Welcome to The Laser Class.
The Laser Class (TLC) was born somewhat hurriedly & with some degree of reluctance but as a direct result of changes that the International Laser Class Association (ILCA) have implemented.
Whilst ILCA might say they were acting to serve their members interests it is mine, & many others, opinion that they are NOT acting in the best interests of the wider Laser community.
Recently ILCA together with Performance SailCraft Australia (PSA) have proceeded with a plan of action that has involved the Laser departing from its strict one design principle, introducing competition between builders & forming an elite group with elite equipment, effectively another class, the ILCA class…
ILCA went ahead with this despite the concerns of individuals such as myself & EurILCA as a whole.
Specifically the revelation that the construction manual had been changed to what might best be described as the ILCA Construction Manual together with the high launch price of the ILCA boats & equipment onto the European market.
It was these actions of ILCA / PSA that have directly resulted in the formation of TLC.
The President of ILCA has stated that there is no future for a Laser “with white sails” & has also stated he is not concerned about anything other than the “elite” sailors because everything “will work its way down”. I guess that’s the “top down” approach that ILCA are focused on & thus maintaining Olympic status is a high priority such that they are prepared to change the class in order to achieve this.
“The Laser Class” on the other hand has a “bottom up” approach & wish to maintain the Laser in its current format with Olympic status being determined on the class as it is, not what it might be changed into. Ian Bruce conceived the Laser as a moderately priced strict one design class with the intention that all boats should be the same & where the competition is between the helmspersons not the equipment. i.e. where EVERYONE has the same or much the same equipment. It has stood the test of time & that is the philosophy I, together with many others, believe in.
TLC is a fledgling organisation which was not planned in advance but was born out of circumstance. At present it has few resources & little voice but membership is steadily growing as people become aware of the implications to both the Laser class as we know it &, since the finances of so many UK sailing clubs depend upon their Laser membership, to the whole UK sailing club structure.
TLC is in the process of applying for class status separate from the ILCA class both at World level with WorldSailing & in the UK at national level with the RYA.
As one of the founder members of “The Laser Class” (TLC) I am on the advisory board until such times as elections are held.
To date 217 000+ Lasers have been sold worldwide, soon to be 218 000, no other racing dinghy class comes close & there simply has to be a reason for this. That reason seems to be that the Laser delivers what a good many people want, certainly in Europe i.e. Challenging, strict one design racing at moderate cost. In many ways it is the relative unsophistication of the Laser that makes it such a demanding & rewarding boat to sail which also produces some great sailors. The Laser remains almost the ONLY boat your average person can reasonably afford. Whilst not perfect LaserPerformance have at least built boats, within the manufacturing tolerances of the day, with the intention that they should be the same & have consistently persevered with that principle. I am not aware of any other class that has managed this as effectively & this would seem to be the principle reason for the worldwide success of the Laser class but the danger is; that if the one design ethos is broken its broken…
In general terms the initial efforts of TLC will be directed towards maintaining the Laser as a strict one design class of moderate cost. The aim being to prevent the Laser following the route of so many other supposed one design classes where due to competition between the builders they have effectively ceased to be one design classes with a good proportion of their older boats being rendered obsolete…
Already as a direct result of being freed from ILCA restrictions & tariffs the partnership between TLC & LaserPerformance has resulted in the price of Lasers being reduced. However, this does not mean any sacrifice of quality, Lasers will continue to be built by the same people to the same Laser Construction Manual although some equipment manufacturers will change. As an example of this the sail makers will change but the cloth manufacturer & laser cutting template will remain the same.
The really annoying part of all this is that none of this was necessary. As the Olympic Equipment Trials (2019) demonstrated, with Pavlos Kontides winning every race irrespective of the boat he sailed, whilst the newer more expensive boats were theoretically quicker there was not a great speed difference & that skill counted for more…
Next year is the Lasers 50th anniversary & in this way hopefully the Laser will be good for another fifty years.