Laser (dinghy)

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Current specifications
Laser Standard 160588 01.jpg
The Laser Standard
Class Symbol
Class symbol
Crew 1-2
LOA 4.2 m (13 ft 9 in)
LWL 3.81 m (12 ft 6 in)
Beam 1.39 m (4 ft 7 in)
Draft 0.787 m (2 ft 7.0 in)
Hull weight 58.97 kg (130.0 lb)
Mainsail area 7.06 m2 (76.0 sq ft)
D-PN 91.1
RYA PN 1088
PHRF 217
Year 1969
Designer Bruce Kirby & Ian Bruce
Olympic class

The International Laser Class sailboat, also called Laser Standard and the Laser One is a popular one-design class of small sailing dinghy. According to the Laser Class Rules the boat may be sailed by either one or two people, though it is rarely sailed by two. The design, by Bruce Kirby, emphasizes simplicity and performance. The dinghy is manufactured by independent companies in different parts of the world, including Laser Performance Europe (Americas and Europe), Performance Sailcraft Australia (Oceania) and Performance Sailcraft Japan.

The Laser is one of the most popular single-handed dinghies in the world. As of 2012, there are more than 200,000 boats worldwide. A commonly cited reason for its popularity is that it is robust and simple to rig and sail in addition to its durability. The Laser also provides very competitive racing due to the very tight class association controls which eliminate differences in hull, sails and equipment.

The term "Laser" is often used to refer to the Laser Standard (the largest of the sail plan rigs available for the Laser hull). However there are two other sail plan rigs available for the Laser Standard hull and a series of other "Laser"-branded boats which are of completely different hull designs. Examples include the Laser 2 and Laser Pico. The Laser Standard, Laser Radial and Laser 4.7 are three types of 'Laser' administered by the International Laser Class Association.

The laser's hull is made out of GRP, Glass Re-enforced Plastics. the deck has a foam layer underneath for strength.


Sailor hiking out on a Laser Radial

The boat's history began with a phone call between Canadians Bruce Kirby and Ian Bruce. While discussing the possibility of a car-topped dinghy (a boat small enough to be carried on a roof rack of a typical car) for a line of camping equipment, Bruce Kirby sketched what would be known as "the million dollar doodle". The plans stayed with Kirby until 1970 when One Design and Offshore Yachtsman magazine held a regatta for boats under $1000, called "America's Teacup". After a few sail modifications, the Laser easily won its class.

The prototype was originally named the "Weekender"; the sail held the letters TGIF, a common American abbreviation for "Thank God it's Friday". It was renamed Laser (after the scientific mechanism) and officially unveiled at the New York Boat Show in 1971. The first world championship was held in 1974 in Bermuda. Entrants came from 24 countries, and first place was won by Peter Commette from the United States.

The Laser became a men's Olympic-class boat at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, and a special Olympic edition of the boat was released that year in commemoration. A version with a smaller sail, the Laser Radial (see below), was first sailed as a women's Olympic-class boat at the 2008 Summer Olympics. Arguably the greatest champion of the Laser Class is Robert Scheidt (nickname "El Demolidor") from Brazil; he won the world championship eight times and won two gold and one silver Olympic medals.

The Laser is manufactured by different companies in different regions. They include Laser Performance in Europe and the Americas, Performance Sailcraft Australia in Oceania and Performance Sailcraft Japan.

On March 4, 2013, due to non-payment of design royalties,[1] Bruce Kirby filed a lawsuit against Laser Performance and Farzad Rastegar.[2] Kirby also claims that the LaserPerformance boats have had issues with quality and parts availability.[3] This led the International Sailing Federation on March 25, 2013, to ask the International Laser Class Association to stop issuing ISAF plaques to Laser Performance (Europe) Limited, having been told that Laser Performance is no longer a licensed builder.[4] Bruce Kirby is seeking to continue building the boat under the name Kirby Torch[5] and create a class absorbed by the International Laser Class Association.[6]

On April 23, 2013, the Fundamental Class Rule for the Laser Sailboat was modified. The Definition of a Builder now states, “A Builder is a manufacturer that has the rights to use a Laser trademark, is manufacturing the hull, equipment, fittings, spars, sails and battens in strict adherence to the Construction Manual, and has been approved as a Laser Builder by each of the International Sailing Federation and the International Laser Class Association.”.[7]


As a one-design class of sailboat, all Lasers are built to the same specifications. The hull is 4.19 metres (13 ft 10.5 in) long, with a waterline length of 3.81 m (12.5 ft). The hull weight is 56.7 kg (130 lb), which makes the boat light enough to lift onto a car-top rack.

