you, then you have to do a bunch of them, so it is no mystery and now second nature.


  1. This is pretty much standard in all sailing dinghies with the sheet running forward of the sailor such as Lasers, Sunfish and Optimists. When I was teaching kids to sail in these boats I always found it best to teach the hand swap on land first, and get them to practice it on land until it was automatic. It's even a land drill you can do inside on a day unsuitable for sailing.

    One thing to watch with beginners is that they learn that when you cross the boat you face FORWARDS. I've seen many novice adults attempting aft-facing tacks on the water. Not cool.

    I used to do the hand swap on the cross-over too until a very good Laser coach told me it was slowing down my ability to get hiking fast on the new tack. So now I do it the way you describe, after crossing the boat and getting in the hiking strap on the new tack.

  2. this is very useful for a novice just making my transition from my 3 year carrier in a pico to my new laser thanks you