August 10, 2018

2018 Laser and Radial Worlds

By Doug
The 2018 Worlds wrapped up earlier today in Aarhus Denmark, and both medal  races had really close finishes. For the Lasers, defending world champion Pavlos Kontides (CYP) had a small lead over Matthew Wearn (AUS), but if Matthew could put one boat between himself and Pavlos, he would win the championship.

Approaching the final turn mark before the short reach to the finish, Matthew (in blue) was in front of Pavlos (in yellow), with Matthew trying to pass Michael Beckett (GBR).

As they approached the bottom mark, Matthew tried to outrun Michael instead of going for an inside overlap to get room at the mark.

 Michael hung on to round ahead.

So Pavlos was able to defend his championship.

With the women in radials, Emma Plasschaert (BEL) won her first worlds ahead of Marit Bouwmeester (NED) and hometown favorite Anne-Marie Rindom (DEN). In this picture, Paige Railey (USA) is finishing on the right, but look at the times. Sarah Douglas (CAN) finished one second behind Monika Mikkola (FIN). So Monika ended up finishing fourth overall and Sarah finished sixth.

But in medal races, the points are doubled so if Sarah had finished two seconds earlier she would have beaten Monika and Paige to finish fourth. It was another great race and close finish!

You can watch both races here and the results can be seen here.

July 04, 2018

Malcolm Lamphere on Winning the 2018 U.S. Nationals

By Doug
The combined Laser U.S. Nationals and U.S. Singlehanded Sailing Championship were held last weekend at Houston Yacht Club. It's been years since I sailed in an open national championship so I decided to compete knowing that it would be a learning and humbling experience.

The forecast was for light winds but that was totally wrong - most of the 9 races had gusts between 15 and 20 knots. My starts were good but my lack of sailing in open water and my lack of being in top shape took their toll. The leaders consistently finished 2 minutes ahead of me on the 60 minute course.

There were sailors from half a dozen countries and the winner was Malcolm Lamphere from Lake Geneva Yacht Club and Chicago Yacht Club. Malcolm put on a clinic and won 7 of the 9 races. I was able to watch him on the third day and he was simply the fastest upwind. Usually speed like that comes from being in shape and having additional body movements, but I did not see any difference with how he was sailing. It was very impressive and as expected, very humbling.

Malcolm recently graduated from Yale and will be training full time for the next 2 years for the Olympics. Here's how he trained for this event and how he plans to continue his training.

June 08, 2018

Brett Beyer Worlds Clinics

By Doug

For those going to the Master Worlds who missed one of Brett's clinics this year, he'll be coaching a limited number of sailors preceding the Worlds in Dublin. Brett will be conducting a 3 day group training clinic from the 3rd to 5th just before the Worlds and will set aside the afternoon of the 6th for private coaching from his Laser.

Sailors will learn the local conditions and understand the implications for boat set-up and racing tactics. I can personally recommend this great opportunity to learn from Brett and his vast sailing and coaching experience.

For those not arriving early, there is also coaching and regatta support available from a high quality sailor and coach who will attend. Subscribers will have on-water support as well as daily debriefs from the coach as well as Brett.

Please contact Brett at for more information on both of these opportunities.

May 24, 2018

Julian Bethwaite, Lasers, Olympics, and fake news

I read an interesting article about a new Laser rig being developed by Julian Bethwaite for the Olympics. I’ve known Julian since the early 70’s so we talked about the new rig, why it’s better, and why it’s not for the Laser market or the Olympics. Here’s our Q&A.

With Julian Bethwaite
The article says you approached the ILCA and wanted funding?
No, I did not approach them, nor did I ask them for money. That’s bullshit.

Do you believe there’s money developing a rig for the Laser?
We have no intention of supplying anything for Lasers. It’s not our core business!

The article says you “claim” to have a patent on the rig.
Your wife Pam is very experienced with patents and has seen the application.

What’s the market for this new rig?
It wasn’t the Laser. It’s for another project that addresses a very large hole in the market – recreational sailors. The Laser and the Aero were not designed for this.

Is this rig for the Olympics?
No. The rig in the photo is too big and the rig we’re developing for the recreational market is too small, so neither are for the Olympics as the article states.

