A revolution in «Laser»: will the class have a new sail?

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The International Laser Class Association «» (ILCA) is one of the most conservative sailing associations. « Laser» was created as a simple boat with basic armament, and the ILCA has been a model of controlled, gradual development of the class, aimed at improving durability, ease of use and reducing the cost of ownership of the boat.

But now the winds of change appear to be blowing into the sails «Lasers».

Designer Julian Bethwaite has spearheaded the development of new mast and sail combinations to modernise a design invented 50 years ago.

With the support of Australian and Japanese builders «Lasers» a four year campaign has created «the C5 armament». It is now awaiting ILCA approval.

«When you first see the C5 on the Laser, the boat looks like a lady in a new dress: beautiful and impetuous»," says Ken Hurling, president of the Australian Laser Class Association «» .

The association was aware of the development and endorsed the idea of a weapons upgrade. Still, the C5 idea sounds really radical. On«Laser» they propose to put a full carbon spar with a laminated sail a la «Skiff». Aside from the undeniable external appeal of the new sail rig, its convenience lies in the fact that it will allow lighter sailors (such as miniature Asian girls) to be more competitive on«Laser» than they are now.

The main initiative to modernise the class comes from enthusiasts who are keen to win the hearts of newcomers and retain them.

This is especially true for those growing out of«Optimists». The C5 will make the transition cheaper, as only one section of the mast will need to be changed to set a bigger sail, rather than changing the entire armament.

At the ILCA World Council, which was held last November, the current progress of the new armament was presented. Participants at the meeting agreed that a real world test of the C5 is needed to identify its weaknesses. In the case of the new weapon, this meant testing it in real races and making it available to participants in youth programs to«mercilessly» test the equipment.

The World Council approved a plan for four Australian and Japanese companies to produce 100 C5 kits for programs in their respective countries within nine months in order to conduct large-scale testing. There is another good thing about setting up this test program: it will assess potential demand.

The trials will be followed by a detailed presentation of the results to the Board during the annual meeting in November 2019.

It will then be decided whether and when and how the C5 will be introduced in the format of creating a new, independent class (as with Laser Radial and Laser 4.7).

There are no plans to drop the existing weapon options altogether.

«Laser» is being considered as a singles class for the 2024 Olympics. But even if the C5 is approved soon, we will not see such boats at the games in France. During this period, the new equipment will be tested at most at the club level, and the Olympians will continue to sail with«an outdated» version, which has been unchanged for half a century.

Meanwhile, since 2017, Laser Performance, the exclusive outfitting supplier for «Lasers» in Europe and North America, fearing competition, has started working on its own class upgrade project: the ARC1 and ARC2 sails.

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