Laser (dinghy)

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


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 sloop-rigged; they have only a main 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 1085 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 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. In addition, downwind laser sailing can very easily result in a "death roll" where the boat rocks, flips and capsizes.


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".



Games 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
 Tom Burton (sailor) (AUS)  Tonči Stipanović (CRO)  Sam Meech (NZL)

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]

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 recognized for racing in events run under the rules of the official International Laser Class Association.

As of 2012 the UK Portsmouth Yardstick number for this rig was 1050,[3] which made it around 3% 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.


There is currently an active lawsuit which may affect the future identity or production of the Laser dinghy. Bruce Kirby withdrew the license he had issued to LaserPerformance and later filed a lawsuit against LaserPerformance and Farzad Rastegar[5] on March 4, 2013, claiming non-payment of design royalties.[6] Kirby also claims that the LaserPerformance boats have had issues with quality and parts availability.[7] 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.[8] Instead ISAF and the ILCA issued a new plaque design,[9] and changed the class rules so that a builder no longer needed to be licensed by Bruce Kirby.[10]

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.[11][12] The lawsuit continues. [13][14][15]

See also[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^ a b "Portsmouth Number List 2012". Royal Yachting Association. Retrieved 31 July 2012. 
  4. ^ "Centerboard Classes". US Sailing. Retrieved 31 July 2012. 
  5. ^ "Bruce Kirby, Inc. et al v. LaserPerformance (Europe) Limited et al". RFC Express. Retrieved 9 April 2013. 
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^ "ISAF Halts Plaques To LaserPerformance". Kirby Torch. Retrieved 9 April 2013. 
  9. ^ "Statement from the International Laser Class Association". International Laser Class Association. Retrieved 16 May 2015. 
  10. ^ "ILCA Class Rules". ILCA. Retrieved April 23, 2013. 
  11. ^ "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. 
  12. ^ "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. 
  13. ^ "Case Docket Bruce Kirby, Inc. et al v. LaserPerformance (Europe) Limited et al". Retrieved 16 May 2015. 
  14. ^ 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. 
  15. ^ "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]

Class associations[edit]