How did this project start?
Initially, Chris Caldecott of PSA approached me about a big rig, but that opportunity timed out 4 years ago. This was pre World Sailing and pre Kim Andersen. Then Takao Otani of PSJ approached me about a smaller rig. Takao and I have known each other for 40 years and have collaborated on many projects that include the 49er and 29er. Takao wanted something for Asian women. This is more likely to fly and the hole in the market is bigger. And I need to stress that Chris and the ILCA support both rigs, but neither are “Olympic size.”

How have the rigs been tested?
The big rig has been sailed by more than 50 sailors that included Tracy Usher (USA), Tom Burton (AUS), Brett Bayer (AUS), but not my brother Mark. The smaller rig has been sailed by more than 40 kids here in Sydney. The girls love it, we’ve done good!

So you’re killing two large markets with one stone – Asia and women?

Is this part of your mission statement
Yes, we’re developing new, innovative, and exciting sailing products that change the face of sailing.

How much have you spent developing this particular rig?
Well over $150,000 U.S.

I understand it’s not for the Laser but if it was, how would it feel?
The carbon rig is 5 kilos lighter which is less than half the weight so the inertia, which is the square of the weight/arm, is dramatically better. It’s like driving a Porsche instead of a tank. In addition, a Laser rig bends to leeward and “kinks’” at the deck level, so this additional weight reduces the righting movement by 12%. With carbon rigs, this is 4% so a sailor effectively has 10% more power.

Can you give an example?
Doug Peckover weighing 80 kilos hanging over the side of a Laser generates about 92 kilos/meter of righting movement. The rig hanging to leeward of the center of buoyancy reduces this righting movement by 11% down to about 80 kilos/meter of RM. The carbon rig does not kink at the deck level anything like the alloy rig and is less than half the weight, so there’s a smaller counter reduction in righting movement. You’d end up with about 88 kilos/meter of RM, which means that you’d have 10% more power from the same hiking effort.

May 08, 2018

Brett Beyer's Downwind Clinic at the ISA Part 2

By Doug
On the 5th day I wore a head cam, the same one I used at the Euromasters on Lake Como. It's a sealed unit with no sound but you'll get the idea of what it was like.

Other parts of the clinic included wave techniques, like how Sydney sailors use the ferry waves to go faster both upwind and down.

The equipment was first class with boats from the 2016 Laser Worlds.

And each day started with yoga stretching. Contact Lyssa if you're looking for a great instructor in Colombia or western Canada. 

April 25, 2018

Brett Beyer's Downwind Clinic at the ISA Part 1

By Doug
Ten lucky sailors are learning what people get by combining the ISA's ideal sailing conditions with world-class coaching from Brett Beyer. The great equipment, outstanding food, and the occasional dolphins and sea turtles make this the an excellent way to improve your sailing.

Outstanding food.

Brett explaining downwind techniques.

There are probably a dozen things that can be learned from this next diagram. To sum up, I'm undoing 40 years of downwind muscle memory to go faster. Challenging? Yes. Exhausting? Yes. Recommended? Definitely.

Analysis from another clinic.

Each day starts with a 20 km tow upwind and then a series of short downwind races. Notice how the wind went from northwest to southwest as the sea breeze filled in, so there were lots of different wave types.

Today's 40km tow upwind and then practice downwind.

March 24, 2018

The New Digital Compass for Lasers

The ILCA has finally approved digital compasses. I plan to use it but not the way a sailor recently used his in Florida. He had it mounted on his mast and, sure enough, every time he let out the sail he was on a lift! Here’s some great info from Andy.

by Andy Roy
It’s been a long wait, but Laser sailors can finally choose to use a digital compass.  I’m pleased about this progressive rule change for several reasons, including:
  1. Technology has enabled new digital compasses to be reliable, solar powered, lightweight and produced at a similar cost to an analog compass.
  2. Integral countdown timer (on two available models) – and this can effectively make a digital compass less expensive than buying a traditional analog compass when you factor in the cost of also needing a separate timer on the mast or wrist.
  3. Easier to read your heading and to recognize changes compared to an analog (i.e., easier to read wind shifts and to determine favoured end of starting line).
  4. Simple to click in/out of the mounting bracket (can leave the bracket Velcro-ed to the deck for extended periods, and simply remove compass after sailing).

There are three different compasses that meet the new Laser class rule. I raced at the 2018 Masters Midwinters East in Florida and tried the Nautalytics Simple compass. I like the large digits and the stable readout, as the digits do not tend to “bounce around” (ideal amount of dampening).  I’ll also add that the folks at Nautalytics are great for answering any questions.

