Please select your home edition
Edition
Naiad

Perth 2011 - Not always happy families on Olympic class sailing scene

by Rob Kothe & the Sail-World Team on 11 Nov 2011
Laser radial cut sail- great but expect 2013 Mike Calin
At the Sydney Olympics 2000 there was a major drama when the 49er sailors found their event supplied spinnakers, with national flags dyed into the fabric, were completely disintegrating. Sailing was cancelled for a day as new spinnakers were built.

There could be a major drama looming at Perth 2011, the key sailing qualifying event for the London Olympics, with large numbers of mast equipment failures in the Laser class possible, a known problem plaguing the Olympic single handed dinghy in recent years.*


It is a technical story that could have influence on the outcomes in both the Laser and Laser Radial class. Although one hopes not, we are back grounding the scene.

At the Perth 2011 ISAF Sailing World Championships, the largest fleet (in combination) will be the Laser Radial and Laser Standard.

The Lasers are a supplied equipment class requires athletes to lease brand new, identical boats for the Championships. The 275 brand new Lasers for the World Championships was completed by Performance Sailcraft Australasia (PSA) on the Central Coast, north of Sydney in New South Wales.

PSA has been producing Lasers since 1973 and for the last five years a not very secret project has been aiming to deliver a better, more durable Laser sail. (there is no suggestion that Laser sails will fail at Perth 2011- this is about how the class operates or does not, in this case). The final prototypes have been tested for more than 18 months and have passed with flying colours.

It is reported that the World Council unanimously voted for a routine equipment change which could have meant the new sails would be in use at the Perth 2011 event and the upcoming Olympic Games but now this project and an even more important mast top project is very much stalled, a by-product it seems of a bitter battle over intellectual property rights between the original Laser designer Bruce Kirby and his company and one of the Laser manufacturers, which has been transfixing sailors and paralysing the decision making process within the class for the last two years.

The Sail project originator was PSA CEO Chris Caldecoat. ‘The beauty of the Laser is that is a very strict one design class with over 200,000 boats being built. That is why its easily the largest class at Perth 2011. There has been a constant quest for greater durability because that improves affordability, vital to increase the world-wide sailing participation rates.

'Over five years ago we started development work with the aim of producing a more durable Laser sail. There has been a ton of effort. We initiated it and worked closely with Hyde Sails in the UK, with Pryde Sails in Asia and with Australian sail maker Ian MacDiarmid to make sure the overall characteristics were unchanged.

‘It is a heavier weight, more robust Dacron sail with both the normal front luff and a luff pocket.

‘Sailors have asked ‘why did we not go to Mylar?’ From my own 18 footer days and now with the Finn class, we know that Mylar shrinks significantly. With 18 footers we used to do a luff just about every week.

‘Sticking with Dacron, a cost effective cloth, we went through over 20 versions, testing and testing. The final version was tested with the front, middle and the back of fleet and there is agreement that this sail does not render the old sails obsolete. The new one will last longer.’


US Laser Class President Dr Tracy Usher is of similar opinion. ‘The goal of the Laser sail project was to produce a better quality, more durable sail that didn’t change the game. Hence the idea of being to extend the lifetime of the sail, but make sure that if you had the old sail you could still compete.

'I love that new sail. It is a bi-radial construction Dacron sail and it is a little bit heavier cloth. The goal was to better reorient the stress loads along the cloth, giving it a much better flying shape overall.

‘When you see the sail out sailing, all the distortions that you see in the current Laser sail are gone, there is no flutter in the leech and it looks like a really beautiful sail for the boat.

‘We have had prototypes available now for almost a year and a half. Here in San Francisco I took one of the prototypes and I spent an entire season using it in practice and even in some local regattas, just to see how it shaped up.

