Until recently, we were convinced the holding the tiller extension with a “microphone” grip is always best. Then we talked to some very good sailors that often use the “frying pan” grip. We also read that Ben Anslie uses the frying pan grip occasionally in his Laser.
Which method is best? The answer is situational. In this post we review the factors that might make you choose one over the other.
In the microphone grip, you hold the tiller extension across your body, with your thumb toward the free end of the extension. See the left photo in the featured image above. This technique is taught widely to new sailors.
Here are the reasons for choosing the microphone grip:
- Essential for hand-over-hand sheeting in around marks and at start. For more, see our post, Hand Over Hand Sheeting – A “Must Have” Skill.
- Important when you need to use the “drop, catch, and re-trim” method in big puffs. For more, see our post, Vang Sheeting and Snugging.
- Allows you to grasp the mainsheet with your tiller hand to free up your other hand.
- Gives flexibility to either pin the extension on your lap or raise to your chest for quicker steering in gusty air.
- Easy to coordinate body motion and steering in a tack. You can push the extension as you move your body across the boat.
Frying pan grip
In the frying pan grip, you hold the extension aft of your body, with your thumb toward the extension joint. See the right-hand photo in the image above.
One top sailor we talked to uses the frying pan grip when possible. Here are several reasons:
- Easy to pin on the deck to prevent over-steering.
- In light air, easier to move weight around while keeping tiller steady. See the photo at right.
- May be required before a tack if tiller extension is too long to push straight through.
- During a gybe, gets the extension out of the way to prevent it from catching the mainsheet.
Two quotes from “Best way to take sheet and tiller extension with you when tacking” – Laser Sailing Forums
- “In the Ben Ainslie book, he recommends holding the tiller extension behind you if it’s light.”
- “When the wind dies from having you on the windward side to suddenly requiring you amidships or to leeward, then I don’t seem to have time to move the tiller extension over my head … to come inboard quickly…”