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26/07/2019 - 09:36

There isn’t peace even alone at the helm...


The deadline of August 1st for World Sailing is getting close. The future of the Laser, or how we know it since 50 years, is totally at risk. The peculiar “referendum” of ILCA, is out of every rule and control. But it could still be important to vote NO anyways, to try and stop the ultimate disaster. The parties (and the interests) at stake, the future in the Olympic Games, the consequences for the Laser sailors. What institutions can do: World Sailing and FIV. Now we can’t just wait and see - USEFUL LINKS


Firstly the "non-recognition" of ILCA to the historic builder Laser Performance Europe, owner of the registered trademark "Laser". Then the announcement of a new possible name (the very original and attractive ILCA-Dinghy). Then the trials with the modern single handed RS Aero, D-Zero and Melges 14, with the decision of World Sailing in favor of the "old" Laser, for its history and the unparalleled global spread. But when it was possible to think that everything was resolved, the furious and profound quarrel between the parties in question explodes again and puts everything at risk: the Olympic status, the boat name, the building facilities, the future developments in the rigs (mast and sails). 

Everything begins from the unspeakable, personalistic, undemocratic and interested management of the international class (ILCA, International Laser Class Association), determined to eliminate the historical component Laser Performance Europe, which controls with its trademark 85% of the world market. At the cost of an earthquake in which everyone would remain affected.

The lastest evolution, is from a few days ago. After the WS Mid-Year Meeting in May in which World Sailing expressed itself in favor to keep the Laser as male single handed Olympic dinghy (Standard) and female single handed dinghy (Radial) for Paris 2024, it had also added the deadline of 1 August 2019, within which the parties involved (ILCA on one hand, together with the Australian manufacturers PSA, the Japanese PSJ, and the powerful organization Global Sailing, of which we will talk about later; and LPE on the other) have to agree on the antitrust terms and the rules regarding the involvement of new international builders. 

To World Sailing's invitation to reach an agreement, only Laser Performance Europe (LPE) responded: providing a package of shared trade agreements and antitrust policies. Basically LPE is available to open up to new qualified builders. And even more, this is a confirmed and significant indiscretion, to sell on its territories the boats of other builders as a dealer. 

At this point it would have been sufficient if ILCA agreed to this to overcome the problem. Illusion. ILCA is not willing to sign the agreement. They want more. They wants everything. Whatever it takes. The stall in proceedings of these days has been caused by the rejection of ILCA. Accepting the ready-made agreement WS-LPE would mean "only" going ahead with the Olympic Laser and with its new antitrust rules that will introduce the new qualified builders. So why is ILCA against this simple and positive conclusion?

The truth that is emerging from the facts is only one: there is no Laser problem, there is an ILCA PROBLEM!

THE ILCA PROBLEM- Before starting to explain, one thing must be said: ILCA does not really represent all the members of the Laser family, and all the laser sailors worldwide. In the recent years the management of the class, by the Americans Tracy Usher (President), and Eric Faust (General Manager) has gradually moved away and alienated from the three quarters of the rest of the world: in particular Eurilca (which brings together the European Laser associations including the Italian AICL, chaired by Gianni Galli) has repeatedly declared itself in conflict with the choices and decisions of ILCA management. Questions of democracy, legitimacy and modalities of the deliberations have been raised, which have highlighted the reckless management of the Americans, in agreement with the Australians and the Japanese.

The goal of the politics of the heads of ILCA, which many international observers have gradually revealed, was to take out the manufacturer that controls 85% of the world territories, and once the Olympic confirmation is obtained, proceed with a radical modernization of the rig, with new masts and carbon boom, new square topped sails, new deck equipment. In short, a new boat with an old hull. A disgrace, which can only be explained by the economic interests that are behind it, and which largely belong to Global Sailing, led by New Zealand's Peter Hedge, who happens to be also manager of PSA (Performance Sailcraft Australia).

To understand who we are dealing with when talking about ILCA’s Usher Faust, the latest “gaffe” is very useful: they sent to the Youth World Championships in Poland some Lasers that had in the cockpit right next to the World Sailing plate, one with the ILCA Dinghy inscription. The same writing was on the outer side of the boats, and for this they were immediately called "Fake Lasers" by the smartest media, to the point that Faust declared that the stickers "were going to be removed", except to be denied by the presence of the plaque in the cockpit. These things seem unlikely, but unfortunately they are true.

The ballot launched recently by Tracy Usher asks ILCA members to eliminate the manufacturers' obligation to have the right to use the Laser trademark. In fact, it paves the way for the freedom of not calling the boat Laser. The gone mad ILCA leadership calls it Plan B, in the event of failure to reach an agreement by August 1st, but the race to vote shows once again that this is Plan A, the Grand Plan pursued for years that has reached its final stage, take out LPE, the Laser, its history and take all the cake, under the disguise of antitrust rules.

But is way more than a Plan B, it’s "suicide mode". Even in the case of a favorable vote, the chain reaction that would take place would hurt everyone. We seem to relive the Brexit nightmare. If on August 1 we arrive with a no-deal, and in the ILCA ballot ILCA wins with the vote YES, here's what would happen.

