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Learn to Sail - Setting up the Boat

Learn To Sail graphic

Catch this video, the first in the series, and meet Alex Mills Barton a young and talented sailor from Team GB.

In this video you can learn all the basics about the boat - a laser - and get a feel for all of its different elements, whilst learning how to set it up.

As well as learning all about the boat, we also speak to Alex about how he got into sailing, find out all about his first time on the water, whilst also hearing about his biggest achievements to date.




Jack Stonehouse: Hi, I'm Jack Stonehouse from Boatshop24.

Balazs Jarai: I'm Balazs Jarai from Mailspeed Marine.

Jack: You're joining us today in Sussex with Alex Mills-Barton a 2016 GB Sailing hopeful, and he's hopefully going to teach us how to sail in a day.

Alex Mills Barton: Hi, my name's Alex Mills Barton and we're down here at Newhaven and Seaford Sailing Club, my home club. I'm going to teach you how to sail and rig up a Laser, which is the boat I sail as part of the British Sailing Team.

This is the mast that gives the sail the support when it's put up on the boat. It's a quite simple boat to rig, not too many ropes like some of the other boats.

Jack: Tell us how and why you first got into sailing.

Alex: How did I get into sailing? My auntie started sailing down here when I was nine, I think, and had done a couple of months and eventually bought her own boat. I came down on my tenth birthday and she took me out here in about the same kind of winds, I think, and since then I've loved it. I started then doing the cadet weeks and cadet nights down here and getting a a bit of coaching and that. Yeah, I've loved it since then.


So the mast just slides up here. Just like that. These batons give the back of the sail support, which gives the sail more power.


Jack: As we've got the boat behind us, tell us a bit more about the boat. 

Alex: Its a Laser. It's one of the Olympic classes, it has been for a very long time now. It's single handed and you need roughly about 80 kilos to sail it. Yeah, it's a great boat. Most of the people that sail big boats and do tactics on yachts and the Americas Cup have come through Lasers. It's the biggest dingy class going and you roughly get a 150 to 200 boats at the worlds.

Jack: Is it quite a good starting boat, or do you need to work your way up to it?

Alex: Yes, it is. You can get different rig sizes. So, you can put a small rig on for the children and younger sailors and then there's three sizes so you have that one that they start out in, then there's a slightly bigger one, which is actually the women's Olympic class. Then then this is the final step really. So yeah, it's a good boat to learn in, as well. So now that's done, we can put the sail up and start getting the lines in the right places.

Jack: What are your biggest sailing achievements to date?

Alex: I'd probably say that winning the Youth Europeans in 2010, that's up there. Recently I finished ninth at the European Senior Championships, that's my best senior result by far, so far. This is the boom we're just putting on here and tying up and it will help give the sail more shape and support again.

Jack: Have there been any interesting or crazy events out in the water while you've been sailing?

Alex: Not off the top of my head. I mean, we sail in some pretty crazy places, like behind huge cliffs and stuff like that. In Lake Garda this year we had a race that the wind, I've never seen the wind shift so much and puff in and out so much. Shifts close to 180 degrees, within races. It was a pretty crazy place.


So this first line I'm setting up here, this controls the shape of the bottom of the sail and the side. You can loosen it to make it deeper and tighten it to make it more flat. This second one, this is called 'the kicker' and this just slots into the boom here. What that does is effects how bent the mast is and how tight the back of the sail is, so it gives the sail more shape.

This one here is the main sheet which you use to adjust how far in and out the sail is. When you are going into the wind you have it tight and all the way in and when you are going downwind you have it at 90 degrees to the boat and this is the main adjustment, the most important one.

This last one is called 'the downhaul' and that adjusts how tight the sail is on the mast up here and it helps take the creases out and when it gets windy it helps to de-power the sail. It's that quick to rig a Laser up. We've got a couple of extra bits.

This is the centre board which slots down here and that stops the boat from drifting against the wind, otherwise without that the wind would just take you downwind and you'd never make any progress into it.

When I get onto water this just goes down like that and you use this to steer. Very simple. That's it.