Laser ramp ready checklist

Al Sargent
5 min readJul 7, 2021

If you sail a Laser (also called ILCA Dinghy), and launch your boat on a ramp, you don’t want to be “that person” blocking the ramp and keeping others from launching. This can be stressful for everyone, especially when your fellow sailors are trying to get out in time for the starting signal of a race.

And at the end of the day, it can be annoying if you’re blocking others and taking a lot time to get your boat off the ramp and out of the water. No one likes a ramp hog!

Don’t be a ramp hog

Things to not do on the ramp

  • Any last-minute rigging tasks. They should have been done before you block the ramp. If there’s something you forgot to do, address it on the water.
  • Playing with your phone. Believe it or, this happens. Get off your phone!
  • Putting on your lifejacket. All that should have been done before the ramp.
  • Launching barefoot. We get all kinds of marine debris, like driftwood, on the ramp that can cut your feet.

So, here’s what you need to do before you get to the ramp so that everything works smoothly.

Laser launch checklist

The goal is to have almost nothing to do before you sail away from the ramp. The key to doing this, is to do everything you can to get your Laser ready BEFORE you get to the ramp:

  • Tiller extension secured in your tiller.
  • Tiller in your rudder, and tied up tight, with the tail twisted around the tiller so it won’t come out.
  • Rudder tucked under traveler, with rudder bolt forward of traveler so that it doesn’t slip out. (Laser rudders don’t float.) Below is an example of what you DON’T want to do, since the rudder/tiller combo can slip as soon as the boat is tipped into the water:
Almost right, except the rudder bolt should be FORWARD of the traveler so that it doesn’t slip out.
  • Traveler line pulled tight. Without this, the rudder/tiller combo and slip and sink.
  • Mainsheet rigged up.
  • Clew tie fully rigged up and tight.
  • Outhaul fully rigged up, and pulled tight so sail has less power and is more manageable if a puff of wind hits at an awkward time. Like this:
Outhaul pulled tight so the sail has less power if a puff hits, clew strap on, mainsheet rigged up
  • Cunningham full rigged up, and loose so that boom can go out easily.
  • Boom vang fully rigged up, and eased to the stopper knot; this way, the sail has less power and is more manageable if a puff hits unexpectedly. Have something in the vang key socket on the boom — shock cord, velcro, tape — so that the vang key doesn’t fall out. Like this:
Vang eased to dump power in a puff, cunningham eased so rig can fully rotate
  • Daggerboard placed in cockpit, with shockcord ready to hook up. It’s a good idea to place the leading edge down, touching the cockpit, so the trailing edge is in the air; this way you’ll avoid nicks. Like this:
Round edge of daggerboard is down, back tip is up — all to avoid damage
  • Mast retainer line hooked up. Use shockcord for this, not a piece of rope. Why? I’ve seen times where a boat’s boom rotated 360 as the boat was pulled up the ramp, hosed down, and walked to its parking spot. The spectra mast retainer line pulled out the deck blocks at the base of the mast, leading to a time-consuming repair. Shockcord is class-legal, andyou don’t need the mast retainer to keep the mast in the boat during a capsize. The cunningham does this on its own.
  • Dolly rail riders placed in the down position, so boat is resting on strap. Like this:
Rail riders are down, so the boat slides in easily
  • Bowline (if you have one) should be untied from dolly, with a couple of wraps around the handle if needed to keep the boat from slipping off. Even better: tie a loop of heavy-duty bungee cord on one handle of your dolly. Before launching, pass it through the bow eye, to the other handle. When it’s time to launch, you simply detach the shock cord, and your bow is free to slide into the water.
  • Clothing be fully dressed. Hat on, sunglasses on, gloves on, etc. It never ceases to amaze me how someone rolls up to the ramp half dressed, then realizes they’ve forgotten something, and has to run a minute across the parking lot (not fun in a wetsuit!) to go get it. Simple solution: get fully dressed before you wheel your boat.
  • Lifejacket — have it on and zipped up.

Once launched

If you’re by yourself, you can use your mainsheet to tie up to the dock. Take the end of your mainsheet, pass it through your bow eye, tie one half-hitch on the eye, and then have about three feet of mainsheet to tie onto the horn cleat. With your boat secure, you can move your dolly off the ramp.

I find it easiest to put the daggerboard in first, then the rudder. Once I’ve done these things, untie, and sail off. Do things like hooking up your daggerboard shockcord, and tying up your vang tail, once you’ve sailed off, so that you’re not blocking the ramp.

Laser retrieval checklist

Now let’s move on to after sailing, when it’s time to get your boat back onto the dolly. The goal here is to have your boat ready to slide. To do that, do the following before you’re at the ramp:

  1. Rudder & tiller tucked under traveler, with rudder bolt forward of traveler.
  2. Traveler pulled tight, so your rudder and tiller don’t slip off the boat and sink.
  3. Daggerboard shockcord off, and daggerboard resting in cockpit, back tip up. This will save you from having to make time-consuming repairs to your boat.
  4. Mainsheet knot untied. and mainsheet pulled completely off the boom, so boom can swing out 180 degrees if needed.
  5. Outhaul pulled tight so the sail is more manageable.
  6. Vang fully eased to the stopper knot
  7. Cunningham fully eased so it’s not stopping the boom from rotating.
  8. Dolly rail riders in down position, so boat will easily slide up on the strap.

All basic stuff, but if you do this, it’ll keep things moving and help everyone have a good time on the water.



Al Sargent

Occasional thoughts on tech, sailing, and San Francisco