Laser (dinghy)

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Class Symbol
Class symbol
Laser Standard 160588 01.jpg
Laser Standard
DesignerBruce Kirby & Ian Bruce
Draft0.787 m (2 ft 7.0 in)
Hull weight58.97 kg (130.0 lb)
LOA4.2 m (13 ft 9 in)
LWL3.81 m (12 ft 6 in)
Beam1.39 m (4 ft 7 in)
Mainsail area7.06 m2 (76.0 sq ft)
RYA PN1088
Current Olympic equipment

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 LaserPerformance (Americas, Europe, Asia, and Middle East), Performance Sailcraft Australia (Oceania) and Performance Sailcraft Japan.

The Laser is one of the most popular single-handed dinghies in the world. As of 2018, there are more than 215,000 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; it's also very fast. 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 Reinforced Plastics. The deck has a foam layer underneath for strength and buoyancy. The daggerboard is removable for storage and transport.


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". In December 1970 Dave Balfour, a McGill engineering student, suggested the name Laser and contributed the Laser sail insignia.[1][2] The Laser sailboat was 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 LaserPerformance in Europe and the Americas, Performance Sailcraft Australia in Oceania and Performance Sailcraft Japan in Asia.


As a one-design class of sailboat, all Lasers are built to the same specifications. The hull is 4.2 metres (13 ft 9½ 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; in they have only a main sail and no head sail. The Laser Standard sail has a 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 1097 for racing involving other classes.[3] The equivalent yardstick in North America is the D-PN, which is 91.1 for a Laser.[4]


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 not only to be physical upwind and reaching, but also to 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 use 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 maximize their speed, boats will often be sailed by the lee, where the air flow over the sail is reversed from its usual direction and thus travels from the lee to the luff of the sail.

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. In addition, downwind laser sailing can very easily result in a death roll where the boat rocks, flips and capsizes to windward, or the lesser-known big brother of the death roll: the California Roll, where the boat capsizes to windward but the sailor is pushed under the boat before popping up the other side.


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".



Gold Silver Bronze
1996 Atlanta
 Robert Scheidt (BRA)  Ben Ainslie (GBR)  Peer Moberg (NOR)
2000 Sydney
 Ben Ainslie (GBR)  Robert Scheidt (BRA)  Michael Blackburn (AUS)
2004 Athens
 Robert Scheidt (BRA)  Andreas Geritzer (AUT)  Vasilij Žbogar (SLO)
2008 Beijing
 Paul Goodison (GBR)  Vasilij Žbogar (SLO)  Diego Romero (ITA)
2012 London
 Tom Slingsby (AUS)  Pavlos Kontides (CYP)  Rasmus Myrgren (SWE)
2016 Rio de Janeiro
 Tom Burton (AUS)  Tonči Stipanović (CRO)  Sam Meech (NZL)

World Championship[edit]

