Much has been discussed about the benefits of hiking flat out, for most (Laser) sailors it is practically impossible to hike flat out for a full beat let alone a full racing day or consecutive days. For those of you have have tried hiking flat out you might have realised that after a few minutes you burn yourself out and the rest of the beat is mainly about cruising, It is necessary to spend as much time flat out so pacing is a good way to ensure that
Firstly let us remind the main benefit of hiking flat out. IT IS FASTER, you might ask yourself how much faster, below you can see a graph of a boat hiking flat out periodically, the peaks are top speed while hiking flat out, the rest is regular hiking, the average speed difference can reach as much as 2 knots which accumulates to over 20% in boat speed. (This boat has been doing a 30 seconds flat out 30 seconds regular hiking)
Hiking flat out posture is just as important, as many sailors will still try to work very aggressive with their shoulders and flick the leech, the reality is you will end up only losing speed as the faster the boat goes the less effect flicking the leech will have, you will end up losing leverage, getting tired and still hit waves, so focusing on fwd and aft trim is far more effective at this stage.
On top of that it is necessary to keep the boat flat by using the mainsheet which will also help to maintain the speed of the boat, and once you have good speed you can use it to slightly luff up (keeping a minimal speed loss).
Even in big chops you have to learn how to keep your body close to the water and use steering and the mainsheet to gently lift you up to avoid hitting the bigger chops. Many sailors tend to lean in before hitting a wave giving up a lot of hiking leverage therefore losing speed and height.
Hiking flat out is all about leverage, so get your head as far out from the boat as possible, a good trick is to take a look at your knees and make sure they are just blocking the view to your toes. Careful not to drop your head too low or you will end up both losing leverage and damaging your back.
In the video you will see Ogawa hiking flat out in 25-30 knots, avoiding hitting waves by slightly heeling the boat on time and staying flat out (Ogawa has made huge progress in speed and fitness over the past few months and is unrecognisable from where he was only 1 year ago)
During our training at TopLevel sailing we ensure to develop the skills and fitness to go fast, while hiking smart to ensure a higher percentage of the beat is spent flat out, we have developed a unique method to improve hiking fitness quickly and allow our sailors to develop and push their pace during training and racing.
Join our program If you would also like to get fast and fit