Single-Handed Dinghies for the 2024 Olympics: 3 Options for World Sailing

The Aero 6: the New Rig Recommended for Women by RS Sailing
The continuation of the Laser saga is now putting World Sailing in a very difficult situation.

Yes, there was an August 1 deadline for the international Laser class ILCA to get FRAND and other agreements to be signed by its builders and  to get its house in order. It seems that the deadline was missed.

ILCA has been betting on a highly contentious change to its internal class rules, and we don’t know yet the result of the vote by the membership.

But as discussed in this blog, even if ILCA announces that the Yes won the rule change, there are substantial hurdles still to overcome. This includes whether World Sailing will approve the proposed generic or renamed boats, whether a Yes to the class rule vote, held via the inappropriate Survey Monkey app, will resist legally, and whether LaserPerformance will mount legal challenges against ILCA, dealers and other parties, which may completely paralyze the supply of hulls, sails and parts.

Remember, LaserPerformance was terminated as a builder last March by the Laser class - in fact at the great surprise of its European members. Except for a few hundred hulls for which World Sailing plaques have been released since, there is a growing global shortage of new boats, as LaserPerformance territories encompass most of the world, including the most important European market. The two remaining builders are presently confined to small markets in NZ, Australia, South Korea and Japan. The supply for over 80% of new boats has essentially been shut down by the international Laser class.

In this context, what are the options for World Sailing?

Option 1: Confirm the Laser

This was demanded by MNAs, which voted in a large majority for the Laser at the World Sailing’s mid-year meeting last May.  Unless there are last minute advances in resolving the differences among the parties and for the various contractual documents - with same wording of course - to be signed by PSJ, PSA and LP, this is a risky road. It’s all headed to litigation, which will probably take years to resolve, considering that the 2012 Kirby Torch name change attempt is still being litigated. And in the mean time, one can expect that LaserPerformance will continue to be terminated by ILCA, meaning that there will be continued shortages of hulls, sails and parts throughout the world.

Option 2: Bring in the RS Aero

At the mid-year meeting, the Equipment Committee of World Sailing recommended the RS Aero for the 2024 Olympics - the RS Aero 9 for men, and the RS Aero 7 for women, but RS Sailing rightfully favors its RS Aero 6 for women, as more suitable for the typical female athletes. The Laser was still considered suitable for the Olympics by the Equipment Committee of World Sailing, but mostly because it had been there before and because of its world-wide presence. According to journalist Richard Gladwell, it’s in the prerogatives of the board of World Sailing to make a decision on this matter and to determine whether the Laser class met or failed to meet the conditions that were set last May for the Laser to remain Olympic. « The sting in the tail is that World Sailing has decreed that all classes in the Review process must have their FRAND (Anti-Trust compliant) agreements complete by August 1, 2019, or another class will be selected for that Event. » wrote Gladwell on May 20 in  A decision by the board of World Sailing to bring in the RS Aero would assert its role in the governance of the organization, but would at the same time antagonize many MNAs, which probably support the Laser much more than some form of FRAND compliance.

Option 3: Keep the Finn and Bring in the RS Aero for Women Only

While the whole process to keep or replace the Laser took place independently from the Finn situation, one needs to keep in mind the obvious: both the Laser and the Finn are single-handed dinghies. If only 2 of the 10 medals at the 2024 games are allocated towards single-handed dinghy sailing, why not keeping the Finn, instead of the Laser standard for men, and bringing in the RS Aero for women, instead of the Laser Radial? This approach would enable to keep the Finn, which is still very popular with many MNAs. The Finn is also a turnkey well proven-solution, and the Finn has no FRAND or anti-trust problems. This approach would bring in the RS Aero only for women. This could be through an Aero 6 instead of the Aero 7 presented at the Valencia trials. Like the Laser Radial, the RS Aero 7 was found by the World Sailing Equipment Committee to be overpowered for most female athletes world wide. Keeping the Finn, and bringing in the RS Aero for women only, would be a much less disruptive undertaking than bringing in immediately the RS Aero for both men and women. It’s probably not possible for the board of World Sailing to decide on this option in the next days, but it may be an option that could emerge at the Bermuda annual meeting.

The good news is that World Sailing clearly has options, in case there is no realistic pathway for the Laser to normalize its situation.

Yes, there can be very successful single-handed sailing at the 2024 Olympics, either under Option 2 or under Option 3. And the Laser can certainly continue as a non-Olympic class - as it successfully was prior to becoming Olympic.

The most generally held view is that World Sailing will postpone any decision until its Bermuda annual meeting in November / December.

Option 1 - to keep the Laser - would accordingly be given an additional chance by World Sailing.

In other words, the board would pass on the Laser hot potato to the MNAs!

Talking about food, popcorn is not really healthy but it’s hard to find a more suitable food under the circumstances.

This bad show must not go on, but it looks very much like it’s going to go on, at least for a few more months.

Yet, we should know more in a few days, after the August 5 World Sailing board teleconference.

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