Gold Silver Bronze
1974 Hamilton  Peter Commette (USA)  Norman Freeman (USA)  Chris Boome (USA)
1976 Kiel  John Bertrand (USA)  Barry Thom (NZL)  Ed Adams (USA)
1977 Cabo Frío  John Bertrand (USA)  Peter Commette (USA)  Mark Neeleman (NED)
1979 Perth  Lasse Hjortnæs (DEN)  Peter Conde (AUS)  Andrew Menkart (USA)
1980 Kingston  Ed Baird (USA)  Jose Barcel Dias (BRA)  John Cutler (NZL)
1982 Sardinia  Terry Neilson (CAN)  Andrew Roy (CAN)  Mark Brink (USA)
1983 Gulfport  Oscar Paulich (NED)  Per Arne Nilson (NOR)  Asbjörn Arnkvaern (SWE)
1985 Halmstad  Lawrence Crispin (GBR)  Andreas John (GER)  Benny Andersen (DEN)
1987 Melbourne  Stuart Wallace (AUS)  Gunni Pedersen (DEN)  Peter Tanscheit (BRA)
1988 Falmouth  Glenn Bourke (AUS)  Benny Andersen (DEN)  Peter Fox (NZL)
1989 Aarhus  Glenn Bourke (AUS)  Wouter Duetz (NED)  Scott Ellis (AUS)
1990 Newport  Glenn Bourke (AUS)  Steven Bourdow (USA)  Peter Tanscheit (BRA)
1991 Porto Carras  Peter Tanscheit (BRA)  Stefan Warkalla (GER)  Mladen Makjanić (CRO)
1993 Takapuna  Thomas Johanson (FIN)  Peter Tanscheit (BRA)  Robert Scheidt (BRA)
1994 Wakayama  Nikolas Burfoot (NZL)  Pascal Lacoste (FRA)  Serge Kats (NED)
1995 Tenerife  Robert Scheidt (BRA)  Nik Burfoot (NZL)  Eivind Melleby (NOR)
1996 Simon's Town  Robert Scheidt (BRA)  Karl Suneson (SWE)  Ben Ainslie (GBR)
1997 Algarrobo  Robert Scheidt (BRA)  Nik Burfoot (NZL)  Ben Ainslie (GBR)
1998 Dubai[5]
 Ben Ainslie (GBR)  Michael Blackburn (AUS)  Daniel Birgmark (SWE)
1999 Melbourne  Ben Ainslie (GBR)  Robert Scheidt (BRA)  Karl Suneson (SWE)
2000 Cancún
 Robert Scheidt (BRA)  Michael Blackburn (AUS)  Ben Ainslie (GBR)
2001 Cork
 Robert Scheidt (BRA)  Gustavo Lima (POR)  Peer Moberg (NOR)
2002 Hyannis
 Robert Scheidt (BRA)  Karl Suneson (SWE)  Paul Goodison (GBR)
2003 Cádiz
 Gustavo Lima (POR)  Robert Scheidt (BRA)  Michael Blackburn (AUS)
2004 Bitez
 Robert Scheidt (BRA)  Mark Mendelblatt (USA)  Michael Blackburn (AUS)
2005 Fortaleza
 Robert Scheidt (BRA)  Vasilij Žbogar (SLO)  Diego Romero (ARG)
2006 Jeju
 Michael Blackburn (AUS)  Tom Slingsby (AUS)  Rasmus Myrgren (SWE)
2007 Cascais
 Tom Slingsby (AUS)  Andrew Murdoch (NZL)  Deniss Karpak (EST)
2008 Terrigal
 Tom Slingsby (AUS)  Julio Alsogaray (ARG)  Javier Hernández (ESP)
2009 Halifax
 Paul Goodison (GBR)  Michael Bullot (NZL)  Nick Thompson (GBR)
2010 Hayling Island
 Tom Slingsby (AUS)  Nick Thompson (GBR)  Andrew Murdoch (NZL)
2011 Perth
 Tom Slingsby (AUS)  Nick Thompson (GBR)  Andrew Murdoch (NZL)
2012 Boltenhagen
 Tom Slingsby (AUS)  Tonči Stipanović (CRO)  Andrew Murdoch (NZL)
2013 Al Musannah
 Robert Scheidt (BRA)  Pavlos Kontides (CYP)  Philipp Buhl (GER)
2014 Santander
 Nicholas Heiner (NED)  Tom Burton (AUS)  Nick Thompson (GBR)
2015 Kingston
 Nick Thompson (GBR)  Philipp Buhl (GER)  Tom Burton (AUS)
2016 Riviera Nayarit[6]
 Nick Thompson (GBR)  Jean-Baptiste Bernaz (FRA)  Rutger van Schaardenburg (NED)
2017 Split[7]
 Pavlos Kontides (CYP)  Tom Burton (AUS)  Matthew Wearn (AUS)
2018 Aarhus[8]
 Pavlos Kontides (CYP)  Matthew Wearn (AUS)  Philipp Buhl (GER)
2019 Sakaiminato[9]
 Tom Burton (AUS)  Matthew Wearn (AUS)  George Gautrey (NZL)

Other rigs using the Laser Standard hull[edit]

Laser Radial[edit]

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 (5.8 m²) than the Standard with a different cut, and has a shorter lower mast section. Optimal weight for this rig is 121 to 159 lb (55 to 72 kg). The Laser Radial rig has a UK Portsmouth Yardstick number of 1139.[3]

Laser 4.7[edit]

A smaller sail plan for the Laser was developed about a decade after the Laser Radial. The sail area was reduced by 35% from the Standard (from 7 m² to 4,7 m²) with a shorter, pre-bent bottom mast section, allowing even lighter sailors to sail it. The same formula as the Radial is kept. The hull is the same as the Standard and Radial. Optimal weight for this rig is 110–145 lb (50–65 kg), thus becoming an ideal boat for young sailors moving from the Optimist/RS Tera who are still too light for a normal Laser. The Laser 4.7 rig has a UK Portsmouth Yardstick number of 1200.[3]

Laser M[edit]

The Laser M Rig is no longer in production. It 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 differed when compared to the other unmodified 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 rig is no longer 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 recognised for racing in events run under the rules of the official International Laser Class Association.

The Rooster 8.1 rig has a UK Portsmouth Yardstick number of 1045,[3] it is faster than the Laser Standard rig.

