Advanced Sailing Skills – May 8, 2017

The first class of ASS (todo — think of better acronym) was held on May 8, 2017.  Topics covered were an overview of what will be taught in the course, as well as rigging Albacores and Lasers.  Rigging was covered at a more in-depth level than in LTS, with sail controls pointed out and explained.

(parts of the sail mnemonics: “The part at the back is not the tack, so that should be a clue [clew].”  Also “There once was a leach [leech] who got a clue [clew] when his foot stepped on a tack and he laughed [luffed] his head off”)


When hoisting the jib, the wire running inside the luff of the jib will start carrying all the tension and the forestay becomes loose.  To make hoisting easier, use the jib sheets (or some other leverage) to pull the forestay taught.  This will reduce tension on the wire inside the jib, and allow you to hoist it tighter.

Some Albacores have a jib tie down to attach the tack of the jib to the forestay bracket.  This prevents the tack of the jib from running up the wire and creating wrinkles in the luff.

The Albacore controls pointed out were the outhaul (attaching to the clew, to tension the foot), the boom vang (pulling the boom down, to tension to the leech) and the cunningham (pulling the tack down, to tension the luff).  Instructors recommended loosening the vang in higher winds.  This allows more twist at the top of the sail, and will spill wind from there (see “Notable differences” below).  They also recommend tightening cunningham in high winds to depower the sail.

Things that are often forgotten about Alabacore:

  • tie down the jib tack
  • cleat the outhaul
  • secure the shock cord on the transom flaps so they don’t open when you get into the water
  • check if your auto-bailers are open or closed


Don’t put the Laser mast on the ground — sand will get in there, and “grind” against the mast step.  Make sure battens go in the sail before you step the mast (Jason-often-forgets-this #1).  When rigging the boom, check that the mainsheet is secured to the block with a stopper knot, rather than a bowline.  This will make it easier to sheet block-to-block on upwind legs or in high winds.  Figure 81 of the Laser Rigging Manual shows how to do this, but someone at the club likes to undo the stopper knot and tie a bowline instead.  Don’t forget the drain plug (Jason-often-forgets-this #2).  When attaching the rudder and tiller, the tiller goes underneath the traveller (otherwise the traveller will get caught on the tiller — Jason-often-forgets-this #3)

In a Laser, the luff of the sail is (slightly) curved, while the mast is straight.  This induces “bagginess” to the sail (lots of power, but low pointing ability).  When you are going upwind, or are becoming overpowered, you want to flatten the sail to reduce bagginess.  You can flatten by sheeting in all the way (“block-to-block”) and by using the boom vang.  This will tighten the leech of the sail, pulling the tip of the mast down (the top part of the mast is nice and flexible) which better fits the sail, and lets the sail flatten out.  Tightening the outhaul (and, to a lesser extent, the cunningham) will also help flatten the sail.  The depowering strategy in a Laser, especially upwind, is to get as flat a sail as you can and then sheet out to spill wind.

It was pointed out that a Laser will often get the mainsheet caught on the corner of the transom when gybing.  Yanking hard on the sheet as you start the gybe can help reduce the chances of this (but it’s not a perfect solution).  Doug Peckover describes how the hot-shots use their tiller extension to unhook a snagged mainsheet in his blog.  (Jason has been doing this for about a year, and it seems to work well enough.)  Additionally, it was suggested on the Internet that the tiller extension could preemptively be used in this manner to prevent the thing from being caught in the first place, but this technique has yet to be tried.  Jon Emmett recommends sheeting the boom in a significant amount before gybing.  This reduces the amount of slack line that can get caught around the transom.  Also, he does roll-gybes which causes any loose mainsheet to stay “up in the air” rather than drag in the water and be pulled around the back of the boat, but that’s a discussion for another day…

Notable differences

In an Albacore, excess power in high winds is spilled by loosing the vang to induce twist to the main.  This lets wind spill from the top of the sail.  In a Laser, excess power is typically dealt with by sheeting out slightly.  This requires a tight vang.  Without a vang, the Laser boom will tend to go “up” rather than “out” as the top of the mast straightens.  This leads to more power in the sail (rather than less) and often results in a swim.  A tight Laser vang keeps the boom down and mast bent, so when you let out the mainsheet, the boom goes “out” rather than “up”.

Downwind, in both boats, nice loose controls allow for large draft in the sails which let’s you generate a lot of power, since you’re not worried about pointing.