WHAT HAPPENS IF “YES” WINS - ILCA goes to World Sailing and asks for the recognition of the new boat, a Laser in everything and for everything, but called ILCA Dinghy. For the international federation it would be difficult to recognize this laboratory-birth, and in any case it should convene the Council, the same that in May voted for the Laser for Paris 2024, presenting it with the novelty. It would not be a discounted vote, indeed. And even if, unexpectedly (World Sailing has accustomed us to everything lately) the Council of WS recognized the ILCA Dinghy, do you think it would end up with tarallucci and wine? RS, a powerful British builder that produces the RS Aero, the runner-up in the Valencia trials, has already prepared a fierce opposition of lawyers, asking that at what point they should be entitled to at least re-do the trials. The same could be done by Devoti who had his D-Zero at the trials (unless he would not be held back - say the rumors - by the hope, or by the promise, who knows how sincere, of soon becoming an ILCA Dinghy builder).

And how to assess the fact that the Australians of PSA have already made an agreement to build the RS Aero in the Southern hemisphere? You got it right: if you break it all up, they still have prepared the rescue plan C, ready for the new Olympic class ...

All this is without considering the inevitable judicial reactions that LPE would start (which as already been noted for the quality of its lawyers), and even those that individual members of ILCA could open (there is the possibility of a Class Action) to challenge the management decision-making outside the association's rules. ILCA should at least imagine the legal repercussions that would follow when the infamous Plan B occurs.

The one of  Laser is not just a world of numbers linked to a successful and widespread boat, which has become a formidable trans-generational and trans-gender chain with the 4.7 and Radial sails. It is also a world of passion, of the name Laser and of its brand. Among the repercussions of the name change, even beyond the legal ones, there would be others, incalculable: devaluation of the used boats, confusion of the customers, the whole market would go crazy.

BUT, IS THE VOTE LEGITIMATE?- Absolutely not, as explained earlier, but at the moment it is a platform to express disagreement towards the ILCA management. Among other things, we vote not on a site equipped for surveys, but just entering the CAP or ZIP Code and the name of the ILCA member to vote. We do not want to think badly, but ILCA has all the names and codes of its members ... We should therefore ask, and verify, at least a public transparency of the names, so that each member can check the correctness of their vote or their abstention. It would take a long time after the closing of the voting, and it would go well beyond August 31st. A possible declaration of the result made immediately, on the long-awaited August 1st, would certainly led to the ballot to be challenged. This is also why the ballot itself is a farce ... Already having arrived at this is a defeat for a management of an association.

EURILCA had asked - remaining unheard - to entrust the vote to a "third" independent party, an entity with its own website specialized in voting, with all the guarantees required. But this is serious stuff, which as such is not suited to the ILCA of today.

Just know that the page of the voting (under this post you will find the link) opens with a super-favorable rant to vote YES, with repeating lies, and ends with a form: just enter a name and a surname, a CAP, an email, and proceed to the next page where finally at the bottom there is the choice between YES or NO.

In order for the vote to be valid, 66% of ILCA members must vote, and to win you need 50% + 1 of the votes. At the moment, considering that the ILCA board is based in the USA, the YES voters are undoubtedly a more cohesive, motivated group, driven to vote by the lies of ILCA & Co. While it is more difficult to convince others to vote NO and save at least the Laser name. However, we must try.

IF “NO” WINS - Faced with a NO victory, ILCA should probably be satisfied with the agreements between LPE and WS, and it is likely that with Plan B the madness of the Plan A will also end. For WS the Laser and only the Laser would remain Olympic class. This makes us understand the mystification present in the request to vote: it’s written that by voting YES the Olympic status of the Laser would be saved ... A lie, as explained.

In case of victory of the NO, we should then hopefully arrive at the resignation of the current ILCA board and the election of a new board, which will firstly take back the headquarters to Europe where the vast majority of the Laser activity takes place.

Unfortunately, given the level of the clash, and the "suicide mode" chosen by ILCA in order to succeed, it is difficult to imagine a positive conclusion today, if not with a mobilization and an international campaign to vote NO and with the victory of the latter. Difficult but not impossible.

THE ROLE OF THE INSTITUTIONS: WHERE IS WORLD SAILING?- The situation is critical and very risky, because the unraveling of a boat that is the part of the history of sailing, added to the antitrust case and the difficulties of managing World Sailing (economic, logistical and of choice of the next Olympic classes), would not make good publicity to our sport. But besides the almost of a joke of a vote, is there any other possibility to get out of the “impasse” and make reasonableness win?

What does AICL say, the young Italian Association of Laser Classes born from the ashes of Assolaser? It suffers, is in difficulty, and has already expressed a strong disagreement on the ILCA management and solidarity with the position of EURILCA. AICL would like to do more, but in the end is a newborn and finds itself managing a game that is bigger than itself, in which it has no historical implications or roots. So for the moment it has to leave sensational actions in the drawer, even though invites to vote NO.

At this point the enter (or should enter) the institutions. First of all World Sailing. In an ideal world President Kim Andersen should urgently convene the parties, place them around a table, make a "Yalta" and bring everyone to an agreement that is within reach, unmasking and disabling the commercial interests that drive to crazy and suicidal solutions.

But does Kim have the authority and the desire to take this step? If he did not alone, the push of a single federation or MNA groups could be enough, and be helpful to pressure the president for the Yalta table? Could the FIV president Francesco Ettorre, who gained international recognition on other cases, be one of the activators of the initiative?

Alternatively, can it make sense to create a movement of international opinion, of laser sailors and not only, that raises the question, and through an email and social media campaigns pushes Kim and World Sailing to intervene by stopping the follies of ILCA? We are thinking about it and in case we will launch it in the next few hours.

We leave you with these questions and some documents to learn more. Write us messages with your opinion.






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