Europe fears impact of Laser Class drama

Published on April 4th, 2019

The health of a one design class relies on several variables, and while some are emotional and cultural, the most black-and-white aspect is supply. When a one design class lacks a reliable supplier, bad things happen.

So when the International Laser Class Association (ILCA) announced they were terminating the builder agreement with LaserPerformance (LP), which is the supplier for Europe (and the Americas, Middle East, Africa, Russia, and parts of Asia), it understandably sent shock waves through the continent.

Jean-Luc Michon, chairman of the Laser Class European region (EurILCA), provided this statement to the Italian Laser Class Association:

When ILCA removed LaserPerformance (LP) as an approved builder, it was a surprise for a lot of sailors, class officers, and Laser dealers.

The EurILCA executives and the European representatives at the World Council (Alexandra Behrens, Heini Wellmann and myself) regret that decision and have pushed for negotiation. We have proposed to be the mediators between ILCA and LP for a few months.

Europe represents almost 70 % of the sailors of the Laser class members and big European districts like Germany or Italy have almost the same number of members as North American region (USA and Canada together).

We are sorry about the situation and regret that our proposal for mediation, which we believe would have been in the best interest of the European sailors, was rejected.

The official reason to remove LP as a builder was that they refused ILCA access to their facilities to inspect the boats during manufacturing as required in the Laser Construction Manual (LCM).

We want to clarify that the reason for the inspection was not that the Lasers built by LP were illegal and not according to the LCM. So all the Lasers built by LP bearing a plaque are class-legal boats. Each new class-legal Laser must have a World Sailing plaque with its hull number fixed inside the cockpit. The plaque is delivered by ILCA.

EurILCA would like to point out that boats from each current builder (PS Australia or PS Japan) or past builder LP are all equivalent and very well finished.

EurILCA wishes the Laser to stay Olympic. EurILCA believes that the outcome of the recent sea trials in Valencia was very positive and puts the Laser into a strong position to be selected for the Olympics.

However, World Sailing has asked the Olympic classes to adopt a FRAND policy which will permit to have several builders even in the same region. EurILCA is still pushing for a mediation between LP and ILCA and for a compromise acceptable to World Sailing, ILCA, and LP regarding a FRAND policy.

In light of the positive outcome of the sea trials, EurILCA believes that such a compromise can be achieved without drastic measures against LP.

EurILCA doesn’t wish to see a competition for a faster boat (which may be a result when too many builders are approved as a consequence of opening the market) but wishes to keep the idea that all boats are similar and only the sailor makes the difference.

EurILCA understands that there are supply issues in South America and that North American Laser dealers have difficulties getting parts. However, the situation is different in Europe where there are no supply problems and there is a great network of dealers.

In Europe, we have a strong relationship with the Laser dealers in each country and the class was built with a long-time good relationship with LP.

The decision regarding the Laser Standard and Radial to stay or not at the Olympics will be decided this May at the World Sailing meeting.

EurILCA represents the right of the sailors and wants to remind that a European Meeting of EurILCA is held every year with representatives of each district who elect the executives committee annually.

EurILCA also wants to point out that any decision to change the rigs which are in discussion as proposed by PS Australia with the C5, C6 and C 7 and the ARC proposed by LP must be submitted to the Laser sailors for a membership vote. We consider that it is very important to get the opinion of the sailors.

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