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Good Rigging Matters

Look around the dinghy park at a major Laser event will show you that even at the highest level there is no ‘right way’ to rig your control lines. Much of how we rig our Laser is down to what we are comfortable with, maybe we just haven’t changed what seems to work, or perhaps we don’t think that good rigging matters – but it does.

Good control systems are important as it takes one more variable out of your racing: good controls are strong, well built, they allow you to trim your sail correctly even when you are tired, and they are always rigged the same – all of which provide psychological and mechanical advantages.

No matter how you rig your Laser, in a world of marginal gains, good rigging can make a difference by reducing risk of failure, maximizing ease of use and consistency.

So, what can be done? Your rigging should be easy to fit in the same way from event to event, so that nothing changes and your calibration remains consistent. It should also be secure – barely a major event goes by without seeing someone suffer rigging failure. The third objective is to ensure our controls are easy to use by making them as effective and efficient as possible by choosing the right blocks, ropes, appropriate purchase and rope types for each system.

Splicing v knots – Avoid tying and untying knots by having some of your lines and blocks spliced.  Splicing, providing it is done properly, can give you both consistency and increased security. The current generation of blocks such as Harken’s carbo-blocks are designed to be ‘soft attached’ using Dyneema® or similar line, but tying them on incorrectly can result in the block being pulled apart at the head. This is particularly critical for the highly loaded kicker centre block. A good solution is to Brummel (lock) splice them in the right position in the first place.

Blocks: Larger sheave sizes up to the maximum 30mm allowed under class rules, increase efficiency as a result of the larger radius that the rope travels around, and can make a real difference particularly on the highly loaded cunningham.  Here, blocks such as Harken’s 29mm T2 Soft-Attach Carbo blocks are ideal. For the lighter loaded outhaul 18/20mm blocks work fine.

Purchase: Increasing purchase is most appropriate for the cunningham when using the heavier MKII standard sail, and as the range of travel on the new sail is smaller, it reduces the 8:1 downside of more rope in the cockpit.

Radial and 4.7 sailors are also switching to an 8:1 downhaul with a caribiner at the top of the kicker base to attach the primary to. The 8:1 makes it much easier to get maximum downhaul on, and if conditions change whilst sailing, the caribiner allows the sailor to reconfigure the downhaul primary on the water, so that entire system is then able to run down one side of the boom, maximizing the range of travel.

Effective, efficient systems reduce the effort you need to put into changing your settings, making accurate adjustments faster and easier, especially when you are tired.

Southeast Sailboats fully spliced 8:1 cunningham is specially designed for the  MKII standard sail. The tandem block primary assembly is spliced from a single length of Dyneema.  The lower block assembly is passed through the loop on the primary and then under the kicker tang to fix it all in place. No knots to tie or come undone, no shackles or pins to undo. Effective, efficient, consistent, secure.

Whist some systems require maximum purchase, some sailors have been reducing purchase on the kicker from 15:1 to 12:1. Better running blocks with better rope all help the efficiency of the system and the ability to pull on the kicker quicker and with less rope.

Releasing the outhaul is something that can be frustrating in light winds. Normal outhaul systems traditionally use a shock cord (bungee) that runs from the boom centre cleat, to the sail clew, and sometimes back to the boom cleat. This type of system does one thing – it tries to pull the sail inboard. A far better system is one that pulls the sail inboard, and, at the same time pulls the control line back through the cleat, fairlead and blocks. This is what Team GBR sailor Michael Beckett has to say on the subject….

“What makes this so effective is that for every inch of outhaul you pull on, it stretches the elastic by about an inch and a half, so the tension increases exponentially. The outhaul is easier to pull on and will release more effectively. The only tricky part about this is that you have to attach the outhaul primary, secondary and bungee ends all onto one small 18mm block. I have been really impressed by the solution Southeast Sailboats produced to solve this – a small toggle spliced into the primary line that the end of bungee loops over. All in all it is a smart solution to make sailing a Laser that little bit more satisfying, enjoyable and effective

Rope: There are a lot of performance criteria in rope selection but for Laser control lines the most important is minimal stretch under load so that settings remain unchanged, whilst being strong, durable, low in friction and friendly on the hands.

Slippery Dyneema® SK78 D12 is the default choice for primary lines. The cunningham primary must do a 180 through the tack cringle/grommet and minimizing friction is important as pulling the cunningham on is hard enough. The cunningham primary line diameter is a compromise between having a thin line that risks getting trapped in the gooseneck, or thicker line and greater friction. The outhaul primary also has to do a 180 through the boom end eye but with a lighter load than the cunningham and a larger bend radius.

Secondary lines should be ‘hands friendly’ both in terms of diameter and grip. Secondary lines are also the ones that usually fail, with the cover giving way leaving just the Dyneema® core. Ropes do wear out, and should be inspected for signs of wear, particularly for the highly loaded kicker and cunningham where the cleat abrades the cover, and for the cunningham where the secondary line may also snag on the kicker clevis pin.

The recent rule change removing the restriction on Aramid fibres, lines with Technora® in the cover can now be used for all three control lines. Technora® provide greater durability and grip than lines that are just Polyester covered, but can be ‘stiffer’ that normal 4mm secondary lines. So, maybe for the first time, it is worth considering using different rope types for each system. Whilst Technora® covered ropes such as Marlow’s Excel Racing GP78 work great on the highly loaded kicker and cunningham, it is worth considering more supple lines such as the fractionally thinner Robline Dinghy Polytech for the lighter loaded outhaul if you want to have to avoid ‘helping’ the outhaul off when you uncleat it!

Colours: Good colour usage on secondary lines is vital, ensuring that you can quickly distinguish and instantly grab the correct control line. Rope lengths should also be set ‘just right’ to minimize excess line in the cockpit, and so you can use the handle to maximum effect.

With everything set up perfectly you can minimize mistakes and tangles and maximize the consistency, effectiveness and security of your controls.

Last but not least … little things like frayed rope ends, outer covers that are separating from their cores, knots to try and tie in a consistent place, can all result in lost time rigging, frustration, when we should be concentrating on what is important. Having our rigging clean with spliced lines, and properly stitched or sealed rope ends can help eliminate this source of psychological disadvantage.

The top mainsheet core is starting to pull out of the cover making rigging frustrating. Worse still if the cover is pulling off and your stopper knot doesn’t hold the core. The lower mainsheet end has been stitched with Dyneema and covered with heat shrink sleeving secured with epoxy adhesive.

Summary – good rigging matters! In competitive situations where marginal gains are important, just like having straight spars, aligned foils, a polished hull and a good sail, having a well rigged Laser means that you haven’t left that element to chance.

This is an updated version of an article first published in November 2016 by Max Hunt. A regular at the Laser Masters worlds and championships across Europe, Max Hunt runs Southeast Sailboats – a small business that provides custom made rigging solutions for the Laser dinghy –

See our unique control line systems on a Laser on the RYA stand at the 2019 RYA Dinghy Show in London. Southeast Sailboats will also doing a splicing demonstration on Sunday – find us on the Marlow Ropes stand.

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