Saturday, May 11, 2013

Not a Kirby Sailboat Rant

This post was going to be a rant.

I wrote some angry stuff about some of the people posting on forums and blogs about the Kirby Sailboat/ Laser/ Torch issues.

Then I decided it was crazy for me to be angry at other people for being angry.

I don't always agree with all my fellow sailors but some of them are very upset about this issue. And they are my fellow sailors.  So I've decided not to rant at them, but continue to listen to them and to respect their views.

Personally, I don't think that any of us regular sailors really know enough about this issue to know which course of action will lead to the best result for all the sailors.

We don't know who will win the court battle between Bruce Kirby and LaserPerformance. We don't know if the design rights contracts between Kirby and the current Laser builders were still valid and enforceable. We don't know what LaserPerformance's defense in the court case will be. We don't know what legal advice has been giving to the Laser class that has informed their actions on this issue.  We don't know what has been discussed and decided in countless meetings behind closed doors.

There is so much we don't know.

What I do know is that the only people whom I can rely on to be working for my interests as a Laser sailor are the voluntary leaders of the Laser class.  I have met Andy Roy (North American Chairman) and Tracy Usher (President of the World Council) and they both strike me as people who are even more enthusiastic about Laser sailing than I am, who care deeply about the future of the sport, and who must be putting enormous amounts of voluntary effort and time into dealing with this issue. So I support them in their efforts to resolve this mess and wish them well.

I also have the utmost respect for Bruce Kirby (whom I have also met) for designing the boat which has given me so much pleasure for many decades, but he is also pursuing his own commercial interests in this dispute,  just as LP and LPE and PSA and Global Sailing and the new builders appointed by Kirby, and all the rest of them are. Nothing wrong with that. But I am way too cynical to believe that anyone who is trying to make a buck or two out of my sport is 100% on my side.

I take solace in the thought that when this is all over and the dust has settled and the lawyers have been paid, we will all still have our Lasers and we will all still be able to play with them. The newer Lasers might be called something else but I'm sure nobody will really care. We will want to play with our fellow sailors whatever their boats are called.  And there will still be volunteers willing to run the class and organize regattas for us.

This too will pass.


Pat said...

Some Laser people are angry?

Tillerman said...

Of course. We are all anti-social, aggressive, bad-mannered, crabby, surly, bellicose bastards who don't play at all well with other people. That's why we sail single-handed boats.

George A said...


O Docker said...

I think if I did a blog about Laser sailing, this is pretty much the post I would have written about the current troubles.

When something that was working OK for many people for many years is suddenly turned upside down, it's easy to go looking for a scapegoat, wag a finger, and yell a lot about what an evil and moronic person or persons the scapegoat is.

But, as this is essentially a legal conflict, it can be very difficult for someone outside the conflict to know what's really going on. Public statements made by a litigant are usually politically motivated and made to lobby support for the litigant's position.

The statements could be true. They could be mostly true except for some embarrassing true parts that were conveniently left out. They could be mostly untrue except for a few little parts that were sorta true and that were included to make the untrue parts sound true. They could be completely untrue but made to sound truthy. Or they could just be big fat lies.

Those of us who have no way of knowing still won't know, no matter how much noise we make on the interwebs.

As usual, the only people who are certain to come out ahead in the end are the lawyers.

Pandabonium said...

Exactly. After the revolution when all the lawyers are swinging from lamp posts... Oops... I mean, hopefully, someday, patent and copyright protection laws will become more rational - with shorter times and more narrow coverage. Then the rest of us can get on with our lives and go sailing, and the greedy and the corporations (redundant?) can go invent their own self torture. If you (the creative person) can't be satisfied with your invention for its own sake or make it pay you back within a few years, then you need to find something more meaningful in your life. A one off design should not be an artificial legal entitlement to a life long gravy train. Do we still pay royalties to the inventor of the sail?

I come from a family of inventors and the money wasn't the reason they worked on new ideas. Of course invention needs to be financially rewarded, but to what extent?

Tillerman said...

Thanks O Docker. Couldn't have said it better myself.

Tillerman said...

Panda, I'm not sure that copyright and patent law are the problem here. Kirby has publicly stated that there never were any patents on the Laser, and copyright is only involved tangentially in respect of a document called the Construction Manual (which has spawned a huge long debate on Sailing Anarchy about an analogy with cookbooks and recipes.)

Kirby seems to be claiming that his design rights are protected by long-standing contracts with the builders. Whether these give him, (and his company, and anyone else he sells the company too) the rights to approve builders and receive royalties in perpetuity seems to be at the heart of the issue.

Anonymous said...

Meanwhile the people at the old laser factory might lose their jobs, the regular people who like to sail in a regulated class are holding their breath, and the rich who have more money than they know wtf to do with go on making life miserable for the other 98% of us

Pandabonium said...

Thanks for clarifying that. As you know, being ignorant of the fact never hinders me from shooting my mouth off. :)

So here we have a private version of patent law - royalty contract.

Tim said...

At last, someone making sensible comments about this very sad situation. Am I the only one getting a bit fed up of the ILCA bashing as well? I'm sure they aren't really that evil, probably just to desparate to keep the Laser in the Olympic event thingy. Suspect this also has money as the root cause.

Tillerman said...

Thanks Tim. I've had private emails expressing similar sentiments too.

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