Thursday, February 16, 2012

Sticking to the Union

Great news this week from Maclaren and LaserPerformance! And a mystery hidden in the small print...

Maclaren announced on Wednesday a five-year sponsorship program "designed to encourage sailing participation and connect sailing enthusiasts worldwide." As part of a sponsorship deal for LaserPerformance athletes, events and products from 2012 to 2016, Maclaren are inviting applications for sponsorship from individuals and organizations and say this is "the largest commitment of its kind to date."

(As I wrote on Monday, Maclaren and LaserPerformance are sister companies. Wednesday's announcement fleshes out some of the details that were still unclear when I wrote Monday's post.)

The funding that Maclaren are offering organizations can cover such things as

  • fleet finance
  • entertainment services
  • logistical support
  • press and media support
  • and boat purchase and charter.

The latter point suggests that Maclaren are stepping into the breach, at least partly, to fill the gap left by LaserPerformance's recent decision not to participate any longer in chartering boats for major events such as the Laser World Championships.

But there's an interesting wrinkle to the news tucked away in the application form for individual sponsorship from Maclaren.

All applicants who own a LaserPerformance dinghy must join the appropriate sub chapter of LaserPerformance United. On March 1, 2012, LaserPerformance United will create unions for 5 dinghies that will offer support, connections and promotions to dinghy owners. Visit for more details and a list of all unions. If there is no chaper/union for your dinghy, you must join LaserPerformance United.

Hmmmm. A union? Of course, the word "union" has a proud history in the sailing world with ISAF having started life as the International Yacht Racing Union and US Sailing being formerly known as the North American Yacht Racing Union.

I will be interested to see what this new organization, LaserPerformance United and its five "unions", will be like and what services they will offer. "Support, connection and promotion to dinghy owners," the announcement says. I'm all for that. God knows the sport of dinghy sailing can only benefit from more support, better connections between us sailors, and more promotion.

But which five dinghies will have unions? Laser and Sunfish, I am assuming. But what else. Pico? Bug? Vanguard 15? 420? Optimist?

What's also not clear to me yet is how the role of the new unions fits with that of the current class associations. Are the unions and class associations going to complement each other, or will they be competing for members? Should I join one or the other or both?

Early last year the International Laser Class, as part of its argument for the change to the Laser Class Fundamental Rule, claimed that LaserPerformance Europe had threatened to form its own 'Laser' class. Are these new "unions" the implementation of that threat? I guess more will be revealed in March when LaserPerformance announce the formations of the unions.

Until then, I will just have to wonder whether later this year I will be singing, with Pete Seeger and Arlo Guthrie, "You can't scare me, I'm sticking to the union."

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