Thursday, April 29, 2010



First remember if the current is running with or against the wind, look for the zone with the smallest waves going downwind. Otherwise you are looking for the bigger ones.
If you are going faster than the waves, then try to go around the bigger ones. So be doing transitions right and left so that you can cross the them at their lowest points.

If the waves are coming up behind you then you need to be looking for the deepest hole in the water opening up someplace in front of you. Head down into it and pump the sheet to start the surf. When you take off then angle right and left to run down the side of the wave as far as you can go. Some of the waves will be good for only short rides and then others may be fairly long. Then look for the next one to ride.

Occasionally you need to look for leeward mark and get back on course.

To practice, you might get your coach boat to run back and forth behind you. Then try to have him run along side while you try to catch and hold the quarter wave.

If you are sailing with bigger boats try to get on the windward quarter wave as they go by and then hang in with them. I haven’t done that in a Laser, but sailed with John Smittle on his J-24 in the first Key West Race week. John was a specialist in catching quarter waves and we got on one with a 50 footer and went from 6.5 knots to 12 as we rode that quarter wave for a mile.

If you don’t have big waves where you sail, then try to make some trips to big wave country. Get hooked up with the local Laser sailors there. You will need wind, local knowledge, and maybe some motor boat back up. Then try to get in some of their races and regattas.

Friday, April 23, 2010


Everyone needs more room between the boats in big waves.   More info about waves two entries down.

Down wind wave riding coming up soon.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010


This is in response to Tillerman’s writing challenge, to answer the question of “what sailing will be like 15 years from now.”


Actually I wear a Musto regatta thing that Musto doesn’t make any more. I have worn them since my Sunfish days when we kept them rolled up inside the hull, and then put them on when we got cold or when conditions got really hairy. Some one stole my previous Musto. My current one I bought used on e-bay from England for $90. Used only once and I think a real bargain. I have may name all over this one to reduce the tendency for some one to walk away with it.

Now I know that it will take a pretty mean person to protest an 80 year old guy because the Coast Guard didn’t stamp his life jacket.

Anyway, in 15 years I will stop wearing a PFD, life jacket or Musto

Most of the rest of you folks will be moving to the bigger and bigger boats sailed with more and more folks on the rale and on the payroll. Maybe you will be sailing two or three lapse around the world. Or maybe around the North Pole in the iceless Arctic Ocean.

Perhaps the little boats will be all gone, except for a few Puddle Duck Racers hanging on.

My boat will be pretty much rigged like a Laser . Maybe a square top sail. Then I think I want a BIG window so I can see the Starboard tackers coming at me without bending down to look under the boom.

The boat will look pretty much like a golden cloud. I will try to get a new one every year. We will be racing Portsmouth or something like that because I expect to be racing against Chris Columbus, Sir Francis Drake and Arthur Ransome. They will all be sailing their favorite boat and the BIG G will be giving winning trophies to everyone on a regular basis to keep them all happy. How can everyone be a winner? The BIG G can arrange it.

We don’t expect to see any of the current rich rich yachting types, because to get that much money you almost always have to cheat someone. They will be doing something else, some place else.

Near Sunset you may be able to see my golden cloud heading West and I won’t need the life jacket anymore. Someone else can wear my Musto.

Monday, April 19, 2010


Laser sailors need to drink plenty of water.  Sometimes we just need a place to rest.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


I have some other parts of the blog that comment on sailing in waves, but a recent “Speed and Smarts” is about playing the waves, so let me review what I know about Lasers in the waves.

Generally go upwind in the smaller waves and downwind in the bigger waves, if you have a difference on the two sides of the course without a great deal of pressure difference.

If there is current, then the above is reversed. When the current in with the wind, then the waves will be less with more current and bigger where the current is weaker. Current against the wind then makes the waves bigger, so in either case go upwind in the bigger waves and look the smaller ones going down wind. If you are sailing in tidal waters, it helps to know when the tide will change.

Going upwind with the Laser, when the waves are less than 18 inches, you just need to power through them. Bare off a little to be sure you are moving well. Don’t pinch. Tack in a flat spot.

Somewhere between 18 inches and 2 feet you have to begin to think about the old up the “up side and down the down side.” That gets you through the wave faster and gives you a little push going down the down side. When you do this you pump the tiller down (to leeward) to get the bow up and rock you weight back to help lift the bow. Then on the top of the wave, pull the tiller toward you and rock your weight forward to help get the bow down. These moves can be quite vigorous when the waves are steep and short . Robert Scheidt, recent great Laser sailor moved to Stars, could be picked out of a fleet by his radical movement.

Dellenbaugh divides the waves up into 1) Normal wind for waves. 2) More wind than waves. 3) Less wind than waves. 2) happens when the wind is increasing and it gives you more power to trim tighter and sail higher. In 3), you power up and bear off. Don’t pinch. In any of the cases you need to be sure you are moving through the waves and not being stopped. You need to manage them better than you competitors. If not, see if you can tell what they are doing.

Try and stay in clear air, tack in the flat spots, or just before the wave so that the waves pushes you bow around, instead of stopping you. Be careful with close maneuvering as everyone has less control.

You need a clear air lane more with waves.

Not all waves are the same, so you have to keep watching ahead. Some waves can just rise up ahead of you as forces below the surface join. Some will need powering through and some worked up and down. If you are going to stick your bow into one, then let the boat heel and dump as much of the water as you can, so that you don’t get all the water in the cockpit.

If you sail on a small lake and don’t have bigger waves, then you may want to take some long visits to places that have them. It takes practice working alone and then sailing beside someone so you can make some judgement about your technique. Every day will have a little different set of waves, so get out to the race course early and get the rhythm down before the races start.

Dellenbaugh says that usually the waves are the same on both tacks, but occasionaly skewed.

My experience is that they are almost always lopsided with one tack more square into the wind and one more at an angle. Either the waves are changing as they move along the bottom or the wind shifts and the waves have not yet. If you are going square into the wave, bear off more and take it a little on diagonal. The changing angle to the waves will also help you pick up the wind shifts, as the waves will take a long time to change angles.

Motorboat waves should be worked the same. Power through the smaller, up and down the bigger and take them at an angle if coming on square.

Next week we will do the downwind section.