SAN FRANCISCO (#1015) – For months now Sailing Illustrated has been reporting that a new Olympic Laser rig was coming. World Sailing has declined to confirm or deny; indeed, Submission 22 that was adopted by WS on Monday as the decision for the 2024 Olympic Classes says the Laser class would be "retained" but makes no mention of a new rig – mast and sail.
While the Laser hull (maybe) will be retained, not likely the rig. Put it in the same category as the Nacra 17 that was "retained" for the 2020 Olympic even though, as Paul Henderson said on our Tuesdays with TFE webcast yesterday, "about the only thing about the Nacra that was retained was the logo on the sail."
One hears this is the long, and the short, of the new Laser rig:
Julian Bethwaite (AUS, designer also of the Olympic 49er and 49er FX), was originally working on a project with the Hong Kong company, Up Marine, to develop a new entry level singlehander. The project never came to fruition.
For the new boat Mr Bethwaite was working on a new rig with carbon mast and fully-battened mylar sail. He was testing the new rig on Laser hulls.
PSA, the Australian Laser builder, got involved and worked on development of the new rig with Julian thinking that it would be a nice upgrade for the Laser. He started it 3 or 4 years ago.
Julian and PSA could never reach an agreement on compensation for the development work and things did not move forward.
Julian, seeing that there was a lot more money in developing a new rig for a Laser than in developing an entire new class, started shopping the new rig around, including to WS President Kim Anderson and others at World Sailing. Mr Andersen, then chairman of the WS equipment committee, liked it. Someone did a photoshopped mock-up on how the sail could look (image, above).
Julian pitched this as being his idea and that it could be a replacement for the current Laser rigs. Julian and PSA could not make a deal on the financial side of this.
Julian then approached the International Laser Class Association (ILCA) directly and was looking to have ILCA fund the development and enter into a long-term royalty arrangement to pay him for each rig and/or sail sold. Julian claimed that he had a patent on the rig, including the vang system and wanted a royalty for it.
If you know patents, from this stage to getting patents issued in all the sailing countries of the world will be many thousands of dollars and many months or years. Julian's patent application is in the review process and reportedly has been knocked back on 3 of the 4 claims that were presented as novel.
Julian is now working with Takao Otani, the Japanese Laser builder, to advance this project. The prototypes have been developed and that a promotion video will soon be available to show the new rig in action on the water.
SI believe's the main thrust of the foregoing is largely accurate. The business details we are less sure about; we are reaching out to Mr Bethwaite and World Sailing for comment and details. If any of our Dear Readers has more on all this, please do not hesitate to send it out way at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Then there was this attempt (nearby photo) at a similar rig, but it is "no longer available." Anyone have the deets on that one? Apparently it uses the same mast and boom as the original Laser.