Forget about S-curves, Sailing by the Lee, and Block to Block

by Ari Barshi via Laser Training Center, Cabarete, Dominican Republic

We no longer use the term “S-curves” or “Snake” when talking about downwind speed techniques. Instead, the term you will hear when coming to train with us is: Connecting. Connect from one wave to another by making up-turns and down-turns. Some sailors see the ‘S’ of the S-carving, as a symmetric symbol, thus thinking that if they sailed 10 meters to the left, now it is time to turn and sail 10 meters to the right.

Surfing down waves is the most important ingredient of downwind speed. Once planning, stay on that wave as long as you can, and alter course the shortest distance possible to connect to the next wave. Downwind speed is all about connecting as many waves as possible, using the gap between waves to alter course and find the next best wave to surf.

In flat water downwind, especially in light winds when surfing is not possible, connect puff to puff.

Downwind sailing in a Laser is time to be active and pass other boats. If you need to rest do it upwind, when boatspeed is usually quite similar in the different result layers.

In a class about downwind surfing a sailor asked, “How do I know that I am really sailing by the lee?” My answer was, “Why do you need to know?”

Sailing by the lee is not an objective, it is what can happen during a down-turn when heading up to the wind leech-first and not luff-first. All one should care about is keeping the Laser flat and in the direction of the wave for maximum speed and surf. The sail should offer maximum power forward. If that happens to be by sailing-by-the lee, so be it.

Block to block upwind is also a not a goal but just a reference point. 

As instructors in beginner classes we find ourselves having to remind sailors to sail block to block to help them find the true close-hauled course.

When racing, it is very rare to see a top sailor sailing block to block an entire section of the upwind leg. To be efficient upwind one needs to adjust the sail to fit the changing boat speed when facing chop or swell, and to adjust to a new bearing dictated by boats to leeward or windward.

Sheeting in and out is a constant action when racing upwind. To know how much to sheet in/out and how often, brings one back to the secret PPP formula (Practice, Practice, Practice).

In the picture above, Olympian Raul Aguayo DOM demonstrates that the surfing stance on a Laser is no different than on a surf board. It is all about weight distribution while on the feet, steering by changing the angle of the Laser in the water.

Ari Barshi, founder of Laser Training Cabarete, has trained 4 World Champions, 25 Olympians, and over 15 National champions from around the world. The coaching program has expanded to welcome all levels of Laser sailors. 

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