Laser Dispute: Where Are We Now?

Published on September 30th, 2015

There are those one design classes that own the rights to their design, and have control over their builders. And then there are those one design classes that have no rights, and exist at the mercy of those that do. That’s the situation with the Laser class.

The situation with the Laser class is further complicated by an ongoing dispute between Bruce Kirby, Inc. and LaserPerformance.

Bruce Kirby is the Laser designer who appoints builders for specific regions, and is to receive royalties for the boats they build. LaserPerfomance owns the builder rights to sell boats and parts in North America, and is obligated to pay said royalties.

However, according to a 2013 complaint filed by Kirby in the U.S. Federal Court system, royalties were not getting paid by Laser Performance. According to Laser enthusiasts, getting parts from Laser Performance has been difficult too.

The complaint reportedly followed a dispute that was then entering its fourth year. There has yet to be a resolution, with the docket for the case at 24 pages with 280 actions, the latest of which was September 18.

While the Laser class has suffered from poor service, it has opened the door for more modern singlehanders such as the Melges 14 and RS Aero to gain traction. At some point, Laser sailors will lose patience, particularly when comparing their 40+ old design with the modern performance and quality of these new boats coming from reputable manufacturers.

ISA Olympic campaigner Saskia Tidey in the Laser Radial at Skandia Sail for Gold regatta at the 2012 Olympic Regatta venue at Weymouth. Photograph: David Branigan/Oceansport



Melges 14


RS Aero

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