May 01, 2019 4 min read
The Laser (or should I say ILCA Dinghy…) is a beautifully simple boat. However there are some useful tweaks you can make to make your life a little bit easier when sailing and these can really help you focus fully on sailing as fast as possible. Here are photos of my boat, the kit I use and all the small tweaks I have done to make sailing her just that little bit easier.
The tiller is one of the most important pieces of equipment that you can change on a Laser. Ideally it will be super low where the traveller runs over but also have substantial clearance over the cleat near the cockpit. It should be as stiff as possible and in an ideal world not flex at all.
I use the current Laser XD tiller as I find it to be a nice shape, stiff and has great clearance over the cleat.
To secure my tiller after I’ve launched I put the rudder blade all the way down and then tie a simple slip knot in the rudder downhaul rope before passing the rope under the notch in the cleat, through the loop in the slip knot and then back through the cleat on the tiller before pulling on hard and cleating off.
The advantage of doing this is you get a firm connection between your tiller and rudder ensuring there is no wobble between the two and the tiller never sinks lower whilst you sail.
A shorter extension is easier to handle in manoeuvres. However when hiking a short extension can encourage bad posture and difficult to hike out far and forwards when needed. I think somewhere in the middle is perfect. With the rudder on and my extension clipped into the tiller you can see in the photo below how far forward my tiller + extension reaches.
I use a full Harken XD system as standard on most Lasers. A couple of modifications to the controls that I have made are:
So controls look like this:
It is key to make sure you are using good ropes for these control lines and that they are not twisted or fraying as this can add a lot of friction to the system and even cause the ropes/fittings to break.
For the downhaul I recommend you use 4mm rope that is strong and hardwearing to deal with loads. Here is my recommended rope: https://www.sailingchandlery.com/4mm-marlow-excel-control-line-rope.html
The outhaul is a bit different as it isn’t very loaded, so the priority becomes system smoothness. Therefore, I would recommend using a 3mm soft rope. This doesn’t need to be strong or hardwearing. Here is my recommended rope: https://www.sailingchandlery.com/fse-robline-3mm-dinghy-control-line.html
Take a look at the differences between my downhaul (blue) and outhaul (red) rope.
I pull the outhaul onto the side of my boom to try and avoid it interfering with my sail, especially when tacking. There’s nothing worse than tacking onto port off the start line to see the foot of your sail getting held up by your outhaul!
To do this I tie a small 18mm onto the port side of my boom as shown in the picture below. This is actually good enough to pull the whole outhaul system completely out the way of the sail. I then loop my elastic under and then over the boom before tying it back onto the cleat on the top of the boom.
I now use the new style clamcleat with a notch underneath. This allows you to conveniently tuck away the toe strap elastic so it does not interfere with the traveller rope. See it here: https://www.sailingchandlery.com/clamcleat-racing-junior-mk1-with-becket.html
I usually use 5mm or 6mm traveller ropes. There are a variety of different ropes you can chose from but I think key characteristics you are looking for are: ultra-low stretch, good grip in cleat and as friction-free over tiller as possible.
I use purchase system on my toe strap which gives you a wide range of adjustment on the water as well as being able to make the toe strap bar tight in light winds. This system done correctly is unbeatable and I would say is a must have for every Laser sailor. See the video of how I do it here:
Last but no means least we have the new stronger kicker key upgrade. With the introduction of thicker sail material with the new Standard MK2 sails our kicker loads have also increased and that meant there were an increasing number of kicker keys breaking, especially in the windier weather.
Laser and Harken have now fixed this and as standard the Laser kicker keys are thicker. Check yours today.
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