previous post, I drove a safety RIB in our race last week and was able to closely observe the top Laser sailors do things that elude me. Our Kiwi, who won the race, had borrowed my Laser and since for some reason it doesn't win races with me at the helm, I thought it worthwhile to study his technique.
His Scottish competitor was better downwind, but on the beats the Kiwi was clearly superior. Afterward, he said that with the wind at 12 -14 knots he thought it would be a good opportunity to use his fitness - and he did, with a lot of serious hiking resulting in a particularly flat boat upwind. His competitor had more finesse downwind but was not in as good shape physically and was visibly tired on the last long beat.
The following day, I took my Laser out and discovered an important element in the Kiwi's success (in addition to good abs) - he had loosened the hiking strap drastically compared to where I keep it, which allowed him to hike with his bum far over the side of the boat. I had noticed that he was hiking with his body very low to the water and the looser hiking straps certainly allowed that. Trying the loosened straps, I realised how much easier it is to get weight (yes, I refer to my bum) further out with more leverage. However, in this position, hiking pants with a hard pad is absolutely necessary - without them, one's hamstrings quickly become sore as they press against the gunwale. The only thing I don't like about the loosened straps is that in lulls it is harder to get your weight back inside and I had to occasionally grab the strap itself to pull myself in. But overall, I am a convert, at least for stronger wind.