There is also a very strong warning at the front of the class rules under the heading Cheating that says...
The ILCA takes a very strong line with Laser sailors who do not sail according to the rules. There have been cases in the past where sailors who have sailed with illegal boats have been banned from sailing a Laser. Such a ban can be for life...
Our class is much bigger than the odd person who wants to gain advantage by illegally changing the Laser or its equipment. They can sail in other classes where the rules allow changes to a boat to get an advantage. We do not want them with us.
"We do not want them with us."
Hmmm. That's pretty strong stuff. (And by the way, that heading Cheating really is in the class rule book in super-big bold type just in case anyone is in any doubt that sailing with "illegal" equipment is cheating and we might ban you for life and we do not want you with us!)
But all is not what it seems in Laser land.
Check out that video I posted yesterday of Heavy Air Sailing with Marc Jacobi. See that label at the tack of his sail. That's an Intensity Sails logo. That is not a "sail manufactured by a licensed builder." That is a replica Laser sail from Intensity Sails.
Is anyone calling Marc a cheat? Absolutely not. He is one of the most respected sailors in the class. His fleet at Cedar Point YC in Westport CT voted a while back to allow Intensity sails in their fleet.
Maybe Cedar Point is the exception, you say? Think again.
Check out this screen shot from a video posted on Facebook of Fleet 413, the Newport RI Laser fleet. It shows the leaders of a race on a reach approaching the committee boat an a Harry Anderson course.
Boat #181855 has a legal Laser sail. The starburst logo is the Laser trademark. But the other two boats in the top three clearly have replica sails, and so does the fourth boat if I'm not mistaken. That's right. Replica sails, mainly from Intensity, are used by several sailors in this fleet too. Nobody minds. Not a big deal.
The Cedar Point and Newport fleets are probably the two largest and strongest Laser fleets in New England. And Intensity sails are becoming more and more common at other Laser fleets in this area too. There's a real disconnect here. The class rules say that people who race with such sails are "cheats" and we "don't want them with us." But the actual sailors say it's OK.
Why are replica sails becoming so popular? Various reasons are given...
- Legal sails are too expensive.
- Legal sails don't last long enough.
- At times, the dealers are totally out of stock of legal sails.
- Many potential Laser sailors (especially high school and college kids) can't afford to keep buying new legal sails. By allowing them to buy replica sails we encourage them to join our fleet and thereby grow the sport.
- Intensity sails are close enough in performance to legal sails that they aren't an advantage or a handicap so it's no big deal.
Of course, legal sails are required at major regattas. So, sailors who travel to regattas typically have an Intensity sail that they use for local racing and practice, and a class legal sail that they keep for regattas.
Laser sailors are playing with Intensity.
Maybe it's time I bought an Intensity sail?