The Nautalytics features an integral timer that is easy to use and has similar features to the Optimum/Ronstan timer many sailors use strapped around their Laser mast (e.g., it includes “sync” function, etc.). Once the countdown hits “0:00” at the start the digits auto switch to heading. The compass can also be switched easily from timer to heading to enable quick head-to-wind checks during the start sequence.

I really like the timer’s location, as I no longer have to reach forward to the gooseneck to start the watch and then to sync at the 4:00 minute mark. With the timer on the mast, before the sequence or when trying to accurately get the 4:00 gun, I often find myself on port tack and have to either rotate the timer around my mast or else quickly flip on to starboard to get ready to start the timer. This new compass removes all that hassle.  I also no longer need a second timer to check the countdown when on port tack during the sequence (although I’ll still likely wear a backup timer on my wrist).

Nautalytics Compass: The two white buttons at left of compass used for starting timer,
synching and to “switch” back/forth from countdown to heading. 
The Raymarine TackTic Micro digital compass is a well know compass used on many other racing classes, and is already being used by a few Laser sailors. I noticed several Miami OCR Laser sailors using one; some mounted behind the mast and some forward (see photos below).  I can see advantages to having it forward of the mast (out of the way of the C/B shockcord and vang), but aft of the mast is better for access to the timer.  The TackTic has a dual readout, although this is not really necessary when compared to the Nautalytics with its larger, easy to read digits even when hiked out, in direct sunlight or if wearing polarized sunglasses.

Nick Thompson at the Miami OCR using a TackTic digital compass. Note Nick’s is mounted forward of the mast
(Copyright: Jesus Renedo/Sailing Energy/World Sailing)

Pavlos Contides at the Miami OCR using a TackTic digital compass. Note Pavlos’ is aft of the mast
(Copyright: Jesus Renedo/Sailing Energy/World Sailing)

Here is a price comparison on the 3 legal Laser compasses from a quick Google check. Prices in USD and may vary with dealers:

Listed Price
Deck bracket

The Nautalytics and TackTic both include an integral timer, whereas the Velocitek does not.  The Velocitek looks like it will be the lightest available compass by a few ounces.

March 21, 2018

A Student's Request

We received this wonderful request.

I'm a student at Gulliver Preparatory School and I’ve chosen sailing as an elective for gym class. As our class project, we were asked to raise awareness about sailing safety. So what I’m doing is asking websites to make sure to inform people about sailing safety.

I found this recently published article on sailing that offers a thorough guide for beginners that I think could be very useful. Could I ask you to help us in our efforts in raising awareness by sharing this?

Thanks David, this a great article for people getting into our sport. In addition to safety, its topics include:
  • Health benefits
  • Organizational skills
  • Getting started
  • What to buy
  • Basic sailing terms
  • Is sailing affordable?
While we’re on the subject of safety, there is something that even experienced sailors do not know – read this.

February 26, 2018

Peter Shope on winning the 2018 Master Midwinters

By Doug
Peter Shope (195425) was the fastest at the 2012 Master Midwinters but he did not win because of high-risk starts like this one.

This resulted in an OCS, while the winner of this event cannot be seen because he's hidden in the middle of the line. Peter changed his style to start more conservatively and won the 2015 Laser Master Worlds.

In this video, Peter talks about how he easily won the 2018 Master Midwinters by more conservative starts, his downwind speed to win a race, and other things that have kept him at the top of his game. Thanks to Dave Morton for the great aerial footage.

February 06, 2018

Al Clark update

A bunch of old geezers are in Florida for the Florida Masters and the Midwinters. On Saturday evening, we had supper with Al Clark and his wife Sharon who had just arrived from Vancouver. Everything was normal.

Then on Sunday, we learned from Andy Roy that Al had suffered a heart attack that morning. Here’s the latest update from Andy.

Good news update for everyone: Allan is improving nicely, although still in ICU. He has had a pretty sore chest from the CPR. Sharon had a long conversation with a Vancouver cardiologist who walked through everything that’s happened (she has been in contact with the Florida doctors). The doctor has an Olympic speed skater as a patient who has a heart arrhythmia condition similar to what has hit Al. The doctor thinks he’ll be ready for discharge by the weekend and be back to coaching and racing Lasers in about 8 weeks. Fabulous news!

Al Clark leading Andy Roy at one of the weather marks.   Christy Usher/Christine Robin Photography  
They would finish the world championship in this order.

