How to Leak Test your Laser
There is nothing worse than sailing around for the day at a regatta and getting to shore and finding you have been carrying around extra weight in the way of water in the hull. Even a small leak can let a large amount of water in the hull when it is windy. Every time the hull flexes any leak will work like a sponge and suck in water. Luckily is it is normally very quick and easy to find the leak and requires no special tools or skills, even if you don’t always have the skills to repair the damage it is good to know where the water is coming in.
You will need: A Bucket, Washing up Liquid, A sponge, Water, Tape, Playdoh or Plasticine
Before you start your leak test remove all spars, ropes etc so you are left with a bare hull and fittings.
- Firstly block the breath hole. All Lasers have them and you should find your breather hole located under your toe strap at the front of the cockpit.
- Once you have blocked the breath hole fill the bucket with soapy water. Try and get it as if you were going to use the water to blow bubbles with your hands like you did when you where young.
- Remove the screw bung in the transom and blow a few lungs full of air into the hull. Then quickly block the hole. You can do this a number of ways, but I personally find putting Playdoh over the hole the quickest and easiest.
- Next walk around the boat looking for any signs of damage, then work your way around the hull applying soapy water as you go. If a leak is present it will bubble up. Pay particular attention to the fixtures and fittings as these are most common areas for leaks.
- Once you have completed the hull and are confident you have either found the leak or that it isn’t leaking, turn the boat over and repeat the process on the deck area.
- Once you have gone over the complete boat, remove the Playdoh or tape from the breather hole. This is vital as failure to do this will likely result in damage.
Other Helpful Tips:
If you think your mast post is leaking fill the post with water to see if it goes down. You can also add some food colouring to help see if it is going into the hull.
Time to service your Laser?
Just like a car you should service your Laser prior to the start of a new sailing season or regatta. The good news is this isn’t as hard as servicing a car and we will provide you with a few tips and tricks to get you moving in the right direction.
Let’s start off this weekly series with something that is quick and easy to check: The Spars.
Firstly check all the fixtures and fittings. If anything looks warn or corroded replace it. The last thing you want when you are sailing is a fitting pulling out, or a spar snapping, when you could have prevented it. Pay particular attention to the rivets if you sail on salty water. We recommend replacing all rivets after a year of sailing. This way it allows you to check the spar holes as well.
Next check that the spars are straight. You don’t need any special tools to do this as your eyes will be capable of spotting even a minor bend.
Take the spars one by one and hold them up at eye level and slowly turn them. If they are bent you should be able to spot it fairly quickly. If you have a badly bent section we recommend replacing them, or using them as a training spar. You can try and straighten top section and may have even heard of people doing bottom sections but by doing this you risk the structural integrity.
Standard-rig bottom section
Great news! The standard bottom-section rarely bends and if they break it is usually caused under stress in strong wind. In the unlikely event they break it is normally at the rivets for the Kicker tang, so this should be a key area to check and wash regularly. If you sail on salty water and don’t wash your boat off you risk getting corroded rivets, which will cause the metal to fatigue and weaken.
We would love to say that the radial bottom section doesn’t bend, but due to the new control systems and the way sailors are now sailing the boat, they can. You might have heard of people straightening them, but if you are a serious racer we don’t recommend you using a lower you have tried to straighten. The reason for this is in order to straighten it you need to find the centre-point of the bend, and gain sufficient leverage to un-bend not one but two concentric tubes of aluminum (not an easy task)
4.7 bottom section
Your 4.7 lower has a bend in it? Good, as they are pre-bent at the factory and are generally regarded as being strong enough not to bend during use.
Most long serving Laser sailors have bent a top section or two, which is why any serious racer always carries a spare. The good news is you can often straighten a top section or top and tail it.
How to straighten a bent top-section
The first thing you need to know is which direction the bend is in. You can normally spot this fairly easily by eye by turning the spare.
Time to un-bend your top-section: (Warning if you use excessive force or your rivets and mast are corroided you risk snapping the mast) Do this at your own risk! If the top-section snaps, be philosophical. Better it goes onshore and not during a race when you would otherwise have to count a DNF or your worst result.
Put your mast together, with the bend at 90 degrees to the gooseneck. By doing this you will not hit the ground when you put the pressure on.
Find a spot about 1 metre high that you can place your top- section on and pad the top for protection. Place the mast-base on soft ground, with something to also protect it (Buoyancy aids are good for this).
Now comes the moment of truth. Place one hand gripping the spar about a foot above the collar and the other gripping just below the top of the bottom-section. Then, press gently but firmly downwards, using your body-weight not your arm-strength. Start with caution, apply pressure, check and repeat process until you are happy it is straight.
You can always use more strength if the first attempt isn’t enough, but don’t overdo it. It is quite common to snap a mast that is either old (and therefore stiff and brittle) or one that has already been straighted a few times.
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