Monday, June 15, 2009

Laser Killer?

Regular readers of this blog may be forgiven for thinking that I am a totally rabid, fanatical Laser zealot. It's really not true. Much as I like my Laser, I am realistic enough to know that the Laser will not for ever maintain its position as the most popular, most competitive, most fun single-handed sailing class in the world. Sooner or later a new boat will come along to displace the Laser from that role... the Laser Killer. But what kind of boat will it be? And have we seen it yet?

I'm inclined to think that the Laser Killer will not be one of those high performance trapezing classes such as the Musto Performance Skiff, RS700, Swift Solo or A-Cat. Exciting as those boats look, I feel that they probably demand too high a level of skill, and perhaps are also too expensive, to ever be mass-market boats as the Laser Killer surely will be.

Having had the opportunity at Minorca Sailing a couple of years ago to play around sailing boats with asymmetric spinnakers I do think that the Laser Killer will be an asymmetric single-hander. The spinnakers add a whole new dimension and excitement to downwind sailing from every aspect... boatspeed, excitement, strategy and tactics.

So the Laser Killer will probably be a hiking asymmetric singlehander using modern materials and technology; easy to learn to sail but hard to learn to sail well; robust and easily transportable; not too expensive and marketed worldwide. What will it be?

About ten years ago I saw the MX-Ray at a boat show and thought it might be the Laser Killer. But it never really took off and I don't believe it is manufactured any longer. Anyone know why?


Some years after that I was writing about the Hoot and wondering whether this was going to be the Laser Killer. But according to the News page on the manufacturer's website they are still tinkering with the design of the prototype and are continuing "to move towards final production." Hmmm. Seems like they were saying much the same three years ago. Not a good sign.


Then only last week we heard about the prototype of a new asymmetric single-hander from RS Racing, the much anticipated RS100.



The RS100 is from the drawing board of Paul Handley, designer of the very successful smaller boats in the RS line-up, so that's a good sign. Along with RS Racing's long experience as a manufacturer of small racing boats and dealers in twenty countries around the world, there is every chance that the RS100 will be just as successful as their other products. Their aim is to "create a responsive design that will appeal to all good single-handed sailors – giving an achievable challenge and a boat that is suited to most club waters as well as championship courses." Hmmm. Sounds like this could be the Laser Killer.

Apparently RS Racing have invited their dealers from other countries to visit the UK within the next few weeks "to sail the prototypes and give feedback from a truly international perspective." And the plan is to launch the boat on the market early in 2010, for the class to "build globally from the outset", and for the first world championship to be scheduled "in the second year of its life", presumably 2011.

Hmmm. Will the RS100 be the Laser Killer? What do you think?


Litoralis said...

It could be, but with a price tag of "under £7000" ($11,476.50) it could be a bit expensive to compete with the Laser.

Alex said...

I agree with Litoralis !!!!
If we want "The most fun single-handed sailing class in the world"
do not forget "Third World"


g said...

Here in South Africa many/most of our top dinghy sailors sail the extra (photo: )

Those photo's aren't the best - but it's a pretty technical single handed dinghy with a jib and shooting pole. Generally it costs far less than an imported Laser.

Litoralis said...

Do I detect a hint of sarcasm? I respecfully submit that it's not just the "Third World" that would find an $11,000 dinghy expensive.

If you want a class filled with young kids whose parent pay for their equipment or old guys with large amounts of disposable income, then perhaps the RS100 is a good boat. But, please remember that even the Laser feels expensive to sailors in their 20's and 30's who have young families and the associated expenses.

Brian Raney said...

Maybe the D1 from Devoti?

Ole Eichhorn said...

The Laser cannot be killed at this point, it has a huge "network effect" of adoption based on having hundreds of thousands of them all over the world. Whatever the relative merit of boat X vs the Laser, the Laser will always have bigger classes and better sailers (because of bigger classes), it will always be "the big time".

Making things even harder for would-be competitors, the Laser is a pretty decent boat, and they last. Other classes which had a big network effect of adoption generally squandered it by being expensive (505) or having boats which didn't last (470) or allowing old boats to become uncompetitive (Snipe).

Finally a normal person can sail a Laser. This is why Lasers beat Finns, little kids can sail Lasers, but only big men can sail a Finn.

Tillerman said...

"Always" is a long time. Please don't tell me that my grandson will be sailing a one sail fiberglass slab designed in 1970 when he's my current age in 2069.

Joe Rouse said...

I hate to say it, the Laser will be around a long time. The Sun will go Nova and somewhere in the Universe someone will be sailing a Laser. Perhaps a clone of the Tillerman, who will finally declare the universal dominion of the Laser. I told you he was evil.

Silliness aside, the Laser is such a simple boat with a nice clean design. I doubt that any boat will ever achieve it's widespread success.

Pat said...

Unlike auto manufacturing, sailing is such a niche sport and market that no manufacturer -- Vanguard, Catalina, whoever -- truly has the clout to saturate the market with a new design. And, fiberglass boats seem to last a lot longer than cars.

The Laser (and Sunfish as more of a trainer) are limited exceptions to the trend toward fragmentation. Especially where I live, where sailors are scattered far apart and we most often have too few one-design boats to make up fleets, it's hard to do much one-design racing and we have a bewildering variety of boats -- mostly one or two of each.

Now if some billionaire wanted to make a real difference in this situation, she or he could outfit existing community sailing centers and youth sailing teams with hundreds of boats and funds for staffing and maintenance, along with establishing new community sailing centers in areas where youth and the public have poor access to sailing.

Anonymous said...

Being fairly new to the Laser I believe there is room for a simple single hander with one sail, for single class fleetracing, a partly because "downwind is still downwind" with apparent wind coming in through the field behind you.
Now with the D-Zero and RS Aero arriving maybe they already are so fast that "they are sailed on apparent wind" downwind. So stealing wind from behind will just be for story telling around the i-Pad.

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