February 05, 2018

2018 Florida Masters

By Doug
I took a five month sabbatical from sailing after breaking my ribs training for the Croatian Master Worlds and am happy to be back on the water again. The final day of the Florida Masters was held in the open water with a strong gulf stream and the biggest waves I’ve sailed in for five years. Note to self: no practice + big waves = a bad result. I was embarrassed to be the top GGM.

Or maybe others are getting faster. Former GM world champion Peter Shope finished 5th. Mike Matan just retuned after training for 2½ weeks in Cabarete and was fast, finishing 4th. Dave Chapin and Ari Barshi were fast and finished 3rd and 2nd respectively. But the event was easily won by Ernesto Rodriguez who finished 3rd at the Master Words in Croatia last year. Ernesto had great speed and explains how he won both races on the final day.

December 04, 2017

Maciej Grabowski - Winning the 2017 Apprentice Master Worlds

For me, watching the 2000 Senior Laser Worlds in Cancun was memorable for several reasons – we had fantastic sailing conditions, the way Ben Ainslie was able to catch Robert Scheidt on the reaches, and the talk about the upcoming talent of sailors like Maciej Grabowski from Poland.

Since then, Maciej has won many international Laser events, has represented Poland at three Olympic Games, and has recently won the Apprentice Master Worlds in Split. Here’s how he trained, what he learned about the new composite top section, how he sets his MK2 sail differently, and how he sailed downwind to convincingly win in a small but very competitive fleet. 

By Maciej Grabowski
I was really looking forward to coming to Split this year. It was the first time that my whole family came with me to Croatia and it was fun having the kids around in the boat park. 

Olympic coaching

Sailing wise I did not feel ready at all. The small Apprentice fleet was not helping my chances. Neither was the little sailing I did since the 2015 Laser senior worlds. But going back to last January, I was invited by Kacper Zieminski (POL), who secured his Olympic spot for Rio games during 2015 Kingston Laser Worlds, to coach him during the Miami OCR. Spending a couple of weeks in Florida is always nice especially when the weather is really bad around here so I decided to go for what was supposed be a one-time only coaching trip.

But as it turned out, soon after Kacper asked me to join him for the remainder of his Olympic campaign and I ended up on the Polish Olympic Team as Laser coach. As much fun as it was, all those months prior to the games were really intense and I had to combine it with my regular job. Fortunately, I work for my father who took it easy on me and I was able to work a bit out of the office.

Anyway I ended up being a coach and not sailing Lasers for all of 2016. In late December, I bought a new Laser but was not able to use it until May when I went for a week to sail at Lake GardaItaly. Since then, I only did seven days of racing in Poland at two senior events and one more week in Garda. 

The composite top section and MK2 sail

During my second Polish event at the nationals, we had a nice 70 boat fleet and I felt really good in the boat so my expectations were up. The first day was maybe 10-15 knots and I decided to use my aluminum mast with Hyde sail, whereas all the top guys used composite and NeilPryde. I believe it was the 2nd race on day 1 when the wind was down to 10 knots and I managed to move from 4th at the top mark to maybe a 10 boat length lead at the bottom gate. In 10 knots I was really quick and felt comfortable before the second beat.

However the choppy water made a difference and the guy behind me started closing the gap and eventually passed me. Not only did he pass me but put another 50m on me during second part of the upwind. Despite a tight cover, he was able to get away.

What I noticed was that he would simply accelerate a bit quicker. We both would hit couple of waves, slow down but he would just recover faster. Of course I knew those guys spent really long hours training this year, but we did some racing all with aluminum masts a few weeks earlier and I knew that it was not only their fitness, technique, and time in the boat that was paying off. It had to be some influence of different equipment, something that I like to play with a lot myself too, but this year there was simply not enough time.

I haven’t done much sailing with a composite top section prior to the worlds but those couple of days I did sail in Poland were difficult ones. With more than 10 knots I was really struggling and ended up racing those two Polish events with aluminum top mast. However I knew that sooner or later there was no way back from a composite top.

Training in Split

Arriving to Croatia I was hoping to use the seven days before the event mostly to select the mast and sail I was going to use. I was lucky to have Brett Bayer (AUS) bring a NeilPryde sail for me which I thought would be better with the composite top section I was going to use.

