A New Day for Singlehanded Dinghy Sailing

Published on September 20th, 2016

The Laser class has long held a death grip on singlehanded one design dinghy competition, so it is of interest to see Melges Performance Sailboats (USA) and RS Sailing (GBR) challenging its reign.

Their new launches – the Melges 14 and RS Aero – are by all accounts much better boats to sail. But can they get the numbers to dethrone the mighty Laser as the go-to singlehander? As Dave Reed reports in Sailing World, Laser might be helping to dethrone itself…

Every year after our Boat of the Year Awards, countless complaints come across my screen bemoaning our promotion of new boats that allegedly undermine existing one-design classes, clutter a fractured boat market, and dilute a struggling dinghy the sailing scene in the United States.

While these critiques may ring true in isolated cases, it is shortsighted to dismiss a new one-design class outright, especially one that’s more modern, efficient, and even more fun to sail. There’s nothing wrong with a “fun first, fleet second” attitude, because a boat should be enticing to sail, even if you have to race alone or with handicap fleets while the class hopefully catches on.

The Aero is a worthy example. Those who sail it say it is better than a Laser. Comparisons between the boats tend to be about length, weight, etc., but its overall performance and ease of use are more important. Yes, the Laser is the greatest singlehander to this day, but — with apologies to my dear friend and its designer, Bruce Kirby — it’s a new day.

While the Laser is an enduring and sport-changing design, with robust fleets around the world, it’s still stuck in the past. Even with its vastly improved full-rig sail, the mast itself remains outdated.

The Aero and the Laser are comparable in price, but the Laser’s builder, LaserPerformance, has disheartened once-loyal sailors and dealers to a point of no return. North American production was quietly shuttered over the past year; boats, basic parts and service are difficult to come by these days.

This void left by LaserPerformance in the United States is an opportunity for Melges (with its new 14-footer) and RS, which has headquarters in England.

To read Dave’s complete report… click here.


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