Back in the early summer, as the lakes opened up again and I moved my Laser to South Cerney, a couple of blustery races on the water getting myself brutalised with my full-sized Standard Mk2 rig persuaded me that I finally needed to get a Radial.
To explain, there are three (official) rig sizes for a Laser dinghy. Now these things are only ever a guide, but an old post on Sailing Anarchy suggested the following helm weights:
4.7 rig: 50 to 75kg
Radial rig: 60 to 80kg
Full rig: 75kg +
Another old 2007 SailJuice article listed the average weight of an Olympic helm with a full rig as 81kg, with a weight range of 78-84kg, whereas the average weight of the ladies with the Radial was 66kg, with a range of 58-70kg.
Following the enforced inactivity of six months lockdown (and the unenforced consumption of a certain amount of beer across said time) my current weight is a shameful 73kg, or 11.5 stone. That is heavier than I've ever been, and not a weight I expect (or hope) to maintain. I'm also a mere 5.7", which I suspect is somewhat shorter than any of those old Olympic sailors, except perhaps (some of) the ladies.
Neither, of course, am I anywhere near the superhuman fitness of an Olympic helm.
For a couple of years or so of racing the Laser at Frampton I stubbornly refused to get a Radial. Partly a point of pride, the Standard rig was also just too much fun, the people I enjoyed racing against most generally only sailed with a Standard rig, and the lake was relatively small. The friends I raced against were, mostly, bigger than me (or if not did have Radial sails they brought out for the heavier stuff) but whilst far from superhuman, I've always been active, so I think my general level of fitness helped to compensate for my weight disadvantage. And I had a thicker mainsheet that I could rig for the really heavy weather.
I won more than I lost. Sometimes a big pile of wind funnelled up the neighbouring estuary and mercilessly flattened me, and when that happened I lost badly. Very badly. But in anything up to about 20 knots I managed just fine. And in the light stuff I definitely had the advantage.
But South Cerney is a bigger, more exposed lake. And the first couple of races back at the reopening in July saw some blustery conditions, and caught me six months out of practice.
So I finally caved and bought myself a Radial.
And then, typically, the heavy weekend weather stopped. And then we were allowed to race double-handers and go cruising with the big boat again, and so the Laser sat idle for a lot of the remaining summer and my crispy new Radial sail went unused.
Last Sunday my usual sailing partner with the Albacore told me she was going away on holiday for the week. The forecast for the day was wet and wild; the tail end of Storm Alex apparently, heavy rain in the morning and 20 knots of wind gusting up to 30 plus.
I did briefly entertain the idea of sailing with the Standard, but then figured as I'd paid good money for it, I ought to finally stick the sail numbers on the Radial and take it out for a play.
And oh, was it fun.
The wind came in as promised. The first race saw me capsize every other lap as I rounded the gybe mark; just poor, out of practice technique really. Despite that, I still managed to steal a 3rd place out of a fleet of 7, and on one of the reaches down to that dreaded gybe, I saw the boat speed hit 11.8 knots despite the reduced sail area of the Radial.
The conditions eased, just a bit, for the second race, and with a lucky start I managed to frustrate the GP14 that had beaten me the race before and steal a 2nd place, just 11 seconds of corrected time behind the leading boat, an OK class dinghy, that actually won.
So I reckon the Radial rig was a good buy. I might even break it out again next time we get a storm blow through and I'm left on my own to play with the Laser.