COMMENTARY: The theater that has become the Laser Class

Published on May 1st, 2013

The drama that is stirring within the Laser class, and now the U.S. Federal Courts, will be a prime topic next week at the ISAF Mid-Year Meeting starting May 9 in Copenhagen. Here’s a quick recap:

Bruce Kirby designed what is known as the Laser and licensed three builders, each required to pay a royalty to Kirby. The largest of the three builders, Laser Performance (LP), whose territory includes the Americas, Europe, Africa, and parts of Asia, has stopped paying the royalty.

Since ISAF and the Laser class have supported the continued production of boats by LP, Kirby named all three parties in a complaint filed with the courts. Sitting on the sidelines during this drama is what many consider to be the best Laser builder, Performance Sailcraft Australia (PSA), whose territory covers most of the Southern Hemisphere.

You can imagine that if PSA is paying their royalties, but another builder is not, that it could prove to be disruptive. Here is Chris Caldecoat, PSA General Manager, who presents their position…

For 40 years, Performance Sailcraft Australia (PSA) has been focusing on building good boats, in strict accordance with the Laser Construction Manual (LCM) and supporting the Class and its sailors. PSA is recognised as the most reputable and reliable Laser builder in the world.

PSA would like to continue this proud heritage in the manufacture of the Kirby designed boat.

PSA is not in breach of any of our agreements with Kirby, ILCA or ISAF, and have been paying our royalties and dues to the designer Kirby, ILCA and ISAF in full.

PSA fails to understand why any Laser builder would knowingly breach their agreements with the designer, ISAF or the ILCA. PSA does not support such activity and renounces such behaviour vehemently.

As a current compliant builder of Laser boats, and an owner of the Laser Trade Mark, PSA has not been consulted by the ILCA or ISAF with respect to their proposal to keep issuing plaques to a boat building company that has failed to comply with their Laser builders contract and has lost the right to build the Kirby Designed boat. (As the Laser is referred to in the LCM.)

PSA does not support this action by the ILCA and ISAF, which is in contravention of the LCM.

Any changes to the LCM (including changes to the plaques) requires approval of all the signatories, these include Bruce Kirby Inc. and PSA. Without those signatures any boats built are not Class legal boats.

For ILCA and ISAF to attempt to change the rules regarding the manufacture of the Kirby designed boat (currently called a Laser) without due process and consideration of all stakeholders is contrary to the principles of our Class.

It is against the sailor’s best interests, the best interest of the builders who do comply with their contracts and support the Class at Olympic, World, Regional and National level, in fact the very future of the Class within ISAF and the Olympics.

Message for Sailors and ISAF Member Nations
PSA would urge all sailors and ISAF Member Nations to support designers and authorised builders across all classes of sailing by acknowledging the invaluable role they play within our sport in creating and developing the equipment necessary for us to go sailing at whatever level we choose.

It is up to the sailors to make their elected officials accountable for their actions and to ensure the system and the rules which have been developed over many decades, and have served the sport of sailing well, are respected in order to protect the very future of our sport.

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