Laser 4.7: the Beginning of the End?

The Aussie C5 rig, supported by the Laser class president and a variety of interests, but seen as totally unnecessary and counter-productive by most, arrived in Europe, as can be seen on this picture on Garda lake taken on Sept 29.

Is this the beginning of the end of the Laser 4.7?

The C5 rig, like the 4.7, is intended for those sailors out of the Optimist, Open Skiff, etc, and is therefore a direct competition to the 4.7 rig.

Note: this article is available in French / article disponible en français.

It has taken 20 years of hard work to establish the Laser 4.7 in Europe. Today, the Laser 4.7 is highly popular and attracts more youth sailors than the Laser Radial at most European regattas. 

At the Europeans this year in Hyères, France, there were 397 competitors. It has been several years now that European Laser 4.7 regattas attract huge participation.

In North America, there are encouraging signs of growth of the 4.7 rig, despite too many years of neglect. 

For example, this summer, the Canadian youth nationals, held just prior to the Laser 4.7 Worlds, attracted a record 66 Lasers 4.7. Several regattas in Ontario and Nova Scotia attracted fleets of around 20 4.7s. There are also growing fleets in Alberta and British Columbia. 

Several of the very best North American Optimist sailors, such as Cort Snyder (Lauderdale Yacht Club) and Noah Adler (Royal Nova Scotia Yacht Squadron) are now opting for the Laser 4.7 - making the racing particularly competitive and exciting.

Progress is recent and still fragile, but progress clearly there is, and it shows the evidence: the 4.7 rig is perfectly suited to North America - in the same way as it is suited to Europe and elsewhere.

At this point, the C5 rigs are not class legal, but who knows what kind of "proposed arrangement" or maybe even "Survey Monkey Vote" the ILCA class will come up with to establish these new rigs. 

Let's see how the Europe-based national Laser associations, which have already stated last May that there was absolutely no need for such new rig, will react.

Note that the current decision making structure of the Laser class - the ILCA World Council - is heavily biased against Europe - which has about 70% of the world membership but only 2 out of 13 seats on that council. 

Europe may have a voice on the ILCA World Council but has essentially no power on the governing body of the Laser class.

Some World Council members are from countries with small class memberships, yet have a disproportional say. For example, there are 3 members from Australia on the 13 member council. Commercial parties, with direct interest in the c5 rig, obviously back the new rig and have 2 out of the 13 seats.

With the currently flawed governance structure of the Laser class and the known positions of the current individuals sitting on its world council, the likelyhood for the c rigs to be officially endorsed by the Laser class later this year is high.

Such likely endorsement by the class does not mean that the c rigs will be adopted at the local level. Buyers beware, don't expect there will be any serious regatta in Europe and in most regions with this rig any time soon. 

If a youth sailor moves out of the Optimist and wants to go single-handed, the way to go is the Laser 4.7, or alternatives such as the Europe, the Splash (present in the NL), the Starling (present in NZL) or the RS Aero 5.

Is this the beginning of the end for the Laser 4.7 rig? Probably not, because firm opposition to the new c5 rig is anticipated in Europe, where about 70% of the Laser class membership resides. 

But with all the surprises that have come up with the Laser in the past year, nothing can be sure.

Stay tuned!

FURTHER READINGS ABOUT THE LASER 4.7

20 Reasons to Choose the Laser 4.7

Jumpstarting the Laser 4.7 in North America

From Top Optimist Sailor to Laser 4.7 and Radial World Champion

Fixing the Youth Sailing Pathway with the Laser 4.7 and the RS Feva

Sailing after the Optimist - a Webinar

C5 Rig on Lake Garda - Note the absence of the Laser logo in the sail.
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