UK-based LaserPerformance accused of refusing to allow inspection of boats built in its factory

A dispute has broken out in the world of sailing after one of the sport’s governing bodies accused the UK’s largest dinghy-maker of breaking strict boatbuilding rules. According to a story in the London Times newspaper, the US-based International Laser Class Association (ILCA) is seeking a new boatbuilder after claiming that the Northampton-based LaserPerformance “breached the terms of an agreement to ensure the identical nature of all Laser class dinghies, regardless of where they are built”.

It made the decision after accusing the boatbuilder of refusing to allow inspection of the boats being built in its factory, the article states.

The Laser class is one of the world’s most popular single-handed dinghies, with almost 250,000 boats in circulation worldwide. It was designed in 1970 by Bruce Kirby, who in a 2013 dispute asked a US District Court in Connecticut to stop LaserPerformance from building any more Lasers as well as requesting damages for alleged counterfeiting, copyright infringement, and other breaches of contract.

Kirby also alleged that the sport’s two governing bodies, the ILCA and the International Sailing Federation (ISAF), were compounding the breach by issuing hull plaques without his authorisation. The litigation was ultimately unsuccessful in the courts.

In a statement last week, ILCA president Tracy Usher said: “The very heart of our class is the ability for any sailor to race any other on an equal playing field, and the only way we can guarantee that level of parity is by ensuring that all builders are producing the boat in strict accordance with the Laser construction manual and LaserPerformance has unequivocally denied the class their right to access its factory.”

LaserPerformance rejected the allegations on Monday, reports The Times. A spokesman told the paper: “The International Laser Class Association statements are falsehoods and defamatory. LaserPerformance will protect and vigorously enforce all its intellectual property rights, including the Laser trademark.”

The spokesman added that it was “time for the association to be managed by a full-time professional executive team, paid for by the builders through increased plaque fees.”

There are two other legal manufacturers of Laser class dinghies – Performance Sailcraft Australia and Performance Sailcraft of Japan. Chris Caldeboat of Performance Sailcraft Australia told The Times that his company is ready to take up the slack in production.