The various sizes of Laser are all Cat-rigged; they have only a main sail. The Laser Standard sail has sail area of 7.06 m² (76 ft²) and, especially in higher winds (15 knots and over), is most competitive when sailed by a very fit, agile, and muscular person weighing no less than 80 kg (175 lb).

The Laser uses a Portsmouth Yardstick of 1085 for racing involving other classes.[8] The equivalent yardstick in North America is the D-PN, which is 91.1 for a Laser.[9]


Righting a capsized boat

Laser sailing and racing presents a unique set of physical and skill based challenges. Fast Laser sailing requires an advanced level of fitness in order to endure the straight legged hiking and body-torque techniques essential in getting upwind and reaching quickly.

Since 1998 Laser sailing has increased to not only be physical upwind and reaching, but to also include far more demanding sailing and potential speed increases when sailing downwind. Traditionally sailing downwind has been considered processional in dinghy racing, simply being pushed downwind. But Laser sailors, including Ben Ainslie and Robert Scheidt significantly changed the techniques used to race a Laser downwind. The techniques these sailors introduced uses a much more dynamic sailing method, concentrating on surfing the waves going downwind. The sailors will weave their way downwind, constantly looking to either side for the next large wave they can "hop" onto and surf downwind. To maximise their speed, boats will often be sailed by the lee, where the boom and sail will be allowed to travel significantly forward of the mast.

This change in technique for downwind racing has changed most dinghy racing to be much more competitive on the downwind legs and resulted in a change of the international course shape from a traditional triangle to a trapezoid giving greater opportunity for increased upwind and straight downwind legs.


A Laser's date and place of manufacture can be determined by looking at the serial number stamped into the transom or under the fairlead on the bow on older hulls. This serial number is unique to the boat and is also the same number that must be displayed on the sail if used for racing. The Laser is unusual in this aspect, since almost every other sailing craft has the numbers assigned by the national organization. This means that the same Laser can be moved between countries without having to change sail numbers. The first commercially sold Laser sailboat had sail number 100: earlier boats were considered "prototypes".


Year Gold Silver Bronze
1996 Atlanta
 Brazil (BRA)
Robert Scheidt
 Great Britain (GBR)
Ben Ainslie
 Norway (NOR)
Peer Moberg
2000 Sydney
 Great Britain (GBR)
Ben Ainslie
 Brazil (BRA)
Robert Scheidt
 Australia (AUS)
Michael Blackburn
2004 Athens
 Brazil (BRA)
Robert Scheidt
 Austria (AUT)
Andreas Geritzer
 Slovenia (SLO)
Vasilij Žbogar
2008 Beijing
 Great Britain (GBR)
Paul Goodison
 Slovenia (SLO)
Vasilij Žbogar
 Italy (ITA)
Diego Romero
2012 London
 Australia (AUS)
Tom Slingsby
 Cyprus (CYP)
Pavlos Kontides
 Sweden (SWE)
Rasmus Myrgren

Other rigs using the Laser Standard hull[edit]

Laser Radial[edit]

Main article: Laser Radial

In Europe the smaller Radial sail has surpassed the original Laser Standard sail in popularity, and replaced the Europe Dinghy as the Women's Singlehanded Dinghy for the 2008 Olympics. The Radial uses the same hull and fittings as the Laser Standard, but has a smaller sail(5.7), shorter lower mast section and has a different cut of sail to that of the standard or 4.7. Optimal weight for this rig is 121 to 159 lb (55 to 72 kg).

