In late March the International Laser Class Association (ILCA) announced that it was breaking ties with its largest builder.
This announcement came as a shock to many as there are just 3 licenced builders in the world.
Many questions have been asked as Laser owners are concerned as to whether their boats will continue to be legal, and indeed what the future holds for the class as a whole.
The ILCA has provided a list of answers that seek to clarify the future. The class also invites anyone with additional questions to send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the term “FAQ” in the subject line so that they can try to answer them and add them to this list.
Q: I recently purchased a boat from Laser Performance. Is it class-legal?
A: Any Laser class boat with a valid World Sailing Plaque affixed to the aft face of the cockpit will remain ILCA class-legal. And, of course, any hull without a valid World Sailing plaque will not be ILCA class-legal.
Q: I ordered a new boat from Laser Performance and will be picking it up soon. How will I know if my new boat is class-legal?
A: Only a boat with a World Sailing Plaque affixed to the aft face of the cockpit is class-legal. If you want to assure that your new boat will be legal for ILCA-sanctioned events, you should check that there is a World Sailing Plaque in the cockpit.
Q: What does a World Sailing Plaque look like? How do I know if I have one?
A: The World Sailing Plaque is a plastic decal with a metallic finish that includes the World Sailing logo and your ILCA sail number. It is attached to the aft face of the cockpit of all class-legal boats. World Sailing changes the design of the plaque every so often, and an example of the current World Sailing Plaque issued by ILCA is attached below. If in doubt, take a photo and send it to ILCA and we’ll have a look.
Q: I have a decal in the back of my boat, but it doesn’t look like the plaque you have shown. Is my plaque OK?
A: Over the years there have been a few different class-legal plaque designs. The most recent plaque design was issued by World Sailing in 2017 when ISAF changed its name and logo to World Sailing. The plaque design has evolved over time from IYRU plaques, to ISAF plaques, and now to World Sailing Plaques. Sample images of class-legal plaques are shown below.
Q: What about my existing sail? Will it still be class-legal?
A: If your sail has a red or orange sail button near the tack reading “ILCA AUTHORIZED” it is legal for use in all ILCA-sanctioned events and events that use the ILCA class rules. Of course, if you still have an older class-legal sail that predates the introduction of sail buttons, that sail would still be considered class legal.
Q: I read that the rights of the European builder have been terminated. Can I still buy a boat from the US builder?
A: There hasn’t been an approved Laser manufacturer in the US since the single Rhode Island location shut down some years ago. ILCA is currently working through the application and approval process with a number of prospective new builders, and we expect to have suppliers up and running soon to support every region where Laser class boats are sailed.
Q: What is happening? I don’t understand why ILCA rejected the builder?
A: The previously approved builder of class-legal boats in Europe breached the terms of the Laser Construction Manual Agreement (LCMA), which seeks to ensure the identical nature of all Laser class boats wherever they are built which is a fundamental principle of the class. This is the same Agreement signed by every ILCA approved builder worldwide. After the European builder unequivocally indicated that they wouldn’t abide by the term of the LCMA that requires all builders to allow ILCA to inspect their factories, ILCA terminated the agreement with respect to the European builder only in order to protect the one-design principle of the class. As a result, ILCA is now moving forward with the review and approval of applications from interested and qualified manufacturers to complement the existing network of class-approved builders and dealers.
Q: Will the terminated European builder continue to make Lasers? Will those boats be class-legal?
A: ILCA has no information regarding the future of the recently terminated builder. Regardless of their plans, please note that only boats with valid World Sailing Plaques affixed to the aft face of the cockpit will be legal for use in ILCA-sanctioned class events or any event that uses the ILCA Class Rules.
Q: What about sails and parts? Can I continue to get class-legal equipment from my regular Laser dealer?
A: All existing class-legal equipment will remain class-legal, so your local dealer may already have what you need in stock. Parts and equipment labelled in accordance with the current Construction Manual will continue to be class-legal. ILCA will provide updated guidance for sailors and measurers about how to identify class-legal equipment as soon as updated “class authorized” decals are in use by suppliers for spars, foils and other parts.
Q: How do I know if a part is class-legal, going forward?
A: ILCA will provide updated guidance for sailors and measurers about how to identify class-legal equipment as soon as updated “class authorized” decals are in use by suppliers. ILCA expects to implement a digital inventory tracking system that will ensure that all parts and equipment are manufactured and distributed only by class-approved suppliers. When ILCA rolls out these changes, we will post more information about how to check that your equipment is class-legal.
Q: I need to buy sails and parts. How long will it take to get a new builder in my area?
A: ILCA has had a tremendous response so far and we will soon be accepting formal applications from new builders. We expect to be able to name new builders quickly, but in the meantime, the existing class-approved builders in Australia and Japan have committed to assuring that class-legal equipment remains available. All existing class-legal parts and sails in stock with dealers will remain class-legal. ILCA and the existing class-approved builders are already working to ensure that new class-legal sails and equipment are available to all customers.
