Please select your home edition
Edition
Naiad/Oracle Supplier

Laser Class Fundamental rule change – All over with Kirby move

by Rob Kothe and the Sail-World.com Team on 16 Sep 2011
Laser World Championships 2010 © Paul Wyeth / RYA http://www.rya.org.uk
Since its launch at the New York Boat Show in 1971, over 200,000 Lasers have been sold. The strength of the class comes from its rigid one design rules that designer Bruce Kirby approved 40 years ago.

Early this year the International Laser Class Association (ILCA) asked its membership to immediately vote YES on a fundamental rule change, probably the most important one in the history of the class. It would have a major change on the class structure. Six months ago Bruce Kirby gave his view on the ILCA's proposed fundamental rule change and explained why it would be a disaster. Now Kirby is retaking his design rights.


In a document distributed to ILCA members worldwide the Laser Class Association amongst the arguments for voting Yes said – ‘ a builder also needs a building agreement from Bruce Kirby or Bruce Kirby Inc. This provision is mostly historical. The rule was instituted at a time when Bruce Kirby held certain design rights. The ILCA is not a party to any of these 'Kirby' agreements.

‘We also took legal advice. We understand this is the only possible solution in order to promote the uninterrupted supply of class legal Laser boats and to maintain ILCA in its current set-up. The lawyers also informed us that the Kirby design patents had in fact expired.

‘Therefore, we are proposing to change the rule to eliminate the 'building agreement from Bruce Kirby or Bruce Kirby Inc' requirement.

The deadline for all votes is 23rd September 2011. PLEASE DO NOT DELAY YOUR VOTE


When this document reached the Laser sailors computers world-wide there was a flood of positive votes, the US based Laser Forum site www.Laserforum.com first post was ‘This is a No brainer’, but quite quickly thereafter questioning began. It rapidly became clear that this was a much more complex issue than that which the ILCA stated.

Back when this happened we decided to talk to Bruce Kirby. ‘Two and a half years ago, I sold my rights to the New Zealanders, the Spencer families’ Global Sailing. I am 82 as you know, and this move was what you would call estate planning.

‘The Spencers have been building Lasers through Performance Sailcraft Australasia for umpteen years. I simply figured the Spencers had the good of the class in mind - far more so than anyone else that was on the horizon - and that they would do the best job in looking after the class and promoting it and enhancing it.

‘Now it would appear that Laser Performance Europe doesn’t want to recognize the fact that this transfer has taken place. It is really weird because they paid the royalties to Global Sailing for two years as they were supposed to do, and then all of a sudden they stopped doing that. That action has caused issues between LPE and Global Sailing and they will have to sort it out.’

What was his response to the ILCA statement ‘Lawyers also informed us that the Kirby design patent has in fact expired.’

Kirby responded. ‘That’s total bull s--t! There never were any patents. You can't patent a sail boat design. These were contracts, legitimate contracts drawn up by lawyers and there is no suggestion that I had a patent on the boat. These were long term contracts that were renewable every so many years. No-one’s ever questioned them so I don’t know what lawyer they found that suggested this course of action. It’s crazy!’

What about the ILCA statement 'We also took legal advice the above rules changes where the only possible solution in order to promote the uninterrupted supply of class legal Laser boats' ?

Kirby again ‘That’s nonsense too because the Spencers, through Global Sailing, have virtually guaranteed an uninterrupted supply. They have allowed LPE to go ahead and produce boats even though they don’t have a proper contract at this time, but in order to keep an uninterrupted supply of boats Global has allowed them to continue producing without a contract.’

The ILCA document continues 'Therefore, we are proposing to change the rule to eliminate the 'building agreement from Bruce Kirby or Bruce Kirby Inc' requirement.'

Kirby was firm on that suggestion. ‘Global Sailing owns those rights. If this rule change was to come into play, it would be a disaster - to suddenly expose all designers who want to have international Class boats to a major legal precedent.

‘Just imagine that with the 49er, the J Boats, the Farr designs, all kinds of people, all kinds of designers.

‘Imagine an International Class voting to set aside commercial rights that have been in force for 30 or 40 years. Can you imagine what would happen in a legal case?

‘I am amazed that this has come up. I made a very considered choice as to who I would like to look after the rights of the designer, builders and Laser sailors. I chose the Spencer family because they are long time builders. They are financially secure and have been dedicated sailors for generations. It’s not something I did lightly and I did it for the good of the class.’

Kirby summed up by saying ‘This proposed rule change would be a disaster for the Class. If Laser sailors have voted without knowing more than was in the ILCA 'Vote Yes' document, they should ask for their vote to be cancelled.

Now the need to vote seems to have evaporated with breaking news from Bruce Kirby on the afternoon of September 15th in New England.

Just a few minutes ago the Laser designer Bruce Kirby told Sail-World:

‘We are very close (within days or hours) of having the Laser design rights reverted to me.

‘That would simply reverse the arrangement I had with Global Sailing in New Zealand.

‘I’m convinced that this move will be best for the Class and all concerned.

‘I’m expecting too that my resumption of responsibilities to the Class, ISAF and particularly to all Laser sailors, will make it unnecessary for the Class to proceed with the proposed (Fundamental) rule change.’


What is our take on this down under, across the International Date line, its a beautiful Friday morning in Australia and New Zealand - The Sail-World Team and Laser sailors everywhere can shout 'Thank God Its Friday!!