Laser 4.7[edit]

Main article: Laser 4.7

A smaller sail plan for the Laser was developed about a decade later. The sail area was reduced by 35% from the Standard with a shorter pre-bent bottom mast section, allowing even lighter sailors to sail. The same formula as the Radial is kept. The hull is the same as the Standard and Radial. Optimal weight for this rig is 110–120 lb (50–55 kg), thus becoming an ideal boat for young sailors moving from the Optimist/RS Tera, this is better for people who are too big for an Optimist/RS Tera and too light for a normal Laser.

Laser M[edit]

A fourth and lesser-known variant is the Laser M Rig. This sail was the first attempt at making a smaller rig for smaller sailors. It employed the same lower mast section, but a shorter top section. This variant flopped when compared to the other rigs. This is primarily because the shorter top section didn't allow enough bend to be induced in the mast (as the bottom section is very stiff), this made the boat difficult to sail and de-power especially in heavier winds. This is not a rig recognized by the Laser Class.

Rooster 8.1[edit]

Rooster Sailing, a company based in the UK, designed and created a larger rig for the Laser hull called the Rooster 8.1, specifically designed for heavier sailors. There are two optional mast configurations. Either a 3.6 metre one piece aluminium lower mast section or a fibreglass extender to fit the Laser Standard aluminium lower mast section. The Rooster 8.1 rig is not recognized for racing in events run under the rules of the official International Laser Class Association.

The inaugural 2007 British Nationals were won by Steve Cockerill, principal of Rooster Sailing. 34 entries competed for the 2009 British National Championships which were won by John Emmett of Weir Wood Sailing Club.

The first sail number issued was number 81. At the end of 2009 the highest issued sail number was in excess of 420. The Portsmouth Yardstick for this rig is 1050,[8] which makes it 3.2% faster than the Laser Standard rig.

21st century rigging update[edit]

In recent years and to move the boat with the changing times, the basic sail controls have been upgraded by means of the XD performance kit. This is available from at least two manufacturers, Allen and Harken. Fitting these kits allows the outhaul and cunningham to be adjusted more easily when under sail via cleats fitted to the deck so that the lines are always available to the sailor. These are complemented by extra blocks and a rule-change allowing up to 6:1 outhaul purchase and 10:1 cunningham purchase. The kicker's positioning is largely unchanged, but features a swivelling cleat and now affords a purchase of up to 15:1 for super vanging in heavy air.

A vendor supplied clew-cuff, an upgraded traveller and mainsheet boom-blocks with bearings and a new brake design have been approved by class-rules and are available for sale.

Foiling Laser[edit]

Glide Free Foils on a Laser sailing dinghy

The Laser dinghy was first sailed on hydrofoils in 2009 by Ian Ward in Sydney, Australia.

A retrofit foiling kit has been developed by Glide Free Design [10] which enables the boat to lift free of the water in 10-12kts of wind and achieve speeds of up to 23-25kts.

The addition of the foils adds a completely new dimension to Laser sailing. The foils are retractable and the boat can be launched from a trolley in shallow water. Attaching and detaching the foils is simple and the boat remains completely class legal for racing.


Because of non-payment of design royalties, there is 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.

On June 25, 2008, Bruce Kirby and Bruce Kirby, Inc., sold the rights to the design for the Kirby Dinghy, commonly known as the Laser, to Global Sailing Limited for $2,600,000. On May 10, 2010, Wesley Whitmyer, Global Sailing’s attorney, sent a notice of termination for the Builder’s License Agreement of 1983 between LaserPerformance and Global Sailing. This action put the sales of Laser Sailboat in jeopardy as LaserPerformance holds the trade mark for the Laser Sailboat everywhere in the world except Australia, Oceania, Korea, and Japan.

As a means of resolution, in July of 2010, Global Sailing offered to sell LaserPerformance the Laser Rights and their manufacturing company Performance Sailcraft Australia for $15,000,000 US, which LaserPerformance alleged was more than it was worth. In August of 2010, LaserPerformance offered to buy the Laser rights and Performance Sailcraft Australia’s trade mark rights for Australia and Oceania for $3,500,000.

