The Laser Standard MKII Sail

How does it sail – a club sailors view.

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As a mature sailor of just under 70 kilos, 1.764 metres in height and past peak fitness because I will be a GGM in 2017 I was becoming increasing frustrated with the MK1 Standard Sail. At 76 Kilo I could cope with the MKI Standard but once I took up a more active life style (retirement) and returned to a more normal weight I struggled as soon as the wind picked up. After 35 years in a Laser I thought about other classes and tried a few. I was surprised by how responsive the sails are on some newer designs and as the wind picked up the rigs depower in a controlled manner and very differently to the MKI standard. It made them a pleasure to sail and I reluctantly decided it was time to part with the Laser. Before I could place an order for a different boat the MKII Training Sail was announced and I decided to try this first because I enjoy the Laser Circuits, there are always Lasers to Race with at any club and I feel the Laser is good value.

I put the MKII sail on the boat in Spring 2015 and I have not used the MKI standard since. I find this sail is much more responsive. Not quite as good as some of the modern designs with fully composite masts but plenty good enough for me.

Club sailing was becoming frustrating because of the Standard or Radial Lottery. If there were white caps forming on the water (top of a F3) then the Radial rig was right for me. For a Major Regatta the Radial rig will still be the right rig for my physical characteristics and level of fitness. When Club sailing if the wind was variable because of the weather, or, the characteristics of the lake, the choice was difficult, be underpowered in lulls in the Radial or fight the Standard MKI as the wind picked up and watch the heavyweights sail away. With MKII sail I find I can cope with a wider range of wind strengths and it needs to be a consistent and strong F4 or a F5 before I need the Radial if I am sailing at my club.

The MKII sail sets very differently from the MKI and I have been told it sets better by others watching the racing. The foot appears to be a few mm longer and there seems to be more luff roach. On the MKII training sail I have the outhaul eye is slightly closer to the edge of the sail than my MK1. My kicker and outhaul controls were set so that when they were released I had the minimum kicker and maximum outhaul I would ever need with the MKI, handy at the windward mark and if the rope jumped out of the cleat. I had to change these settings with the MKII because they were both far too loose. Off wind the MKII always needs more kicker than the MKI to maintain sail shape and I fitted a shorter clew hook to give me the outhaul range I personally feel comfortable with. I find the sail is incredibly sensitive to both kicker and mainsheet tension. Two blocking the mainsheet flattens the head of the sail very nicely and I sail with less tension in the sheet and kicker in the lower wind ranges as it is very easy to flatten off the head of the sail too much. For optimum speed the kicker setting seems critical and very sensitive to small changes in tension making boat set up tricky on shorter legs of the race course.

When the sail is fully powered up in moderate breezes boat speed seems to be identical to the MKI sail and the only advantage I appear to have is my sail is new and some of the other sailors have been using their sails for six seasons. As the wind picks up the sail flattens off nicely. The power comes out of the head while the lower portion of the sail retains its shape, very different to the MKI. I find I can keep pace with a Radial in a F4 with a MKII whereas with a MKI sail I would drop back. I have not yet managed to work out the best light wind settings but I am not the best light wind sailor with a MKI.

Looking at the sail there seems to be more bend on the top section and this might be a stress point. My top section is five years old so I took the precaution of reversing the ends. I hope the International Class Association will soon have positive news on the release of the new composite section which has been around in prototype form for several years.

In terms of maximum speed the sail seems identical to the MKI. As a lighter weight sailor when the wind picks up I am faster in a MKII and do not fall as far back behind the heavier and fitter sailors on the beat which gives more opportunity to catch up on the off wind legs. This does make racing closer and more competitive. Perhaps this might change once the top sailors have the MKII! Based on my experience to date I anticipate fleet racing will be much closer with the MKII in the same way as the change from the MK5 to the MK6 Radial brought the fleet together. If lighter sailors are faster in a breeze with a MKII we may see lighter sailors being more competitive in the future which over time might lead to a lowering of the Laser Handicap.

For me the best way to sum up the new sail is by saying it’s like having two cars with identical engines but the MKII has more gears and corners better over a wider range of crew weights. The bottom line is there are more places to be had by picking up the shifts on the race course than by buying a new MKII sail and overall my place in the fleet remains largely unchanged; I just enjoy it more.

Well done to ILCA for coming up with a new design which is progressive but does not make all the older boats obsolete.

ILCA have released photographs and a statement about the sail in their September 2015 Newsletter which can be downloaded here.

Andy B – Oct 2015