‘I stopped logging the hours I had on the sail but I would guess that there are probably 150 plus hours of sailing on it and it still has good shape. The cloth is starting to show signs of a little bit of age and it is starting to get a little stretchier but it still doesn’t have the distortions in it. The leech is still nice and the sail still looks competitive. I think for the average sailor this could be a real boon because the sail has a tremendous life time (in it).

‘Recently some of the New Zealand Laser squad who will be in Perth, including Andrew Murdoch, took the sail out, used it a few times and came back and said that as far as they could see the sail matched very evenly with the current sails. So there wasn’t any advantage or disadvantage to having the sail, but it was obviously a much nicer sail and clearly more durable.

‘This is a routine equipment change so the change goes through the Laser construction manual. Yes it had to be evaluated, it had to be costed and then it had to be voted on by the World Council (it received unanimous approval) and its been awaiting signatures from all of the Laser builders. Unfortunately it seems it will have to wait awhile until the current disagreements are resolved.’

Clay Johnson, the leading US Laser contender going into the 2011 Perth Laser World Championships, reported after a West Coast training camp 'in my opinion the (new) sail is a 'no brainer' for the long-term success of the Laser. The sail is made from 4.5 ounce cloth (an upgrade from the 3.8 ounce cloth that we currently have) and is radial cut. It has a bigger window at the bottom to make vision on the course easier. It's also much more aesthetically pleasing, that is there are no ugly wrinkles between the joint of the top/bottom section and the end of the boom.

'When we did the testing we used two sails - one new and one that had over 150 days of sailing on it! It was incredible to see that the new sail and the old one both looked and performed similarly. Most importantly though, I think the sail was very comparable speed wise to the old one.

When will the new sail be able to be used?

Certainly not in time for Perth 2011, perhaps after the Olympics?

Chris Caldecoat, just back from the International Laser Class World Council Meeting in London last weekend, shook his head. Incredibly it’s clearly going to be 2013!

‘Sailors are getting very frustrated, everyone wants more durable sails. There has been unanimous support at the World Council for this equipment change but for the last two years we have been waiting for Bill Crane from one of the Laser builders, Laser Performance from the USA, to come to the table to discuss. Once Bill signs, Laser Performance, ourselves and the other Laser builders can begin supplying this new sail.

‘At the upcoming ISAF World Championships at Perth 2011 where we (PSA) will be supplying all the Lasers, we will be asking all athletes to sign a petition requesting Laser Performance sit down with us to discuss this new sail (and the new mast top).

‘Right now it’s very clear the new sail will not make an appearance before 2013 and that will be seven years after we started development. The new carbon fibre mast top is similarly held up.'*

In the interests of balance, the author sought Bill Crane's viewpoint. There must be a second side to this story, but in the last two weeks we've not received a response. Hopefully we can provide one when we report on the mast top issue, which will probably dominate Laser boat park frustrations at Perth 2011.*

