More Bang for Your Laser Vang

Stuart Streuli

The ingenuity required to create, within the parameters of some strict class rules, enough leverage in Laser sail control systems was a source of pride among some sailors of the Olympic dinghy. For designer Bruce Kirby, however, the resulting macramé of lines, knots, and thimbles in the boom vang, cunningham, and outhaul systems was ridiculous.

"I had stopped racing it seriously by the time those devices came along," says Kirby. "But I used to see them at regattas and think, 'There's got to be a better way.'"
But even with Kirby's vocal support, rewriting the class rules has been difficult. Designing and approving these changes, according to Chip Johns, president of North American Laser builder Vanguard Sailboats, Portsmouth, R.I., took two years.

Most of the red tape was cleared away this past summer and early fall, and the rules received International Sailing Federation approval, and went into effect Oct. 1. The most noticeable change is the boom vang. Sailors will be able to replace the original 3-to-1 set- up with a fluid 15-to-1 builder-supplied system or build their own vang using the original cleat block and two lines, and with a maximum of seven turning points. "You’ll be able to sail it like a Finn," says Johns. "While you’re hiking out, you’re adjusting things." Johns and Kirby expect the changes will open up the boat’s competitive weight range, making it easier for lighter sailors to remain in the hunt when the wind picks up.

While there is some worry that more purchase will lead to more broken spars, Johns says this shouldn’t be the case. "You’re not going to put on more vang than you currently use," he says. "But you’re going to be able to take vang off." This will hopefully eliminate the boom breakage that occurs when sailors round the windward mark in heavy air, but are unable to ease off on the vang.

Vanguard is selling upgrade packages for the cunningham and outhaul for $200. The new vang system, which includes an integrated ball bearing block and cam cleat, a single block with becket and key, a free-floating double block, and two sections of Dynema line, will cost approximately $150.