European Laser Districts Divided over the Future of the Class

This article covers recent events relating to a working party established by the European branch of the International Laser Class Assocation - EurILCA - to decide on the future of the class in a European context. An inconclusive vote, at a specially convened general assembly, took place today on the recommendations of this working party. The article also provides a brief update on The Laser Class - the new class announced just a week ago. Finally, the article comments on the urgent need for ILCA and EurILCA to take their responsibilities regarding the coronavirus epidemic.

Following its January 1 ultimatum to the international laser class ILCA, and an absence of response to the ultimatum by ILCA’s secretariat, the European branch of the class, EurILCA, formed a working group to explore avenues for the future of Laser sailing in Europe. With nearly two third of the world-wide membership, Europe is indeed essential for Laser sailing.

The working group was composed of experienced Laser sailors and class officials from several countries: Switzerland, UK, Croatia, Belgium, Austria, Spain and Italy.

The working group convened for several teleconferences, and produced a document presenting the current situation with ILCA / EurILCA, and identifying 3 options, which was then submitted to the European districts on February 28.

As a kind of preamble, the document states that the Laser class ILCA could still be saved as a class, in its current form, if the current president and executive secretary, Tracy Usher and Eric Faust, resign from their positions; if LaserPerformance is proposed acceptable terms for being reinstated as a builder; and if a workgroup is created to modernize the governance of the class and develop a new class constitution.

The introductory part of the document summarizes key areas of disagreement between the Europeans and the International class: lack of representation on the World Council; continuous termination of UK builder LaserPerformance; unnecessary name change of the boat; development and likely implementation of new carbon / mylar C rigs; preferential treatment given to Aussie builder PSA for supply of charter boats; obscure role of the « Weather Helm » corporation; secretive approach of ILCA, including vis-à-vis its World Council; absence of compliance to ILCA bylaws; continuously deteriorating communications; absence of appropriate governance at ILCA level; absence of trust between ILCA and EurILCA; continuous boat and equipment shortages; boat and equipment price increases; confusion with the ILCA dinghy logo; fear of new rigs to be imposed without consultation; and risk that 4.7 will soon disappear outside Europe.

The Three Options - in Summary 

Here are, in summary, the options that were identified by the working party.

Option 1 - Status Quo - EurILCA does not separate from ILCA and attempts to improve ILCA from the inside. The situation is re-evaluated in November.

Option 2 - EurILCA stays within ILCA, but with specific measures for the European region, including acceptance of LaserPerformance boats and equipment; continuation use of the Laser name and logo; continuation of the use of the existing 3 rigs. This approach is seen as having the potential to reduce the price of boats by 25% and of sails by 50%, and to resolve immediately the supply issue. World Sailing approval would be sought for Europe-specific measures.

Option 3 - EurILCA splits from ILCA, to become an independent association of European Laser Sailors. It becomes a form of EurILCA 2.0 and continues to operate all the Laser regatta circuit and European championships for the 4.7, Radial and Standard, for youth, senior and master sailors.

Through teleconference, a Special General Assembly was held today, and a vote took place on the three options identified by the working group.

Some 25 districts are said to have participated in the vote. With 11 votes, the status quo option did not achieve a majority, but the « change options » did split the vote between Option 2 and Option 3 - with option 3 receiving 9 votes.

It’s unclear what kind of action EurILCA will take as a follow up to this divided vote.

Yes, there is widespread discontent among many of the districts with ILCA, but the required majority was not reached to implement a change either under Option 2 or Option 3.

« The Laser Class » Reaches 500 Members

As we previously reported, the development of a new class - The Laser Class - was carried out in parallel, by a group of prominent Laser sailors, several of them on the EurILCA working group.

The Laser Class was announced in London on February 28 on the occasion of the Dinghy Show.

The Laser Class presents itself to be « For sailors, by sailors - with the original Laser spirit in One Design dinghies. »

The class aims at standardizing equipment and rejects the latest changes made to ILCA Dinghy by the Australian builder, including to the hull, the blades and the Radial bottom section.

Unlike the international class ILCA, The Laser Class accepts LaserPerformance equipment.

The Laser Class has as interim president the immediate past president of ILCA Heini Wellman. There is an interim board composed of former executives from ILCA and prominent sailors, including two former Olympians.

While it’s still early stage for this new class, it announced on Facebook it already has reached 500 members.

Time will tell how successful the new class will be, but for sure, it’s in Europe that it will likely recruit a majority of its members, and may thereby weaken EurILCA.

Coronavirus: Tough Decisions for ILCA and EurILCA

In the mean time, EurILCA and ILCA have tough decisions to make in the context of the coronavirus pandemic.

Will they maintain the 4.7 European championships on April 11-17 in Portugal, or postpone or cancel the event?

Likewise, will ILCA maintain the 4.7 World Championship, that is supposed to take place on Garda Lake in July?

Actually these are just two examples. All the relevance of maintaining the Europa Cup, European and World Championships, at youth, senior and master levels, should urgently be assessed by the Laser class.

And unfortunately, with the lack of trust, the divisions and the communications problems within the organization, and with the commercial interests at stake, it’s unclear if any meaningful decision will be taken, and when such decision will be taken.

Even if very imperfect, several dinghy classes as well as World Sailing have already made announcements regarding the coronavirus, but the Laser class remains silent, despite major championships to take place in just a month.

The opinion of the author of this blog is outlined at length in these two articles.

Accordingly, sailors should from now on take all precautions to avoid contracting or spreading the virus, should focus on training and racing mostly at the club level and should therefore refrain from attending any big international event, including any EurILCA or ILCA event.

March 9 Update: EurILCA and Monaco Yacht Club just decided to postpone the 2020 Laser Master European Championships from April 3-9 to October 16-22.

March 11 Update: EurILCA just decided to postpone the 2024 Laser 4.7 European Championships. See announcement. The June 20-27 date is however very little realistic and the event will most likely be further postponed or cancelled.
Document: Proposal from Workgroup to prepare extraordinary EGM:

Picture source:

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