Zhik AkzoNobelb 660x82PredictWind.com 2014Wildwind 2016 660x82

Related Articles

She’s still here with us, and now we can be there for her
Of the many endearing qualities in Lisa Blair, the one that is paramount is her effervescence. Of the many endearing qualities in Lisa Blair, the one that is paramount is her effervescence. Yet it is what lies behind that which could be her most incredible characteristic. Sometimes you can almost overlook her steely determination, but not for long when you start talking with her. Catching up with her live from Cape Town surely was a vivid reminder of not only what this sailor can accomplish
Posted on 24 Apr
Gladwell's Line - Timeout in Bermuda and a decision OTUSA will regret?
With Emirates Team New Zealand's AC50 now in Bermuda and being re-assembled, it is time to take a breath With Emirates Team New Zealand's AC50 now in Bermuda and being re-assembled, it is time to take a breath from what has been a hectic couple of months, both in Auckland and Bermuda. The third major Practice Session has concluded in Bermuda. This was conducted almost entirely if winds of around 16-25kts - starting to get close to the top end of the range for the AC50's.
Posted on 20 Apr
America's Cup - Glenn Ashby on hitting the AC50's sound barrier
These boats are incredible. The performance that can be achieved in light airs is the amazing thing. The big difference between the AC72, the America's Cup Class, used in the 2013 America's Cup in San Francisco and the smaller AC50 to be sailed in Bermuda, lies in their light and medium air performance. 'These boats are incredible. The performance that can be achieved in light airs is the amazing thing. In 7-8-9-10 knots of breeze, you are sailing at 30kts at times.
Posted on 18 Apr
America's Cup - Bernasconi on expected winning factors in Bermuda
ETNZ's Technical Director, Dan Bernasconi has let out a few clues as to where he thought the differences might lie Emirates Team NZ's Technical Director, Dan Bernasconi has let out a few clues as to where he thought the differences might lie once the six teams entered in the 35th America's Cup. 'We have had a great run', he says. 'We've had a few hiccups along the way, as always. But the boat is going really well. We are getting through manoeuvres very well. And we think our straight line speed is good.'
Posted on 18 Apr
A Q&A with Nicole Breault about women’s match racing in the USA
I caught up with Nicole Breault to learn more about women’s match racing in the USA and about her upcoming Clinegatta. I caught up with Nicole Breault to learn more about the state of women’s match racing in the USA, and to also hear more about her upcoming Clinegatta, which is set to unfurl on the waters of San Francisco Bay this July, and which could be a great resource for other talented female match racers who are looking to sharpen their skills.
Posted on 17 Apr
America's Cup - Team NZ return fire at Coutts' social media bullets
Emirates Team New Zealand have corrected the allegations made by America's Cup organisers Emirates Team NZ have corrected the allegations made by America's Cup organisers in a media release on Thursday (NZT) over the team's daggerboard use. In the release, replayed by America's Cup Events Authority and Oracle Team USA CEO Sir Russell Coutts on his Facebook page. It was claimed that the Kiwi team had an issue with daggerboards and were using a rule they had not supported to keep sailing
Posted on 2 Apr
A Q&A with Charles Pessler, the regatta director of the legendary STIR
I corresponded with Charles Pessler, STIR’s regatta director, to learn about the event’s recent changes and evolutions. I recently corresponded via email with Charles “Chuck” Pessler, who is serving as the regatta director of the legendary STIR, to learn more about the changes and evolutions that have taken place at the event since my 2010 trip to racing paradise.
Posted on 22 Mar
New Pacific 52 class makes its debut in San Francisco
The first of two new-build Pacific 52's from Auckland's Cookson Boats is now sailing in San Francisco. The first of two new-build Pacific 52's from Auckland's Cookson Boats is now sailing in San Francisco. Invisible Hand for San Francisco's Frank Slootman replaces his earlier RP63 of the same name. She will soon be joined by a second Cookson build, Bad Pack (Tom Holthus) from the same moulds. A third, RIO 52 is for RIO 100 supermaxi owner Manouch Moshayedi.
Posted on 18 Mar
A Q&A with Chris Woolsey, regatta chair of the Miami to Havana Race
I talked with Chris Woolsey, regatta chair of the Miami to Havana Race, to learn more about this exciting race to Cuba. The 2017 Miami to Havana Race is set to begin on March 15 and promises high adventure-both sailing-related and cultural-for the sailors lucky enough to be participating in this historical-and for now legal-race. I talked with Chris Woolsey, regatta chair of the Miami to Havana Race and SORC race chairman, to learn more about this exciting race to Cuba.
Posted on 13 Mar
Gladwell's Line - Of Carnage, Characters and Colour
About this time of an America's Cup season, the sap begins rising as new boats are launched About this time of an America's Cup season, the sap begins rising as new boats are launched, and Cup fans get their first sight of the various team designers' response to the latest America's Cup Class rule. In the monohull days, of course, we initially only got a partial glimpse thanks to the shrouding practices adopted by all teams to hide the nether regions of their America's Cupper
Posted on 13 Mar