Laser Sailing hiking position and strap adjustment
Some of us actually like doing it, for most of us it just hurts…! But as you sail a one-person dinghy, there is no escaping: in most conditions sailing upwind, you’ll need to hike! No matter how tall you are or what you weigh, at a certain point you will have to shift you bodyweight outside the boat and lock into you hiking-strap to keep the boat upright and fast. Being able to maintain a good hiking posture over longer time, takes practice and demands good physical strength, stamina and core. Make sure your core is strong to hike hard without back injuries On “the” right hiking posture are several opinions and techniques. Some tend to hike with as straight as possible legs, while others keep some angle in there knees. Witch style suits you best, depends on your length, physical abilities and fitness level. Determent for the way you can and will hike, is the setting of your hiking strap. Have a look at the differences in the picture below.
Both of the sailors have the same length. (1.65m) In the right picture the sailor is hiking with a very tight hiking-strap, with straight legs. In the left picture, the hiking-strap is set more loose. First thing to notice is, that the girl with the loose strap, hikes out further outside the boat, applying more pressure on the deck. The reason of this is, that a tight strap, also stays more in the centre of the boat. A loose strap, not only moves up, but also out of the centre, giving you more room and leverage!
In this example, the looser hiking-strap is more powerful than the tight one. But that does not mean the looser the better! If the hiking strap is set too loose you will have 2 problems sailing the boat. Because the strap moves up when loosening it, at the other end your butt goes down, and into the water. You can solve this by increasing your heel-angel, but as a flat boat is faster, Don’t! The other thing is, that you loose contact with the boat. Notice that with a tight strap, your Calfs and Biceps (the backside of your lower and upper legs) are firmly pressed on your deck. As you loose the hiking-strap, your feet go up, and the pressure on your Calfs reduces, of even lose contact with your boat. You will need to maintain firm contact with both of these points to feel what is going on in your boat and transfer your body-movements onto your boat!
Your length is also a determent factor for you hiking-strap setting. When you are taller, you already hike out further than smaller people. So setting the strap just as loose as a smaller sailor, will result in a position so far out, that your knees are on the edges of your deck. This makes it very heavy and impossible to maintain it and keeping your butt out of the water. One of the options taller sailors have, is to switch between hiking with extended or flexed ankles. Have a look at the next picture:
This sailor is a lot taller than the girls. (1.92m) You would expect his hiking-strap to be more tight, but as you take a closer look, you’ll notice that his ankles are flexed. This compensates fore the looser setting of the strap. In this position he has a lot of leverage and pressure on his deck, while keeping firmly in touch with his boat. For him a very efficient hiking-style!
So main thing to remember when you go out on the water, is that there is no perfect setting that suits everyone! Keep the mentioned focus points in mind and experiment with the setting of your hiking-strap. This also means that different conditions change the way you want to hike. So make sure that you can adjust your strap easily!