Intro to Heavy Air Laser Sailing

Heavy air laser sailing is the most physically demanding aspect of the sport. The faster the boat goes the greater the lift. Easing off without footing and Pinching will slow the boat significantly and cause slippage sideways. Its important to hike hard to sail fast while not forgetting that tactics and strategy still come into play. Ease, Hike, Trim is the key to speed in Heavy Air.

Heavy Air Sail Settings

In heavy air the sailor should be looking to depower the rig as much as possible. The cunningham should be cranked on hard. On a new sail the cunningham should be pulled on so that the tack eye touches the boom. On an older sail the cunningham should be rigged to the side so that when it is pulled on the tack eye is below the top of the goosneck. This will cause a slight difference of depth between tacks which can be adjusted with the outhaul. The outhaul should be set so that the depth of the sail is 2-4 inches at the boom cleat. The vang should be on more than block to block in order to keep the blocks from rising when the mainsheet is eased.

Heavy Air Sailing Technique

The most common problem is trying to sail the boat too high causing the boat to stall and slip sideways. The rudder can be used to head up slightly in a gust, which will keep the boat flat by pointing the rudder into the water, bearing away with heel is slow - think about the shape leeward heel makes with a rudder angle to windward, it creates a brake and points the rudder out of the water. It's a natural tendency to want to bear away when the boat heels, it will force you to hike really hard and go slow, it's like trying to step on the gas and the brake at the same time. The way to sail fast is to ease, hike and trim. Trim includes your body position, steering and sail trim.

In Heavy Air the sailor should sit back slightly from the light-med position. Keep the boat driving as much as possible by hiking hard and playing the mainsheet up to 3 ft. By easing the sail in a puff with the vang on, the boat will accelerate forward and blast by competitors that heeled over because they didn’t ease. Trim is extremely important in heavy air as it is difficult to keep the boat flat. It is best to be proactive anticipating gusts rather than reactive. Once the boat heels over the boat slips sideways and loses vmg. Its more important to keep the boat moving fast through the water than to try for height. Speed translates into height. Focus first on sailing fast and secondly on tactics in heavy air.
Another consideration is the autobailer should be open as the cockpit will almost undoubtedly fill with water. Some sailors prefer to take out the cockpit bung and wedge it under the grab rail or zip it in their lifevest.