Fake Lasers One Step Closer to be Endorsed by World Sailing?

Now a week after World Sailing’s August 1st deadline and the end of the vote organized by the Laser class, where are we at?

The results of the Laser class controversial Survey Monkey vote have not yet been published. In fact, counting is still under way as, as we reported, there is no centralized membership database and the Monkey Survey app used by the Laser class allowed anyone to vote, among other potential irregularities.

While the counting is still still under way, and the validity of the votes has therefore not been verified by ILCA - there is no independent party involved to oversee the process -, the Laser class announced on August 3 that there were over 3,000 votes from 85 countries.

But the day before, Sailing Illustrated had already announced that « over 3,300 votes were received from 85 countries on six continents » and that the Yes had most likely won.

« Based on all your Ed. is hearing, from a number of sources close to the Class, one can only assume the "yes" votes overwhelmed the "no" votes by much more than the required two-thirds to allow the proposed (by the ILCA World Council) amendments to the Class Constitution to pass. »

Obviously, the « number of sources close to the Class » can only be the class leadership itself, which is pushing for the fake / generic Lasers to become class-legal.

With its supposedly firm deadline set for August 1st, how was World Sailing going to react? It issued a statement on August 6.

There is no mention of the Laser as a sailboat in the statement, or even of the ILCA Dinghy, but only of « the Equipment for the Men's and Women's One Person Dinghy for the Paris 2024 Olympic Sailing Competition. »

As we previously reported, the "ILCA Dinghy," proudly announced last April by the Laser class, and for which trademarks were registered last year by the Laser class via the "Weather Helm" Delaware corporation, seems now dead. 

« World Sailing can confirm the International Laser Class Association (ILCA) has signed the required Olympic Classes Contract by this deadline and has also submitted additional information about the arrangements for the Class. »

There is no mention in the World Sailing statement whether the LaserPerformance, Performance Sailcraft Australia and Performance Sailcraft Japan have signed the required FRAND, Olympic contracts and other demanded documents.

There is no mention if any agreement among those parties was found regarding licensing / royalty fees and other outstanding issues.

Yet, the statement reminds us that « The World Sailing Board informed Council in May 2019 that it would only continue contractual discussions until 1 August 2019 with the selected Equipment. »

Are all the required documents signed or not? The World Sailing statement is silent about this.

Obviously, World Sailing could not really make a formal announcement about its position for the « boat previously known as the Laser » to remain Olympic, in part because the Laser class had not yet officially completed to count the votes for the class rule change that would make generic / unbranded boats class-legal.

Here is what World Sailing communicated:

« The position has been discussed at a recent meeting of the World Sailing Board and it has requested clarification from ILCA in a small number of areas. »

« The Board will then officially communicate to Council its position. »

Where is this heading at?

Most likely litigation, unless World Sailing and ILCA secure an agreement acceptable to LaserPerformance / Velum and the Australian and Japanese builders regarding the Laser trademark royalties.

Googling what trademark litigation might cost, figures of hundreds of thousands, possibly several millions of dollars, are found.

Trademark litigation is not only expensive but also slow, bringing further uncertainty as to the production of boats, sails, and parts, particularly in Europe, the Americas, and other regions where the Laser trademark is owned by LaserPerformance / Velum.

Can World Sailing and the Laser class sustain a long protracted litigation. World Sailing is into deep financial trouble and already had to borrow against 2020 Olympics revenues.

The Laser class appears to have significant amounts of financial resources at hand (about US$1 million according the latest publicly available info from 2017), but its revenues will decline if sales of boats, sails, parts, as well as charter revenues are going down.

Against that background, ILCA may be short of funds for a real legal battle, especially as litigation may take place in several jurisdictions.

These are tough decisions ahead for the board and the council of World Sailing.

Oh, and maybe RS Sailing will also want to remind World Sailing that the Aero was preferred to the Laser by World Sailing's Equipment Committee, and that they are still interested in having the Aero at the 2024 Olympics.

So is the Finn class by the way, when it comes to the male single-handed dinghy.

There are indeed several options available to World Sailing for single-handed dinghies in 2024.

As we previously indicated, this may take a few more months for a final decision to made, at the World Sailing annual meeting in Bermuda in November/December.

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