The most important Laser rules to get right before you go to a regatta are to do with your sail. Why? Because sail-numbers are a time-wasting pain to put on, and an even bigger pain to take off or replace. And if someone tells you to replace your numbers at the last minute, they might not stay stuck on.
Why do we place such importance on sail numbers?
The Race Committee (and the Jury) needs to identify your boat through your sail number:
- if you're over the Start Line
- when you cross the Finish line
- if you are seen to infringe a Racing Rule
- if you need to be identified for safety reasons
What to do:
Remember the six Ps! (Something to do with preparation, I think.) Make sure you have checked these sail-related items before you pack your sail ready for the weekend. It's a real pain having to put new sail numbers on with only two hours before the first start of a 'Q' event.
You will not be allowed to enter a 'Q' event or the Nationals with an incomplete or incorrect sail-number. At Stokes Bay recently someone arrived with a new sail naked but for its Laser symbol. I told him to find the full sail number before he went afloat. The start was delayed, no wind. I saw his boat on the beach, a red '19' on each side, but that was all. I asked him where the black ones were, to which his reply was that Steve C's caravan had run out of black numbers. I checked. It hadn't.
- Rule 1: If someone drops a hint that you might like to put something right before you go sailing, it's usually a good idea to do something about it.
- Rule 2: Never, ever, bullshit a Race Official, especially if he can check your story out in two minutes.
Sail rules to remember
- The sail-number must match the boat number. Dispensation will only be given if you've borrowed or chartered a boat. Sometimes you will be allowed to use another sail if you own both boats, but it's a good idea to bring evidence (e.g. a current insurance certificate) to prove it. Otherwise there is no excuse for not having the right numbers for your boat.
- Contrasting numbers for any sails bought since 1/6/1993, regardless of the boat's age. (If you're using one that old, I'll probably see you at the back of the fleet.) The last four numbers must be of a different and contrasting colour from the preceding numbers. The following colour-combinations are acceptable:
- Red and black (recommended) e.g: 183456, 75345, 4567
- Red and Royal blue e.g: 183456, 75345, 4567
- Royal Blue and black e.g: 183456, 75345, 4567
- Complete sail numbers: please don't try to be clever and come with 183 and think you'll be allowed to race. Bit dumb to do this anyway; apart from a blank sail I can't think what stands out more on the start line than a 3-digit sail-number.
- The gap between each number is recommended to be 60mm (40mm for the 4.7). I know the gap can be a narrow as 50mm (30mm for the 4.7), but I would leave at least 55mm (35mm for the 4.7) for safety, and even then only if I were experienced at sticking numbers on. Getting this wrong can get expensive if the error means several digits have to be moved. For a few millimeteres off the length of the sail-number it's really not worth it.
- Size of numbers must be appropriate to the rig: 4.7 numbers are smaller (220mm x 150mm)
- Position on the sail must be correct, starbard-side numbers uppermost, and the distance from the leech must be at least 100mmą12mm for each number/letter set.