If the process for selecting sailboat designs for the 2024 Paris Olympic Games wasn’t messy enough already, it may get even messier with a recent dispute over the one-design Laser.
World Sailing, the governing body that selects sailboat classes for the Olympics, last year decided that the Finn class should have its last hurrah at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, a move that’s been met with criticism. World Sailing then added a mixed two-person keelboat offshore class for the 2024 Olympics, which is also being questioned, and it also started a search to replace the Laser and Laser Radial with a different one-person dinghy.
To that end, last month World Sailing had sea trials in Valencia, Spain, where the Lasers squared off against three other designs to see which might be the chosen one for Paris (or rather, Marseille, where the Olympic sailing events will take place).
Now a dispute between the International Laser Class Association (ILCA), which is in charge of the Laser class, and LaserPerformance, the world’s largest supplier of Lasers, may hurt the Laser’s chances of staying in the Games even more. ILCA terminated its building agreement with LaserPerformance, which could complicate matters for the 2024 Olympics, because under the now decertified agreement, LaserPerformance held the rights to produce the Laser for all of Europe, including France.
Long story short, World Sailing may have additional incentive to ditch the Laser, a boat it was already seriously leaning towards replacing for the 2024 Games. A builder’s dispute could cause supply problems, something the Olympic organizers will not like and give World Sailing another reason to select one of the other three designs.
This is not the first time LaserPerformance has found itself in a dispute over building rights to the Laser. Less than a decade ago, Bruce Kirby, who designed the Laser in 1969, filed a suit against LaserPerformance. ILCA was also named in that suit as was the International Sailing Federation, which has since been renamed World Sailing. So now, two of the parties named in the Kirby suit are in a dispute over building rights and the third party named in that suit holds the Laser’s Olympic fate in its hands.