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3:1 is all it took?

Upcoming Launch of a New Laser 3:1

 For Immediate Release

This past week has seen a bombshell announcement by the Laser class that it terminated the contract of the world’s dominant builder LaserPerformance, which in turn described the class statements as « falsehoods and defamatory » and indicated its intention to « fully protect and enforce our intellectual rights property. 

Yes, the Laser was in the news, and will remain so in the months and years to come, as this may take years to be resolved, if ever. But this controversy is nothing, strictly nothing, compared to a pending formal announcement that is expected to shake the Laser world and transform it back to its grassroots.

While not all the details are yet fully finalized, what we do know for sure is that the key characteristic of the new boat will be that only the original classic 3:1 boom vang will be class legal. Thus, no surprises, it’s from this requirement that the new Laser draws her name: The Laser 3:1

From a brief sighting of the confidential document it was noted that the appeal of the 3:1 is seen as reducing the breakage of top sections, which are highly vulnerable to the 15:1 vang, now widely used.

This epidemic of breakage of top sections must stop.  Far from offering a riveting show, this gives a questionable image to our boat. Although rejected by the Laser membership, black composite carbon top sections are used among the top sailors, but they are too expensive, and also have a dubious visual appeal » reads the still confidential document.

It is suggested that the new Laser does not compete with the Laser class as one knows it today. Instead it intends to provide a home to those sailors who are not interested in Olympic medals and simply want to have a good time on the water, in a classic weekender fashion. It’s a return to the roots of what the boat was intended to be.

At the same time the 3:1 proponents are believed to be pushing for the 3:1 to be officially adopted by World Sailing as a youth development boat on the grounds of cost, with tired Olympic and World Cup boats being shipped globally.  They justify this on the grounds of making sailing greener and less wasteful, in an attempt to clean up the bad image of old unused Laser hulls lying around so many clubs.

The main features of the Laser 3:1 and its future association, were noted to be:

The 3:1 welcomes both men and women of any age; everyone sails together

To comply with World Sailing goals, full gender equality will be sought at all levels, ASAP,

The 3:1 vang is compulsory; it’s the signature of the new rig; This, use of a 5:1 vang will lead to immediate disqualification; a 15:1 to much worse. 3:1 is THE rule for the new class

All deck blocks are outlawed, a measure that will be immediately enforced, and only 2 microblocks are permitted in the rigging of the boat, which may be used anywhere. Any other new hardware is outlawed.

The usage of carbon top sections will be actively discouraged and possible penalties are being considered for their use. To the extent that those « spears » remain in the class, the suggestion is that users chuck them at the end of the first season under the new rule. Yet an alternative usage of those spears is under consideration (see below)

As far as the outhaul is concerned we are also getting back to the original system – it is a fundamental element of the design charter for the 3 : 1 that the boat must be affordable and simpler for everyone

Used sails are favored over new sails, for which a handicap will be applied

Colors will be re-introduced in the sails, a feature that was inexplicably removed, apparently for pure profit purposes, with the white sails being slightly cheaper to produce

Non-class sails are welcome – a saving that can exceed 75% and is expected to be welcome by the large majority of sailors

Older boats will be favored: only boats older than 3 years are permitted ; those bringing a new boat, especially those from builders reputed to be faster, will be refused participation in the event or inflicted a heavy penalty

With the use of the 3:1 vang, of older hulls, of aluminum spars and of old and/or class illegal sails, the goal is to make the purchase of a fully equipped boat possible under US$2000 and to bring annual equipment running costs under US$250. Any measure to further decrease the cost of sailing will be taken into consideration

A further measure will be introduced in which any winning boat can be purchased or « claimed » for an amount equal or less than $2000 but certainly no more than $2000 at a National ranking event. « Claiming’ is a practice apparently brought over from car racing’s budget 24hr of Lemons event.

To reduce the cost and environmental footprint of sailing, no coach boats will be permitted on the water; coaches are however welcome to join on the water and sail; if need be, special clinics will be organized for coaches so they can acquire back the necessary sailing skills

Helmets are compulsory for all those over age 35; the intent is to make sailing much safer and avert concussions, something the Laser class has unfortunately not yet enforced on its circuit

For those under 35, helmets will be strongly encouraged, again to make the sport safer and ensure one keeps, in case of a boom induced concussion, the necessary mental faculties to sail the Laser for many many more years; it’s not only a health issue, it’s also a membership retention issue

All the Laser rigs and sails are actually allowed, as long as the 3:1 vang is used. This includes the existing 4.7, the Radial, the MKI Standard, the MKII Standard, but also the old M rig, the ARC Standard, the ARC Radial, the ARC 4.7, the C8, the C6, the C5 although as mentioned handicaps may be applied.

