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World Sailing issues statement on changes to Laser/ILCA

by World Sailing/ 28 Apr 2019 10:49 BST 4-5 May 2019
The then-Laser Radial class racing at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro © Richard Gladwell

World Sailing has issued a statement on its website setting out its position with regard to the world's most numerous racing dinghy formerly known as the Laser.

World Sailing, the world governing body of the sport, wishes to make clear its position on the current issues surrounding the Equipment for the Men's and Women's One Person Dinghy Events at Tokyo 2020.

World Sailing is aware of the current dispute between the international class association (ILCA) and its main manufacturer (Laser Performance). Both parties have kept World Sailing informed of their position and the information will be considered as part of the ongoing Equipment Selection Process for the Paris 2024 Men's and Women's One Person Dinghy. World Sailing is committed to following its published procedures for this process and it will be for the World Sailing Council to make a decision on the Equipment for the Men's and Women's One Person Dinghy Events having received the recommendation and report of the Equipment Committee.

However, World Sailing is concerned that recent public statements overstate conversations with World Sailing officials.

World Sailing has not endorsed or pre-approved the proposed name change of the Laser to the ILCA Dinghy. World Sailing's Board of Directors and Senior Management Team have continuously maintained a position that World Sailing will deal with any applications for class rule changes when they are made by ILCA to World Sailing. To date, World Sailing has received no class rule change requests related to the name of the boat and, if formally made, World Sailing will process any applications in accordance with the relevant World Sailing Regulations.

Concerning the issue of World Sailing's Olympic Equipment Policy, World Sailing has not approved any individual class or manufacturers' position concerning production and intellectual property rights. What World Sailing has done, and continues to do, is to listen carefully and note our stakeholders' positions in this area.

The chart above underscores the Universality of the Laser/ILCA and also the contribution of the RS:X Windsurfer along with the Euro-centric nature of the current Olympic classes. The pressure on the ILCA/Laser has been triggered by a World Sailing requirement for 2024 Olympic classes to be FRAND compliant - a term which World Sailing has not yet defined but is expected to mean that there must be multiple builders in a class along with competition to supply which could result in there being multiple builders supplying into the same territory.

The Laser/ILCA is the first of the current Olympic classes to be put through a World Sailing imposed Review process which includes competing against other classes for "their" Olympic spot. Given World Sailing's statement above, World Sailing's timetable for the Review process, and the timeframes for change to class constitution and class rules, it would seem unlikely that ILCA/Laser will have its affairs in order by the Mid-May Meeting of World Sailing which starts on May 17, 2019. There World Sailing's Council will vote on the Equipment (class) to be used for the Mens and Women's One Person Dinghy in the 2024 Olympic Regatta.

Rule 31 of the ICLA Class Rules can only be amended after a four-step approval process Amendments to these Rules shall be approved by each of: (a) the World Council, (b) the Advisory Council, (c) at least two-thirds of the membership casting a vote in response to a ballot published by the International Office of the Class. Only those votes submitted within one month from the date of publication of the rule change ballot shall be valid, and (d) World Sailing.

Changes to the ILCA Constitution require a similar process to Class Rule changes, except that World Sailing approval is not required, and the window for postal voting is six months, not one month.

It appears to be a question of whether Man is made to serve the Rules, or are the Rules to serve Man?