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The UKLA Laser Archive

by Guy Noble 11 May 2020 12:38 BST
Mark Lyttle's 1981 Laser © UKLA Archive

In 2021 the Laser dinghy will celebrate its official 50th birthday. Since its unveiling at the 1971 New York boat show there have been over 217,000 built. In these strange times, when racing is only virtual and dead easy to pause, I'd like your help.

This phenomenal success story has had very little formal documentation so I would like to create an archive of visual and written information. The intention is to put all this archive material onto the UKLA website (with due consideration to copyright law) along with all the archive results both digital and written - this can be added to as we get more material.

I bought my first laser in 1975 directly from the factory in Banbury Oxfordshire - sail number 21634 and a fine shade of lime green it was to! Last summer I managed to track down my old boat but unfortunately just missed out being able to buy it back after over 40 years. From what I understand this boat has had eight owners. Bearing in mind that the newer boats would have had fewer owners and the older boats may have had more, we could estimate that Laser dinghies have been owned by over a million people! And this doesn't take into account those who have 'had a go' in a Laser. It is a little known fact that Chris Whitty has sailed a Laser!

While I was trying to get to grips with my lime green beauty at Margate Yacht Club more illustrious practitioners of the sport were on their way to Brazil. The Laser worlds 1977 were in Cabo Frio 80 miles up the cost from Rio. The 104 entrants is basically a list of many of the worlds most successful sailors of the last 50 years. John Bertrand (the winner 1977), Carl Buchan - Star world Champ, Flying Dutchman Olympic gold medal winner, Paul Cayard - Star World Champion and Olympian, Peter Commette - Laser World Champion, Kimo Worthington - 6 America's cup campaigns, Mark Neeleman 3rd 1977 and Olympian, Keith Wilkins Multiple National and Masters World Champion, Tim Law double Laser National Champion and holder of many national and international Masters titles and many more incredible sailors.

Andy Roy wrote a nice piece on the event for The Laser Sailor in the spring of 2019. Tim remembers the event as an absolute classic - he recalls they actually had samba bands on the boast at either ends of the start line... now that's what I call getting in the groove! The best story he tells is when a mass of boats were piling up at the leeward mark, pandemonium ensued, eventually sorting themselves out two Swedish sailors were heard shouting madly at each other - nobody could work out why until after they'd finished - it turned out they had inadvertently switched boats!

This is of course an unapologetic exercise in nostalgia but it also serves as a reminder of what we risk losing if we allow divisive petty politics and greed to dominate. Perhaps we could learn something from the fans of football clubs exerting so much pressure on owners that they finally make decisions that are best for the game not simply for their pockets. Keeping this incredible history in everyone's sights might just help.

Along side the Finn, for the big guys, Laser sailing is for many a philosophy and a passion that flows through our lives. Racing may be on hold but the tradition and community is still here. So what do I want from you? Rummage around and find those photographs from regattas and of your pride and joy. Probably a brown 1973 laser with wooden foils - or a great photo torn from Yachts & Yachting 1999 of you hiking hard off the start line. Or even some old film/video that you have and wouldn't mind sharing. Just email me at .

Special thanks to Andy Roy, Tim Law, Mark Lyttle and David Casale.

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