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Why does the Laser exist?

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Mark Aged 42 View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Mark Aged 42 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Topic: Why does the Laser exist?
    Posted: 16 Dec 19 at 10:10am
Don't get me wrong, I love mine, but while sitting around at the weekend waiting for the wind to drop, I got to wondering about the birth of the Laser.
At its inception, by my reckoning, available single handers included:
Finn
Solo
Europe
OK
Moth
Contender
Canoe
Streaker
Sunfish
Minisail

Surely there was something for everybody in that list.
So how did the Laser muscle in so successfully?

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Sam.Spoons View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Sam.Spoons Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 16 Dec 19 at 11:02am
It was a completely new marketing paradigm at least as far as the dinghy world was concerned. All those others with the possible exception of the Sunfish (which I know little about) were 'normal' One Designs (was the Canoe a One Design hull by then?) with a variety of builders and sailmakers for each. The Laser was a one stop shop and, by design, they were all identical. No need to decide who made the fastest hull or sail just buy the package and go sailing.

Edited by Sam.Spoons - 16 Dec 19 at 11:06am
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Post Options Post Options   Quote JimC Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 16 Dec 19 at 11:18am
There were a lot of one shop one designs back then, each little builder tried to develop their own in the hope that it would take off and they'd get rich. That's why there were so many more different classes back then. Boats like the Firefly, the Gull etc were all effectively single manufacturer one designs, and even single supply sails weren't unknown.

What was new about the Laser, I think, was the complete ban on altering the boat at all to suit the sailor, so you didn't have to think about the boat from one week to the next, just, as you say, turn up and go sailing.

Its interesting that has been lost of recent years, and whilst all the changes and options look like improvements on the surface, they have tended to subtract from the basic turn up and sail simplicity.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Sam.Spoons Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 16 Dec 19 at 11:30am
The down side of the design which the modern innovations have gone some way to remedy was that unless your were 6' 4" and 12 stone you were at a huge disadvantage. OTOH, my dad, (5' 3" and 11 stone) seemed to enjoy sailing his.......

The Firefly and Gull did allow considerable 'optimisation' which, as you say, the Laser prohibited, it would need a couple more concessions to get me back in a Laser TBH, the single central toe strap really does not make it a comfortable boat for us short ar5es  LOL

It's fair to say the Laser has a well designed and, at the time, modern hull shape which seems to work over a range of sailor weights so that was probably a big factor too.


Edited by Sam.Spoons - 16 Dec 19 at 11:33am
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Post Options Post Options   Quote JimC Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 16 Dec 19 at 11:47am
Originally posted by Mark Aged 42

Don't get me wrong, I love mine, but while sitting around at the weekend waiting for the wind to drop, I got to wondering about the birth of the Laser.
At its inception, by my reckoning, available single handers included:
Finn
Solo
Europe
OK
Moth
Contender
Canoe
Streaker
Sunfish
Minisail
Surely there was something for everybody in that list.
So how did the Laser muscle in so successfully?


Its interesting. At the time my then club decided to adopt its first singlehanded class. We invited CAs to come and bring along boats for us to try. My memory is dim, but I seem to remember that Solo, Europe or British Moth (maybe both), and OK all put the effort in, whilst the Laser Assn/builders apparently weren't bothered and didn't. The Streaker didn't exist at the time. So a good number of people, especially we teenagers, spent some time on sailing the boats and formed our conclusions. Then came the AGM, and the vote, and it was a landslide for the Laser from people who probably had never sailed it and certainly hadn't turned up to try the others. It was an early introduction to the weirdness of democracy... Its interesting too, that amongst the classes that seemed suitable for an small inland club the Laser was decidedly the quickest.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote 423zero Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 16 Dec 19 at 1:08pm
Minisail was a turn up and play but Laser was better looking, faster, pointed better, centre/aft main, better sail than Minisail etc, cheap as chips.
Robert
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Post Options Post Options   Quote iGRF Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 16 Dec 19 at 1:56pm
Even I knew what a Laser was and I had absolutely no interest whatsoever in dinghy sailing, they were selling them at the time via some windsurfing dealers, but the mistake they made was poor margin and competing themselves selling direct. Would it have made a difference? I wonder, twenty years ago I would have said definitely yes they would have sold more, but then as sales dropped they'd have faced huge pressures from dealers to improve, modify, 'bring up to date' and the reason it's still so 'successful' in a one eyed man in the Kingdom of the Blind way is precisely because it didn't and because it is such a horrendous piece of junk to sail they get a high turnover and plenty get left in the nettles for newcomers to try, which then of course is the perfect inoculation against ever doing the sport again..

Edited by iGRF - 16 Dec 19 at 1:58pm
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Post Options Post Options   Quote H2 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 16 Dec 19 at 3:26pm
I was thinking something similar a few weekends ago after getting back to the beach after a few hours racing in a force 6. I was thinking that 25 years ago I was out racing my Laser and in those conditions I would have been totally battered and broken and here I was as a middle age man with a smile on my face and I thought to myself "Why does a Laser even exist?" :-)
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Post Options Post Options   Quote ifoxwell Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 16 Dec 19 at 4:05pm
Compared to the others mentioned it was simple and bullet proof. Only 7 major components plus a few bits of string. It was easy to sail and robust enough to sail on and off a beach with out you having to be to precious with it. 
I can see why it was a success but equally in this day and age the only reason to sail one in my eyes is the fleet racing. If there isn't a fleet then sail something else, pretty much everything else in todays market is much nicer
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Post Options Post Options   Quote PeterV Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 16 Dec 19 at 5:03pm
It's very easy to forget, over 40 years on, just what a revolution the Laser was.  It was cheap, robust and everyone who bought one knew that they'd be at the front if they sailed better than the others in the fleet, that you couldn't spend more on masts, sails, special fittings etc. to get to the front.  It was, and is, also a vey good design, just look at all the designs since that have tried to beat it, until the Aero they've all been slower.
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