Keeping a Laser class legal does not allow a lot of room for individual gadgets and go-fast hardware. So what might you put at the top of your gift list for holidays or birthdays? Based on sailing with these upgrades and niceties, here is what I’d suggest in a range of prices:
• $16 - It’s my impression that I do a better job keeping my Laser at the best angles off the wind because of my masthead wind vane. I used to sail with both masthead and gooseneck level vanes; and still do in major regattas as a way of having a backup in case I lose the upper one in a knockdown. The cheapest ones are not as responsive in a very light breeze, but it hurts less when you lose one. I use the Little Hawk MkI.
• $10 - If you still use the rubber O-rings to close your bailer, get thee to a web site and order the heavy-duty stainless springs. They make the bailer what it was supposed to be. Of course, if you love fooling with equipment, the O-rings do give you that opportunity.
• $55 - If you don’t have the approved stainless steel sleeve for your outhaul, and you sail out of a spot that occasionally has onshore winds at the launch area, the sleeve is a winner – a breeze to attach in the water after you deal with your dolly and turn the Laser into the wind and a quick twist releases the sail while you get the boat out of the water. Also no need to rig any lines at the clew. If you’re at that point where the slight extra slackness off the boom disturbs you, you’re way above my regatta schedule.
• $50 - $100 - Change out your control lines for more supple, less resistive lines. Years ago I switched to smaller sized Swiftcord lines and small Harkin blocks for all my controls (except the mainsheet) and discovered that not only was it easier to trim but when I eased anything, the lines put up no resistance and the main quickly settled to the correct position. I have sailed in 30 plus knots and found that my gloved hands are plenty adequate to handle the controls, even those I reduced the purchase on.
• $85 - Here is another simple one, the Harkin Ratchamatic mainsheet block. Easy eases in light air and supper holding in heavy air, and you never have to reach in to slide the adjustor. I love it as I come to the marks in gusty air, just ease or trim and the block reads your mind and gives you the resistance you want. Who needs computer chips?
• $190 - $575 - A sail that has the proper shape is faster than a pillow case. Get someone experienced to evaluate your sail to place it on the continuum between new sail and bed linen and, if it’s questionable, retire it to practice status. If you are only doing club racing and your club allows it, buy a “practice” sail and start saving your dollars for a class legal sail for when you’re ready for regional regattas where you must have a legal sail. My experience suggests that the legal sails are both faster and more fragile.
• $100 - $200 - Hiking harder is faster. Start sailing with battened hiking pants or shorts and you’ll see the difference on those upwind slogs into a stiff breeze. I wear my hikers in every condition and now they’re like skin, there when I need them and not distracting when I don’t. There are too many options to cover them all here, but I did great with the cheapest when I was getting started, and now I want a selection for different water and air temps. Still I find I wear one of two ¾ length options on almost all occasions.
Other possibilities are tangle free mainsheets (Rooster works well), new PDFs (they do need replacing regularly), minimal hiking shoes (the tops of your feet take a beating), starting watches (get the sync feature) or gloves (look for maximum grip, either ¾ or full finger).
Now all you have to do is find a way to suggest to family the items you want without seeming pushy. By the way, I’m looking to upgrade my PDF, seen anything you like? Make a suggestion to my wife if you don’t mind.