Intensity Powerhead[edit]

Intensity Sails, a US company based in Warwick, RI, designed and sells a larger sail (10.2m^2) with a square head for the Laser Standard rig called the Powerhead and like the Rooster is specifically designed for heavier sailors. The sail works on a Standard Laser rig section and requires no changes making its use easy for light air sailing and larger sailors. The Powerhead sail is not recognised for racing in events run under the rules of the official International Laser Class Association.

The Intensity Powerhead 10.2 has a provisional US D-PN Portsmouth Yardstick rating of 89.3.[10]

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 boom vang'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.


Bruce Kirby withdrew the license he had issued to LaserPerformance and later filed a lawsuit against LaserPerformance and Farzad Rastegar[11] on March 4, 2013, claiming non-payment of design royalties.[12] Kirby also claims that the LaserPerformance boats have had issues with quality and parts availability.[13] Kirby required the International Sailing Federation on March 25, 2013, to ask the International Laser Class Association to stop issuing ISAF license plaques to LaserPerformance (Europe) Limited, claiming that LaserPerformance were no longer a licensed builder.[14] Instead ISAF and the ILCA issued a new plaque design,[15] and changed the class rules so that a builder no longer needed to be licensed by Bruce Kirby.[16]

Bruce Kirby Inc. has licensed the sailboat design under the new class name, "Kirby Torch", grandfathering Lasers bearing the "Bruce Kirby" plaque into the new class.[17][18] On August 12, 2016, Bruce Kirby's claims were dismissed. [19][20][21]

In 2019 the ILCA moved against Laser Performance (the UK licensed builder which also owned the trademark on the Laser name) and withdrew its right to build officially measured boats. The ILCA has chosen the new name of "ILCA Dinghy" for the boat.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Bringing the Laser to Life". Retrieved 22 March 2018.
  2. ^ " Ian Bruce". Retrieved 22 March 2018.
  3. ^ a b c d "Portsmouth Number List 2017" (PDF). Royal Yachting Association. Retrieved 19 October 2017.
  4. ^ "Centerboard Classes". US Sailing. Archived from the original on 15 March 2012. Retrieved 31 July 2012. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^ "Intensity Sails Powerhead Sail for Laser". Retrieved 12 August 2019.
  11. ^ "Bruce Kirby, Inc. et al v. LaserPerformance (Europe) Limited et al". RFC Express. Archived from the original on 15 June 2013. Retrieved 9 April 2013. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  12. ^ "Sail World - The world's largest sailing news network; sail and sailing, cruising, boating news". Retrieved 22 March 2018.
  13. ^ "COMMENTARY: It's the boat that matters, not the name >> Scuttlebutt Sailing News". 24 April 2013. Retrieved 22 March 2018.
  14. ^ "ISAF Halts Plaques To LaserPerformance". Kirby Torch. Retrieved 9 April 2013.
  15. ^ "Statement from the International Laser Class Association". International Laser Class Association. Archived from the original on 26 April 2013. Retrieved 16 May 2015. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  16. ^ "ILCA Class Rules". ILCA. Retrieved April 23, 2013.
  17. ^ "History - From Doodle to Kirby Torch". Retrieved April 13, 2017. Early in 2013, Bruce Kirby Inc executed new builder agreements and rechristened his beloved "car-topper" the KIRBY TORCH.
  18. ^ "Why the Kirby Torch?". Retrieved April 13, 2017. ...the Kirby Torch builders agree that all original ISAF-plaqued Lasers that include Bruce Kirby's name are class legal in the Kirby Torch fleet.
  19. ^ "Case Docket Bruce Kirby, Inc. et al v. LaserPerformance (Europe) Limited et al". Retrieved 16 May 2015.
  20. ^ Jeffrey Alker Meyer, United States District Judge (12 August 2016). "ORDER REGARDING CROSS-MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT ON CLAIMS AND COUNTERCLAIMS". New Haven, Connecticut. Retrieved 13 April 2017. CONCLUSION - For the foregoing reasons, the motion for summary judgment by LPE and QMI (Doc. #186) and the motion for summary judgment by ILCA (Doc. #183) are GRANTED in light of my conclusion that plaintiffs Bruce Kirby and Bruce Kirby, Inc., have no standing to maintain their claims.
  21. ^ "US District Court Rules Against Kirby". LaserPerformance LLC. 14 December 2016. Retrieved 13 April 2017. On August 12, 2016 the United States District Court for the District of Connecticut issued its long-awaited order and dismissed complaints and allegations by Bruce Kirby and Bruce Kirby Inc. against LaserPerformance and the International Laser Class Association.

External links[edit]

Similar vessels[edit]

Class associations[edit]