Laser (dinghy)

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Class Symbol
Class symbol
Laser Standard 160588 01.jpg
Laser Standard +
DesignerBruce Kirby, Ian Bruce Edit this on Wikidata
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 Laser is a widely used class of single-handed, one-design sailing dinghies using a common hull design with three interchangeable rigs of different sail areas, appropriate to a given combination of wind strength and crew weight. Bruce Kirby designed the Laser in 1970 with an emphasis on simplicity and performance.

The Laser is a widely produced class of dinghies. As of 2018, there were more than 215,000 boats worldwide. It is an international class with sailors in 120 countries, and an Olympic class since 1996. Its wide acceptance is attributable to its robust construction, simple rig and ease of sailing that offer competitive racing due to tight class association controls which eliminate differences in hull, sails, and equipment.

The International Laser Class Association (ILCA) defines the specifications and competition rules for the boat, which is officially referred to as the ILCA Dinghy, due to a trademark dispute.

Other "Laser"-branded boats of related designs include the Laser 2 and Laser Pico.


Laser in original colours, as delivered in the 1970s
Sailor hiking out on a Laser Radial

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. In 2019, the Laser's status as an Olympic class was reviewed, and retained on the condition that the class complied with the Olympic equipment manufacturers (OEM) policy, allowing any suitably qualified manufacturer to supply boats and class equipment on a Fair, Reasonable and Non-Discriminatory (FRAND) basis. The move would potentially see a significant increase in the number of Laser producers.[1]


The boat design came about, starting in 1969, when industrial designer, Ian Bruce, asked Bruce Kirby to design a sailboat that could be carried on the roof of a car and become part of a line of outdoor gear to be sold by the Hudson's Bay Company retail chain. Kirby entered his prototype in a promotional regatta of sailboats under $1,000 (US). After building a second prototype, and changing the name of the design from "Weekender" to "Laser", Bruce and Kirby agreed to put the boat into production with Bruce manufacturing the craft and Kirby receiving royalties on each unit. As world-wide demand grew, they realized that regional licensing the manufacturing would deliver boats more economically than exporting them from Canada.[2][3]

The Laser hull accommodates interchangeable rigs with different sail areas. This allows for a wide range of sailors to sail and compete in a range of wind conditions despite the Laser's small ideal crew weight range for a given rig. Three rigs are recognised by the International Laser Association: original Laser standard with a sail area of 7.06 m²; the Laser Radial with a sail area of 5.76 m²; and the Laser 4.7 with a sail area of 4.7 m².[4][5]

The Laser's hull is made out of glass reinforced plastic. The deck has a foam layer underneath for strength and buoyancy. The daggerboard is removable for storage and transport. The dinghy is manufactured by independent companies under licence in different parts of the world, including Performance Sailcraft Australia (Oceania) and Performance Sailcraft Japan.

As a one-design class of sailboat, all Lasers are built to the same specifications specified in the Laser Construction Manual. The association carries out inspections on manufacturers to ensure that boats are being made to the correct design. These factory specifications are the measurement of boats in a traditional sense. Sailors are prohibited from making any changes to the hull, sail, and spars unless specifically and positively permitted by the rules and are only allowed to use original parts. At regattas, boats are not measured, but rather inspected to ensure conformity with the rules.[5]

The Laser hull is 4.19 m (13.75 ft) long, with a waterline length of 3.96 m (12.99 ft). The hull weight is 59 kg (130 lb), which makes the boat light enough to lift onto a car-top rack.[6]

The various sizes of Laser are all cat-rigged. The Laser Standard sail has a sail area of 7.06 m2 (76.0 sq ft).[6]

The Laser uses a Portsmouth Yardstick of 1097 for racing involving other classes.[7] The equivalent yardstick in North America is the D-PN, which is 91.1 for a Laser.[8]

The Laser is designed to be sailed single-handed although class rules permit two sailors.[5]


Lasers can be rigged with a variety of rigs. Three of these rigs, the Standard, Radial and 4.7 are recognised by the International Laser Association, while other rigs have also been developed by third parties and are also available.

Boat Rig [4] Sail area (m²) Weight (kg) Ideal weight (kg) UK Portsmouth Yardstick
ILCA 7 Standard 7.06 70–95 80–84 1099
ILCA 6 Radial 5.76 55–78 66–70 1145
ILCA 4 4.7 4.7 40–60 51–55 1207

Laser Standard[edit]

A Laser with the standard rigging.

The Laser Standard, or ILCA 7, is the original Laser rig. It has been sailed as the Olympic men's singlehanded dinghy since the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.