If there are enough participants, at the end of each day of racing, there will be sailing duels organized between the new ARC and C rigs, respectively supported by LaserPerformance and ILCA – according to rules still to be developed – the carbon top sections, that are made obsolete by the new rigs, can possibly serve as spears, subject to a pre-usage safety audit

To deliver a level playing field, those sailors who regularly get their main sheet hooked in the transom will be allowed to claim a redress. This signature characteristic (it is not authorized to call this a flaw) of the Laser will be kept for at least another 50 years; one does not mess with tradition

The regatta jury will have to convene at the bar, and not in a dark jury room;

To keep a minimum of order, jury members and sailors will be allowed to have a maximum of 3 beers or equivalent beverages prior to their protest hearing (this limit is 0 beer for minors under drinking age).

The jury members will be expected to imbibe a single bottle of wine or spirits only prior to the hearings, but it’s not yet clear how this measure will be enforced

Under consideration, and to be debated among the membership: pot will be allowed to be smoked in small quantities between races, to alleviate the hiking pain, as long as it’s done legally of course and it does not reduce sailing abilities. THC levels may be examined on the spot by members of the Jury. Urine tests will be used for men, and saliva tests for women. Any « good s++t » may be required to be shared with the jury and fellow competitors.

Given the painful nature of hiking on the Laser, there will be a compulsory and affordable massage service set up by regatta organizers at the end of each day;

Between massages, pot and beer, it is hoped that hiking will be made more pleasant, the 3:1 seeks to reduce the consumption of potentially dangerous pharmaceutical pain-killers, unfortunately used by some sailors seeking to perform at any cost

All the fine sailors who have already bought an alternative to the Laser, such as a RS Aero, a d-zero or a Melges 14, are not considered enemies; they are allowed to participate with their boat, as long as they use a class legal 3:1 compliant rig, and adjust the weight of their hull – to ensure a level playing field

The esteemed Aero owners in particular are most welcome to join as long as they install corrector weights (water, lead or equivalent) of minimum 25 kg (55 lbs) – to match the weight of the mighty Laser hull

Finn sailors will also be welcome of course. For Finns, there won’t be any corrector weights requirements. A special consideration, given the vikingian weight of the Finn hull, is that they will be allowed to use the over-sized Rooster rig, but they will still be bound to use the 3:1 vang.

Owners of old Byte or similar hulls are welcome to participate too as usually, the hulls will have absorbed enough water and taken enough weight to be 3:1 compliant

There is also consideration of getting rid of the self bailer, a feature that is not original to the Laser and that requires regular repairs. It is contemplated to introduce instead hand held devices, drawing from the ever growing success of the Optimist class. Yet, it’s still unclear if one or two hand-held bailers will be legal under the new class rules

The document briefly discusses the introduction of sail ties, as exclusively used with global success in the Optimist class, but does not retain the option so far as it would be too much of a departure from the original Laser.

Usage of electronic compasses, noisy start watches and other similar fancy equipments will be subject to strict and potentially repressive regulations, as not in the spirit of the original Laser class and certainly not the Laser 3 : 1 class.

The still confidential 3:1 class document reads:

We want this to be a new era for the Laser, which has now been around for 50 years. The boat evolved from being a wonderful recreational weekender to becoming an outstanding Olympic dinghy in the late 20th Century, to now being a somewhat outdated single-hander that no-one seems to dare replacing.   

Irrespective of her 2024 Olympic ambitions, the 3:1 rig provides a unique opportunity for the Laser to still be around for the next decades, to deliver grassroots, affordable, less painful and hopeful more fun sailing for everyone. 

Whilst the proposal was initially viewed in some quarters with some cynicism, the appeal seems now to be growing. To participate in huge international fleets at the cost of a golfing weekend is indeed expected to promote sailing for all in ways that should ensure a great future for the sport.

How much does it cost? A full 3:1 full kit, including blocks and line can be purchased online at US$ 39.95 only. NOW is the time to downgrade your Laser and to join the 3:1 movement!

April 1, 2019