Q: Will I still be able to get class-legal parts from my local dealer?
A: ILCA understands that many dealers have a substantial stock of class-legal equipment. All class-legal equipment in stock now will continue to be class-legal. As new builders come online, we expect that dealers will transition to the new sources of equipment.
Q: Will boats from the newly-named builders be sold under the LASER brand?
A: No. In order to avoid trade mark issues and to comply with the requirements of European competition law, all current and future ILCA-approved builders will sell boats under a new brand name. ILCA and the current approved builders are finalizing the intellectual property details for the new brand, including fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory (FRAND) licensing rules. ILCA expects to announce the new brand name in the next four weeks.
Q: If the name of the boat changes, what will happen to my Laser? Will it still be legal to race?
A: All current, class-legal Lasers are and will remain ILCA class-legal. The proposed change simply changes the brand name to avoid trade mark complications. The new system would allow class-legal Lasers (those with World Sailing Plaques) to participate in any ILCA event along with the new, alternately branded boats. After all, it’s the boat that matters, not the brand!
Q: Will these changes affect the status of ILCA and the class with World Sailing?
A: No, the class will continue to operate as usual. All regions, districts and fleets should also continue operating as usual. ILCA has obtained confirmation that changing the brand name of the boat will NOT affect our class status with World Sailing. World Sailing cares about the boat, not the brand.
Q: Will the Laser and Laser Radial classes still be in the Olympics?
A: Yes, the Laser and Laser Radial Class boats will be used in the Men’s and Women’s One-Person Dinghy events in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Boats will be supplied by the current, class-approved builder in Japan. ILCA is committed to assuring that the Laser and Laser Radial Classes are also represented in the 2024 Olympics and for as long as our racing dinghy remains one of the world’s most important.
Q: How can the Laser stay in the Olympics if the name of the boat changes?
A: The name of the Olympic events that include the Laser are the “Men’s and Women’s One-Person Dinghy,” and the name of the boat is irrelevant to the Olympics. Like ILCA and World Sailing, the International Olympic Committee cares about events, athletes and equipment, not brands.
Q: You wrote that ILCA is seeking new builders. How many new builders will there be?
A: We’re not seeking a specific number of new builders. What we are seeking is a worldwide network of existing and new builders that are selected on a fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory (FRAND) basis in accordance with World Sailing’s strict equipment policies. ILCA is currently working with our existing builders and World Sailing to establish the details of the criteria by which we name new builders.
Q: If there are too many builders won’t it be hard to control the quality?
A: ILCA and World Sailing are very aware of the problems which might be caused by “boutique” builders and have agreed to establish criteria, including minimum volume thresholds, to address that issue. ILCA has extensive technical and inspection experience and will work closely with the World Sailing technical department to ensure boats are built to the highest uniform standards worldwide.
Q: Can the terminated European builder be re-approved as a class-legal manufacturer?
A: Yes, but since the agreement with the former European builder has been terminated, it would need to enter into new arrangements with ILCA and the remaining parties to the agreement. Any re-approval would be under the same FRAND terms as will apply to all other builders.
Q: The European class organization published a request to mediate some kind of negotiation between ILCA and the terminated builder. Will that happen?
A: ILCA fully understands and appreciates the importance of the European region, which represents 61% of the class members worldwide, and the role the former European builder played in that region. ILCA will continue to cooperate with all relevant stakeholders and to protect the best interest of our members and our sport. ILCA remains open to participate in any reasonable negotiations and would look forward to engaging in a constructive dialogue to explore re-approval.
Q: Do these changes mean that ILCA will now be approving the new carbon rigs?
A: No. ILCA’s success has been based on tightly controlled evolution, not revolution. The latest announcements regarding approved builders has nothing to do with the new rigs under development and there are no plans to introduce any new rigs as class-legal equipment at this time.
Q: Is World Sailing aware of these changes?
A: Yes. ILCA has kept World Sailing fully informed during this process and we continue to work in close cooperation with the governing body of our sport.
Q. Isn’t World Sailing looking at changing the singlehanded equipment right now? Won’t this controversy make them kick the Laser out of the Olympics?
A. A change to one of the equipment suppliers does not change the fact that Laser class and Laser Radial class boats are the best choices as equipment for the Men’s and Women’s One-Person Dinghy Events, regardless of the brand name under which they are sold. With over 215,000 boats worldwide and active class associations in over 120 countries, we are the only class that can deliver true universality and gender equality for our sport. ILCA is optimistic that we will be re-approved as Olympic equipment for 2024 and beyond and we will continue to work tirelessly in support of our class, our sailors and our sport.