In September of 2011, Bruce Kirby wrote LaserPerformance to announce that the 2008 sale of his rights were never completed, (neither Kirby, Global Sailing, nor attorney Whitmyer understood that they required ISAF permission to transfer the Laser rights as per the ISAF Classes Agreement), the termination of the Builder’s Agreement never happened. LaserPerformance requested proof of the transfer of the rights back to Kirby but only received 2 pages of a 5 page document defining Kirby’s new agreement with Global Sailing. These pages did not adequately define or clarify the relationship.

On December 17, 2012, ILCA President Tracy Usher and ISAF CEO Jerome Pels met with the LaserPerformance Board in New York City to review the issues. ILCA and ISAF requested that LaserPerformance mediate with Bruce Kirby and Bruce Kirby, Inc. LaserPerformance agreed.

On January 31, 2013, Jerome Pels formally wrote LaserPerformance, Bruce Kirby, and Bruce Kirby, Inc., requesting the parties to take their dispute to non-binding mediation. In February of 2013, LaserPerformance again agreed to mediation. Bruce Kirby and Bruce Kirby, Inc., turned down the request.

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. Kirby claimed that he was due royalties that were not being paid upon boats that were being built.

Kirby introduced a new label for his boat design called the Torch. 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.

The builder for North America is Torch Performance Sailcraft North America, led by John Kerr and Hans Fogh, 1984 Soling Olympic bronze medalists. Fogh built 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 Torches for Europe, the Middle East, and Africa.[11]

On May 21, 2013, Bruce Kirby, along with his attorney Wesley Whitmyer, met with ISAF CEO Jerome Pels, ILCA President Tracy Usher, and ISAF Vice president Gary Jobson and their council in an effort to resolve the issues between Bruce Kirby and Laser Performance. ISAF and ILCA left the meeting with the understanding that mediation was an option.

On May 22, 2013, LaserPerformance directors met with ISAF CEO Jerome Pels, ILCA President Tracy Usher, and their council to discuss actions to resolve the conflict between Bruce Kirby, Bruce Kirby, Inc., and LaserPerformance. At the conclusion of the meeting, ILCA and ISAF requested that LaserPerformance mediate with Bruce Kirby and Bruce Kirby, Inc. On May 29, 2013, LaserPerformance agreed to mediation to be held at the New York Yacht Club on June 18, 2013. Bruce Kirby turned down the request.

On June 13, 2013, LaserPerformance answered Bruce Kirby’s claims and filed counterclaims against Bruce Kirby, Inc., Global Sailing Limited, (“Global Sailing”), and Performance Sailcraft Pty. Ltd. (“PSA”). The case is essentially a claim that LaserPerformance and Quarter Moon have breached post-termination obligations in the license agreements with Kirby and BKI. As set forth in detail in the Answer and Counterclaims, however, the defendants deny any such breach and deny that they have violated any federal statutes. The counterclaim argues that it is unclear as to which party owns the right to the “Kirby sailboat” design commonly referred to as the Laser. Nor do the defendants owe any unpaid royalties to Kirby, BKI, or Global Sailing. [12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^ "Bruce Kirby, Inc. et al v. LaserPerformance (Europe) Limited et al". RFC Express. Retrieved 9 April 2013. 
  3. ^
  4. ^ "ISAF Halts Plaques To LaserPerformance". Kirby Torch. Retrieved 9 April 2013. 
  5. ^ "KIRBY TORCH - Trademark Details". Justia Trademarks. Retrieved 9 April 2013. 
  6. ^ "Kirby Torch Class Association". Kirby Torch. Retrieved 9 April 2013. 
  7. ^ "ILCA Class Rules". ILCA. Retrieved April 23, 2013. 
  8. ^ a b "Portsmouth Number List 2012". Royal Yachting Association. Retrieved 31 July 2012. 
  9. ^ "Centerboard Classes". US Sailing. Retrieved 31 July 2012. 
  10. ^ --- Glide Free Foils for laser dinghies
  11. ^ The Kirby Torch - Latest news after Laser lawsuit
  12. ^ "Answer and Counterclaims of Defendants". United States District Court, District of Connecticut. 

External links[edit]

Class associations[edit]