Intro to Light Air Downwind Sailing

The biggest gains in laser sailing can be made downwind. It is essential to have good boat speed downwind if you intend to do well in races. Sailing larger angles downwind in the laser often achieves better vmg.

Light Air Downwind Sail Settings

The most important control setting downwind is the vang. The vang should be set so that it is loose enough to allow the top of the sail to twist away and flex. The leech of the sail should be able to move fore and aft 4 inches to 1 foot. When sailing by the lee, observe the leech, if the movement is restricted ease the vang, if there is movement greater than 1 foot tighten the vang. This way the sail is better able to react to gusts and altered course without adjusting the main sheet. The outhaul should be at its loosest setting, which should be just over a hands length at the boom cleat or 10 inches. This creates power in the lower part of the sail and is the maximum depth that the outhaul should ever be set at. Its important to ease the cunningham for maximum fullness in the sail.

Downwind Light Air Sailing Technique

In light air it’s important to make smooth fluid movements in order to keep the air flow on the sail stable and attached. If the boat rocks the air flow over the sail will be disrupted causing the boat to lose speed. Boat speed in these conditions is determined more by wind that technique. Sailing by the lee or on a broad reach is usually significantly faster than running in light winds. In a puff the boat can be sailed deeper, in the lulls the boat should be sailed on a reach or by the lee. The boat should be heeled to windward when running, turning down or sailing by the lee. The boat should be heeled to leeward when heading up or sailing on a reach. The sailor should sit with their body weight forward in the cockpit to reduce the drag created when the transom is in the water. The daggerboard should be raised around 4 – 6 inches.