Laser Radial[edit]

In Europe the smaller Laser Radial, or ILCA 6, 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 pounds (55 to 72 kg). The Laser Radial rig has a UK Portsmouth Yardstick number of 1139.[7]

Laser 4.7[edit]

A smaller sail plan for the Laser, the Laser 4.7 or ILCA 4, was developed about a decade after the Laser Radial. The sail area was reduced by 35% from the Standard (from 7 to 4.7 square metres (75 to 51 sq ft)) 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. The optimal weight for this rig is 110–145 pounds (50–66 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.[7]

Operational history[edit]

The Laser is raced worldwide from club levels to international and Olympic competitions.

Laser world championships are held in all three rigs and across junior, open, and masters age groups. In total in 2019, the Laser class association awarded 11 world championships. Places for world championships are limited due to high demand and are allotted to countries on the basis of the number of paid association members in each country.[5]

In the Olympics, men race in Laser Standards and women race in Laser Radials.[9]

Class association[edit]

The ILCA governs boat specifications and competition. The class association operates on four levels: the world level; a regional level based around continents; a district level based around states in the USA and Australia, and nations elsewhere; and at a local fleet level. The association plays a major role in ensuring conformity to Laser class rules worldwide.[5]


Bruce Kirby withdrew the license he had issued to LaserPerformance and later filed a lawsuit against LaserPerformance and Farzad Rastegar[10] on March 4, 2013, claiming non-payment of design royalties.[11] Kirby also claims that the LaserPerformance boats have had issues with quality and parts availability.[12] 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.[13] Instead ISAF and the ILCA issued a new plaque design,[14] and changed the class rules so that a builder no longer needed to be licensed by Bruce Kirby.[15]

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.[16][17] On August 12, 2016, Bruce Kirby's claims were dismissed by the United States District Court for the District of Connecticut.[18][19][20]

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.[21]

In 2020, the United States District Court for the District of Connecticut found boat builder Quarter Moon (QMI) and LaserPerformance (Europe) Limited (LPE) liable for a sum of $6,857,736, payable to Kirby.[22][23]

See also[edit]

Similar boats[edit]


  1. ^ International Laser Class Association (ILCA) (27 September 2019). "ILCA Now Accepting New Builder Applications". Retrieved 18 October 2019.
  2. ^ Blum, Andrew (2019-04-23). "The story of the former Olympian who designed the world's most beloved boat". Popular Science. Retrieved 2021-07-24.
  3. ^ Tillman, Richard L. (2005-06-15). The Complete Book of Laser Sailing. McGraw Hill Professional. ISBN 978-0-07-179210-3.
  4. ^ a b Davidson, Tim (2017). The Laser Book. Leamington Spa: Fenhurst. ISBN 978-1-912177-04-2.
  5. ^ a b c d e International Laser Class Association. 2019 Handbook: Constitution and Class Rules (PDF). Retrieved 11 October 2019.
  6. ^ a b McArthur, Bruce (2020). "Laser (International) sailboat". Archived from the original on 11 March 2021. Retrieved 11 March 2021.
  7. ^ a b c "Portsmouth Number List 2017" (PDF). Royal Yachting Association. Archived from the original (PDF) on 30 June 2017. Retrieved 19 October 2017.
  8. ^ "Centerboard Classes". US Sailing. Archived from the original on 15 March 2012. Retrieved 31 July 2012.
  9. ^ "Tokyo 2020 Olympic Sailing Schedule". IOC. Retrieved July 26, 2021.
  10. ^ "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.
  11. ^ "Sail World - The world's largest sailing news network; sail and sailing, cruising, boating news". Retrieved 22 March 2018.
  12. ^ "COMMENTARY: It's the boat that matters, not the name >> Scuttlebutt Sailing News". 24 April 2013. Retrieved 22 March 2018.
  13. ^ "ISAF Halts Plaques To LaserPerformance". Kirby Torch. Retrieved 9 April 2013.
  14. ^ "Statement from the International Laser Class Association". International Laser Class Association. Archived from the original on 26 April 2013. Retrieved 16 May 2015.
  15. ^ "ILCA Class Rules". ILCA. Retrieved April 23, 2013.
  16. ^ "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.
  17. ^ "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.
  18. ^ "Case Docket Bruce Kirby, Inc. et al v. LaserPerformance (Europe) Limited et al". Retrieved 16 May 2015.
  19. ^ 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.
  20. ^ "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.
  21. ^ Faust, Eric (April 25, 2019). "Laser – New name for Laser Class boat". Sailing Anarchy. Retrieved 2021-07-24.
  22. ^ "Bruce Kirby wins Laser judgment". Canadian Yachting. February 27, 2020. Retrieved 2021-07-24.
  23. ^ Powlison, Dave (February 20, 2020). "Kirby Triumphs In Laser Lawsuit". Sailing World. Retrieved 2021-07-24.

External links[edit]