In this video you can see the laser sailor (Omer) planing on a reach in 25-30 knots of wind. The obvious thing is to see he is hiking flat out and the bow is out of the water so the boat is riding it’s own wave which is called planing, but the hidden skills are the amount of centerboard lifted. A lot of centreboard lifted means reduced drag in the water and since the energy of the sail is aimed towards the angle of movement there is hardly any leeway effort on the boat.
The sail is depowered to allow the sailor control and the leech is open for the same reason. Depending if it is a tight or a broad reach the Vang tension is decided, for a tight reach the Vang will be loose to allow the leech to open and reduce power enough for control and in a broad reach Vang would be tighter to allow more power and more speed (as discussed in previous blogs).
But the most important skill of all is controlling pressure in the boat, by steering gently the sailor is maintaining steady pressure on the boat, by luffing up he generates more pressure on the boat and by baring away he is reducing pressure but always keeping the boat powered up. If he will bare away too much the boat will lose pressure and stop planing hence slowing down significantly and by luffing up to much the boat would heel to leeward and slow down as well on top of the risk of dipping the boom in the water and capsizing.
Timing is also very important and since the pressure is constantly changing the sailor has to be very aware and feel any slight change in the pressure on the boat and react or anticipate to ensure the boat stays planing and on top speed.
At Toplevel Sailing we focus our technical sail coaching on anticipating change, feeling the boat, and understanding the rig interactions to ensure smooth and speedy sailing.