Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Play with Intensity

The Laser is a strict one-design class. The Laser class rules say that "the Laser shall be raced in accordance with these rules, with only the hull, equipment, fittings, spars, sail and battens manufactured by a licensed builder."

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?


Sam Chapin said...

I have an Intensity that was given to me and I don't like it as well as the same age (new) as my British sail. My dealer didn't have a new North when I wanted one.

We need to supprot the class when we can.

Tillerman said...

I guess one question is what "supports the class" the best.

Does buying a legal sail from North/LaserPerformance actually help the "class" in any way? From what I understand LaserPerformance is no longer providing the financial support to the N. American class association that they used to. They are no longer providing charter boats at major regattas like they used to.

On the other hand, I'm sure my friends in some local fleets that allow Intensity sails would say that letting kids with limited means use lower cost replica sails helps them build their fleets.

Who is the "class"? The legal entity known as the class association, or those kids?

Center of Effort said...

The "Class" is a book. Laser sailing is about the people you see out on the racecourse every weekend in all seasons. Right now West Coast Sailing is advertising a standard laser-class sail for 568.00. That's more than three Intensity sails. Which ones would you buy? I know which sails I'll be using this summer when I go to local regattas.

Tillerman said...

Just be aware that the NOR for May Madness at Quannapowitt this weekend says. "Lasers not meeting the ILCA rules will not be eligible for awards." No cookies for you!

Chris said...

While I agree that the class legal Laser sails from North and Hyde are on the pricey side, the old adage still holds that you get what you pay for. These Chinese made knock-off sails are cheap - really cheap - for a reason. And its not labor costs since the class legal sails are made in low-wage countries as well.
But its not just the sails, there are also knock-off rudders and centerboards floating around and who's to say these are even the same as the class legal ones?
The Laser class is going to have to go the way of the Optis, with measurement stickers on each piece of equipment. Gone are the days when you could just show up at a regatta and sail - you're going to have to stand in line at different stations and have all your equipment measured and certified.

Tillerman said...

I disagree with your first point Chris and agree with the second.

By all accounts the reason that legal Laser sails are more expensive then replicas is that everyone in the supply chain, North or Hyde, LaserPerformance and the dealer is making a healthy profit on them, and that these profits are a major source of income for the dealers and LP especially. Whereas for the replicas there is typically one entity between the factory and the customer. Also, from what I have heard, Intensity sails are every bit as good in quality as legal sails, just as fast in most conditions, and they last longer.

But you are right that the proliferation of replica parts could become a measurement headache in the future.. Actually most major parts on a Laser do have some kind of sticker or trademark on them, so it's not too hard to spot replicas. However more regattas may have to check boats as you suggest. Laser Masters Worlds already has measurement, although the main focus of that tends to be the control lines which everyone seems to do in a different way these days, not all of which are legal.

Funny story about measurement. The only time I have failed measurement at a Masters Worlds was for battens which were alleged to be too long. They were from an authorized builder. They had Laser logos on them. And they had already been passed (and initialed) by the measurer at the previous Masters Worlds.

Go figure! I hate measurement!

Pat said...

Who owns the Laser (TM) class?

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