In a move reminiscent of the Purple One’s name change to “The Artist Formerly Known as Prince,” Laser designer Bruce Kirby has rechristened his venerable Laser design as the “Kirby Torch.”
In addition to the name change, Kirby has also created an all-new sailing class, into which he’d like to someday integrate the existing International Laser Class Association (ILCA). To this end, Kirby has agreed that all existing class-legal Lasers will also be considered legal by the Torch class. Any future Lasers made without Kirby’s authorization will be considered “counterfeit.”
All this renaming and maneuvering constitutes the latest chapter in a long-running dispute that began when a number of builders stopped paying royalties for the right to manufacture the 1969 design in what Kirby says is a breach of contract. According to Kirby, the decision to create the new class was “not an easy one to make, but…the continued deterioration of the class and sailors’ best interests demanded action.”
Kirby says he already has a number of signed builder agreements for the Kirby Torch in place, and in late March, the International Sailing Federation (ISAF) formally requested that the ILCA stop issuing the ISAF plaques used to certify the class-legal status of any new Laser.
No word yet on the Olympic status of the boats, although at press time, all upcoming ISAF regattas were still going to be held using Lasers. Hopefully, Kirby and the other parties involved will get things sorted out before the dispute can affect the thousands of Laser sailors out there who just want to go racing.