by Jon Emmett
The exact wind range that you would consider medium winds of course depends on your bodyweight. After all, the Laser 4.7, Radial, and Standard rigs all cater to a wide weight range of sailors. The point is, medium wind may be considered your perfect wind, like the story of Goldilocks and the three bears: not too much power, not too little power, but the amount of power that is just right! In these conditions, the Laser is a pure joy to sail, although definitely hard work because it normally means that you are continuously hiking upwind with the upper body upright during the lulls (or when trying to gain height) and fully extended during the gusts (or when trying to foot).
So, let’s repeat that. POWER! In medium winds it is all about the power: Don’t be tempted to over flatten the sail so you have to hike less! The harder you work, the faster you will go, and this is true both upwind and downwind.
Upwind, you have almost no kicker (after sheeting the sail in, just take out the slack), downhaul just to remove the biggest creases, and likewise outhaul at maximum depth (normally about a hand-length between the boom and the sail – more than this just creates extra drag). Tightening the kicker, downhaul, or outhaul will depower the sail. The boom block and the traveller block are nearly permanently touching in the block-to-block position to give maximum leech tension. The reason you just take the slack out of the kicker is because if you added kicker it would bend the mast, which would reduce leech tension and therefore reduce power and the ability to point high upwind.
Taking more power on the reach for example will enable you to go lower and stay in the gust longer (the gust will be traveling directly downwind), then head back up in the lulls to keep average hull speed high and hopefully continue planing. This idea of heading up in the lulls to promote or continue planing is very important, and remember it is actually easier to continue planing than to promote planing in the first place. Once the boat is up to speed it is working very efficiently.
To work low on the reach (or in a lull) you may well need to move your bodyweight well inboard (to leeward), and then move your bodyweight right out (just like sailing upwind) on a tighter reach or in a gust to keep the boat balance correct at all times. And don’t forget about trim, especially if the waves are large relative to the wind strength.
Downwind, you may need to do big angles (sailing hard by the lee, or coming up onto a reach) to get the boat speed high enough to surf (the closer your hull speed is to the wave speed, the easier it is to catch the waves). Remember to keep looking behind you to stay in the gusts, which will be going straight downwind and maybe narrow, meaning you need to turn frequently to stay in them.I
Check out Jon’s NEW book Training to Win which gives details of lots of fantastic exercises to improve all aspects of your sailing, and if you are interested in Jon’s latest activities please do visit his website jonemmettsailing.