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The Kirby Torch - Latest news after Laser lawsuit

by Rob Kothe and the Sail-World Team on 11 Apr 2013
Lasers to be legal in Kirby Torch fleets © Marc Turner http://www.pfmpictures.co.uk

Canadian Bruce Kirby designed a 'car-topper' in 1969. It was launched as a Laser in 1970 and more than 210,000 Lasers later, it is THE dinghy success story.


But there has been a long running dispute between the designer of the Laser dinghy Bruce Kirby and one of the Laser builders LaserPerformance, the builder and supplier of Lasers into UK, Europe and North America, because of non-payment of design royalties.

March 4, 2013, Bruce Kirby, Inc., filed a complaint in the U.S. Federal Court District of Connecticut, alleging unlawful counterfeiting of the Kirby dinghy by LaserPerformance principal Farzad Rastegar acting with and through LaserPerformance and its associated entities.

The case named the International Laser Class Association (ILCA) and ISAF alleging they assisted LaserPerformance by continuing to supply ISAF plaques to the builder, after Kirby had given them formal notice to stop.

On March 25th Legal Counsel for ISAF Jon Napier wrote to Jeff Martin the Executive Secretary of ILCA ISAF requesting that ILCA cease to issue ISAF plaques to LaserPerformance (Europe) Limited and Quarter Moon Inc. (the 'Builders') with immediate effect. The reason for this decision is that ISAF has concluded, based on the correspondence and court papers received from Bruce Kirby’s attorneys, that the Builders are no longer licensed by Bruce Kirby and/or Bruce Kirby Inc. to build the Laser class boat (as required by the 1983 ISAF Agreement and our 1992 Plaque Agreement).

ILCA has ceased to supply Laser Performance and related entities with Laser plaques.

Now here comes the Kirby Torch...

Bruce Kirby explains it simply, we had a proven boat, good builders but can't use the Laser name, hence the Torch.

'The position now is that we have licensed builders. The big thing now is to get tooling and get geared up and start building boats as fast as we can. Chris Caldecoat and his PSA team has great capacity down there and can help fill the pipeline if necessary, while supplying tooling to get the others building boats as fast as possible.

'Various groups have asked us to wait on the result of the court case, but that could be a year or two and that would be a disaster for the class.

'There are two different things here. One is getting the whole damn plaques straighten out and boats being built and raced and after that comes my law suit against him. (Rastegar) Quite frankly I have no idea whether I will ever get a dime out of the guy but right now I want to get the class back on track and moving ahead.

'The idea of saying we should all just sit and wait until the court case… That’s bullshit.

Current manufacturers of the Kirby sailboat under the Laser brand, Performance Sailcraft in Australia are in the process of converting over to manufacture the Kirby sailboat under the Kirby Torch brand. It’s expected that Performance Sailcraft Japan will follow the same path (but this is unconfirmed at this time).

The builder for North America is Torch Performance Sailcraft North America- led by John Kerr and Hans Fogh, 1984 Soling Olympic bronze medallists. Fogh build the very first sail used on the Kirby prototype and designed the Laser Radial sail. Orange Performance Sailcraft in the Netherlands with the long established and well regarded Nautisch Centrum Delfzijla, a very well-known and respected dinghy builder, will be building Torch’s for Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

Bruce Kirby Inc. and the Torch Builders apparently with olive branch in hand have been trying to negotiate with the International Laser Class Association in hopes it would replicate itself as the Torch Class. So the ILCA would become the ITCA.

This is a seamless way to establish a Torch Class because Bruce Kirby Inc. and the Torch Builders have advised that that all authorized Laser brand boats with ISAF plaques will be class legal in the Torch Class.

However, it’s obvious at the ILCA has had quite some considerable elements of disfunctionality over recent years and one could imagine that if the current head-in-sand approach continues then they will be bypassed.

But plainly there is no need for panic in the boat parks. There is no need for sailors to wait for Torch’s. As long as Lasers are ISAF plaqued they will be able to sail in all Torch events.

Sail-World.com has much much more detail on this subject and will be publishing that over the days ahead.

© This story is copyright to Rob Kothe and Sail-World.com, it may not be republished in part or in full without written permission

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