Please select your home edition
Edition
Melges IC37 2019 Leaderboard

Laser controversy, the Trofeo Sofia and the Congressional Cup

by David Schmidt 9 Apr 09:00 PDT April 9, 2019
USA on day 4 of Trofeo Princesa Sofia Iberostar © Sailing Energy

While the Laser is a beloved dinghy in some 120 countries girdling this lonely planet, the news coming out of the International Laser Class Association hasn't been especially rosy. Specifically, in late March, the ILCA announced that the class was seeking new builders after one (of three) of their licensed builders allegedly breached the terms of the class' Laser Construction Manual Agreement (e.g., the construct that keeps all Lasers identical). The path forward seemed fairly clear: find new builders and press play. But then, this weekend, the class dropped another bombshell, this one in the form of a "frequently asked questions" section on their webpage. While there's a lot unpack in the class' informative release, the bit that really jumped off the page, to me at least, was the fact that the name "Laser" could soon date-stamp sailors.

"Q: Will boats from the newly-named builders be sold under the LASER brand?

A: No. In order to avoid trademark 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."

Fortunately, the FAQ immediately addressed the next burning question, namely:

"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 trademark 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!"

While this is good news for local Laser fleets around the world, considerations swell when a design is an Olympic class. For example, what do these builder-related shenanigans mean for sailors who are training and working towards either the Tokyo 2020 Olympics or the Paris 2024 Olympics?
Here, apparently, semantics come into play in a good way, at least initially.

"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."

So while the boat's Olympic berth does not seem to be immediately in question, the fact remains that dark clouds still shroud this time-honored dinghy. Sail-World has a deep affinity for the Laser, and we wish the best for the class, the sailors, and the people who work hard to ensure that the playing field stays level.

Speaking of the Olympics, the Trofeo Princesa Sofia Iberostar Olympic class regatta recently wrapped up on the waters off of Palma de Majorca, Spain, and saw great performances from American sailors some 15 months ahead of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. All told, the regatta involved 1,224 sailors from 67 nations racing aboard 869 boats.

In the Men's Laser, Chris Barnard (USA) proudly took top honors, signaling a hopeful return to the days of top-flight American performances in this highly athletic class. "I'm extremely happy, relieved, and emotionally exhausted," said Barnard in an official US Sailing release. "This is by far the biggest regatta I've won. I've been happy with the way I've sailed all week and today I showed a really good fight. That's probably what I'm most proud of."

Other North American top-ten results included Charlie Buckingham's (USA) fifth-place finish in the Laser, Erika Reineke's (USA) third-place finish in the Laser Radial, Paige Railey's (USA) sixth-place finish in the Laser Radial, and Pedro Pascual's (USA) third-place finish in the Men's RS:X.

Finally, in match-racing news, Ian Williams (GBR) beat Scotty Dickson (USA) to win the 55th Congressional Cup, which was contested from April 3-7 on the waters off of Long Beach, California. En route to this win, Williams also bested Taylor Canfield (USA), himself a four-time Congressional Cup winner. For Williams, this win represents his fourth time donning the Congressional Cup's crimson blazer.

"We were not really on our game on Day One," said Williams in an official Congressional Cup release. "But it's always about just being good enough to get through. As long as you get through each round, and build momentum; that's how match race regattas work. It's not how you start, it's how you finish... I've got a fantastic team, but we are new together, and hadn't sailed as a group, so it took a few days to get the team gelling."

Sail-World extends a big congrats to Chris Barnard and Ian Williams, and to all of the other dedicated and talented sailors who pour their hearts and souls into their campaigns, both big and small. And we remain patiently hopeful that the turmoil surrounding the Laser doesn't create unnecessary collateral damage to the world's most successful One Design class.

May the four winds blow you safely home.

David Schmidt
Sail-World.com North American Editor

Related Articles

Caroline Sundman on the 2019 J/70 North Americans
An interview with Caroline Sundman about the 2019 J/70 North American Championship I checked in with Caroline Sundman, regatta co-chair of the 2019 J/70 North American Championship, via email, to learn more about this exciting championship-level regatta. Posted on 18 Sep
Reimagining the Race to Alaska
Latest Sail-World newsletter from David Schmidt in the USA Dockside wisdom holds that the key to winning the Race to Alaska involves being the first boat to clear Seymour Narrows, ideally as the tide slams shut the door on fellow competitors. But what if Seymour Narrows wasn't a required waypoint? Posted on 17 Sep
Do jump on board
Two weeks ago in All aboard the bandwagon! we looked at the new Offshore event for 2024 Two weeks ago in All aboard the bandwagon! we looked at the new Offshore event that will be part of the 2024 Paris (Marseilles) Olympics. Nick from Hobart was one who expressed his own opinion, and allows me to share his sentiments here. Posted on 15 Sep
Spectacular YJA MS Amlin Awards Gala Dinner
YJA MS Amlin Yachtsman of the Year and YJA MS Amlin Young Sailor of the Year 2019 announced The YJA MS Amlin Yachtsman of the Year and the YJA MS Amlin Young Sailor of the Year Awards were presented during a Gala Dinner at the Grand Café Southampton on the 13th September, following on from Press Day at the Southampton International Boat Show. Posted on 14 Sep
Make 2019 count! Beach clean
Big or small, here's how to make it fun It might seem like an impossible task, but cleaning up our beaches is one way all sailors can all make a difference, and it can be fun too, as increasing numbers of our community are realising. Posted on 13 Sep
Dawn Shumway and Jenn Olney on the Sonar Worlds
An interview with Dawn Shumway and Jenn Olney about the 2019 Sonar World Championship I checked in with Dawn Shumway and Jennifer Olney, regatta co-chairs of the 2019 Sonar World Championship, via email, to learn more about this exciting regatta. Posted on 12 Sep
Celebrating the 2019 J/70 World Champions
Latest Sail-World newsletter from David Schmidt in the USA The 2019 J/70 World Championship offered nail-biting excitement that saw some of the world's best skippers and sailors line up to determine top bragging rights on the waters off of the Royal Torbay Yacht Club, which is in Torquay, United Kingdom. Posted on 10 Sep
Soybean or Peanut Oil?
We had The Good Oil, More Good Oil, and then Smothered in Oil. We had The Good Oil, More Good Oil, and then Smothered in Oil. So when I got to speak with Phil Robertson from Team CHN in the SailGP, well one of those two oils seemed the only way to go. Posted on 8 Sep
Marty Galligan on the 2019 J/105 North Americans
An interview with Marty Galligan about the 2019 J/105 North American Championship I checked in with Marty Galligan, co-captain of the J/105 Class Fleet #2, via email, to learn more about the upcoming BVI Tourism J/105 North American Championship. Posted on 3 Sep
Hard times at the Hempel World Cup Series Enoshima
Tough sailing for American and Canadian sailors Labor Day Weekend marks summer's unofficial end and fall's unofficial start. For sailors looking to medal at next summer's Olympics, it also marks the last large Olympic class regatta of 2019 and a time when these sailors need to be shinning. Posted on 3 Sep
WindBot-COACH-660x82Zhik 2018 Yacht 728x90 BOTTOMProtector - 660 x 82