Sail-World.com will be seeking reactions from the key players and we will have more in the coming days.

Southern Spars - 100Mackay BoatsWildwind 2016 660x82

Related Articles

A Q&A with US Sailing’s Malcolm Page about the Sailing World Cup Miami
I spoke with Malcolm Page, US Sailing’s Olympic chief, about the team’s performance at the 2017 Sailing World Cup Miami I talked with Malcolm Page (AUS), a two-time Olympic gold medalist in the Men’s 470 class and the chief of Olympic sailing at US Sailing, to get his pulse on the team’s performance at the 2017 Sailing World Cup Miami and discuss some recent coaching changes within the Olympic-sailing program.
Posted on 20 Feb
America's Cup - Emirates Team NZ give first look at the pedaling AC50
Emirates Team New Zealand formally christened their new AC50 America's Cup Challenger on a rainy Auckland afternoon. Emirates Team New Zealand formally christened their new AC50 America's Cup Challenger on a rainy Auckland afternoon. The team has been sailing for the previous two days making news headlines after it was revealed in Sail-World.com that the AC50 would become only the second yacht in America's Cup history to use pedal power.
Posted on 16 Feb
America's Cup - Kiwis sign Olympic Cyclist for the Tour de Bermuda
Ttop cyclist Simon van Velthooven, a 2012 Olympic Bronze cycling medallist had been signed by the America's Cup team Emirates Team New Zealand put in a second foiling display on Auckland's Waitemata harbour ahead of the official launching of their AC50 tomorrow. With brighter skies the cycling team took their places on the pedalstals and used leg power to provide the hydraulic pressure necessary to run the AC50's control systems for the foils and wingsail.
Posted on 15 Feb
A Q&A with Shawn Macking about the StPYC’s Sailing Center and OD fleet
I talked with Shawn Macking, the StPYC’s waterfront director, to learn how the club is getting more people out sailing. I caught up with Shawn Macking, waterfront director of the St. Petersburg Yacht Club, via email to learn more about the club’s Sailing Center, its hefty investment in a new fleet of ten J/70s, and how the StPYC is using this infrastructure to expose more people to the sport we all love.
Posted on 13 Feb
A Q&A with Karen Angle about the 2017 Conch Republic Cup race to Cuba
I caught up with Karen Angle, executive director of the Conch Republic Cup, to learn more about this exciting event. If you’re like me and have arrived at saturation with winter’s cold rain and snow, imagine racing to Cuba as part of a 13-day cross-cultural event that’s designed to lower barriers of entry at a time when some Americans see a need for taller walls. I caught up with Karen Angle, executive director of the Conch Republic Cup, to learn more about this exciting event and the adventures it affords.
Posted on 23 Jan
A Q&A with Anna Tunnicliffe about her return to competitive sailing
I talked with Anna Tunnicliffe before the Sailing World Cup Miami to learn about her return to Olympic-class sailing. Anna Tunnicliffe won gold at the Beijing 2008 Olympics in the Laser Radial before shifting her sights to the Women’s Match Racing event for the London 2012 Olympics. Here, she came up shy of expectation and left sailing for the CrossFit Games, but now she is returning to her roots. I talked with Tunnicliffe before the Sailing World Cup Miami to learn about her return to Olympic-class sailing.
Posted on 23 Jan
A Q&A with Dick Neville, Quantum Key West Race Week’s RC chairman
I caught up with Dick Neville, Race Committee chair for the Quantum Key West Race Week, to learn more about the event. For the past 30 years, international sailors have gathered in Key West, Florida, each January for Key West Race Week, a regatta that has achieved legendary status due to its calendar dates, its location, and the impressive level of competition and racecourse management that this storied event offers. I caught up with Dick Neville, Race Committee chair for this year’s Quantum KWRW, to learn more.
Posted on 16 Jan
A Q&A with Daniel Smith, the Clipper Race’s new deputy race director
I talked with Daniel Smith, the Clipper Round The World Race’s new deputy race director, to learn more about his role. I was fortunate to sail with Daniel Smith [36, SCO], skipper of “Derry~Londonderry~Doire” for the 2015/2016 edition of the Clipper Round The World Race, when the fleet reached Seattle last spring. Now, Smith has been hired as the event’s deputy race director-a job that will test many of the skills that he polished as a skipper. I caught up with Smith via email to learn more about his new job.
Posted on 9 Jan
Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race - Suck it up, sunshine!
The 72nd start of the iconic blue water classic had 300,000 spectators lining the foreshores of Sydney Harbour The 72nd start of the iconic blue water classic had 300,000 spectators lining the foreshores of Sydney Harbour, another two million watching on TV, and the constant buzz and whir of media helicopters overhead. 88 boats, from Australia, USA, UK, Germany, Sweden, Russia, Japan, Korea, China, oh and New Zealand, had lined up on three start lines.
Posted on 31 Dec 2016
Rolex Sydney Hobart Race - More merriment on the airwaves
Here are more examples of merriment on the airwaves between the boats and Hobart Race Control So on December 29, 2016, after the River Derwent had let just three boats home (Perpetual Loyal, Giacomo and Scallywag, all inside the old race record, she went to sleep for a lot of the day. This made it frustrating for the sailors, some of whom saw the lighter side. So after seeing some of those in Dark & Stormy, here are more examples of merriment on the airwaves between the boats and HRC
Posted on 29 Dec 2016