So I started sailing in Split with a composite top and new sail. At the beginning it was looking really bad. I could not keep up with the guys I was training with. I was slower and even with a lot of effort I was able to be fast enough only a short while (we did some speed tests and I was able to keep up for 2-3 minutes) and I knew that in a regular race I would not last for the whole race.

Since I was mostly sailing with Brett and couple other guys from the Masters fleet, I knew that they were in a good shape but could not believe it was only better hiking causing so much speed difference. So I figured I needed to start looking elsewhere. First of course I would pay more attention to what the other guys were doing regarding their sail tuning (I was still at almost zero cunningham and big vang tension which is fast for the MK1 sail). Additionally I looked online at some photos from previous senior events just to have some reference regarding the sail trim.

What got me thinking was the sail damage happening in the senior fleet because several straps at the top of the sail were ripping. I’m not sure how many sails ripped and believe it was close to 20. Apparently, the stitching that attached the strap that limits the mast movement in the mast sleeve could not hold the big cunningham loads. This is what got me thinking about the cunningham because the sails would break when rounding the top mark with full tension. Surprisingly, this was only happening to Hyde sails and it turned out that the NeilPryde sails had more stitching at the sail head.

So I started asking how they set their sails, meaning vang, cunningham etc. As it turned out, the way I was trimming the MK2 was wrong - I was doing it the MK1 style, meaning no cunningham even in a big breeze, and it was not working with the MK2 sail. 
My old way of setting the MK2 sail - loose cunningham, lots of vang, and overpowered.
It's faster having lots more cunningham. 

This was a turning point for me, and from then on my upwind speed got at a level that I knew I was able to keep up with the rest of the fleet.

Competing in Split

For the worlds at Split, there was not really that much wind that having enough Cunningham tension was that relevant. I still would play a lot with this adjustment whenever breeze was up a bit. For me I’d say that learning how to trim the sail properly was more of a confidence boost so I knew I’d be competitive in 12 knots up.

The Apprentice fleet had only 14 boats, and Adonis Bougiouris (GRE) and Maksim Semerkhanov (RUS) were guys I knew from the World Cup circuit. I knew they did so much more sailing those past years than I did and it was not making me feel too comfortable before the regatta. Back in 2014 in Hyères I won first 4 races but from then on the breeze picked up and Adonis managed to beat me in what was looking like a match racing competition. I was really disappointed back then and was anxious not to let it happen again.

Because of the size of our fleet, I knew that I would have to keep an eye on both Adonis and Maxim and kind of let the other boats sail on their own. I’m sure it was a kind of an awkward view seeing the three of us sailing a separate race, but I knew it had to be like that. Adonis was actually the one trying to sail on his own in some of the races and it cost him few paces.

When I look back at it now, is sounds funny after winning all of the races, but right after the first start Adonis was to windward of me and he managed to roll over me with so such ease that I said to myself that there was no chance I was able to keep up with him. But I slowly started to get in the shift rhythm and arrived at the top mark maybe 3-4 boat lengths behind Adonis. Lucky I was at my (almost) senior speed downwind so I put maybe extra 10 boat lengths on both Adonis and Maxim on the first run.

I think that in every next race I was a little quicker upwind. But it was my downwind speed/technique that was winning races.

Downwind sailing

Regarding sailing downwind I could probably write many pages about it. The way I see it looking at the masters fleet, is that most guys were competing before downwind sailing techniques introduced the S sailing - meaning changing course when sailing downwind by either heading up or bearing off in order to get on more waves.

This is a way more complicated and sophisticated technique than it sounds. It is not only about going at a different angle than dead downwind. It is about being aware of how you need to adjust your sail, hull, position body in the boat – all in order to get on a wave a bit quicker. Even going by the lee is a skill - you obviously can’t go by the lee forever and getting back to the mark is an important part of the game. But to make it short, I think that for most of the masters fleet, this technique is something new, something they didn’t have a chance to learn properly.

There are of course some guys doing it better than others, but it is still possible to gain 200m or so during single downwind. It won’t happen in all conditions of course but this is something that all masters could work on.

Other than that there is really not that much difference between masters (in any category) and the senior fleet. Many masters would be competitive enough and fast enough upwind to be sailing senior’s gold fleet. But the downwind is something that makes all the difference.

The challenge with downwind training is that you would need to sail upwind for 2 hours in order to sail downwind for 30 minutes. And you need long hours sailing only downwind.

We used to go to lake Garda and train with the northerly wind early in the morning and sail from 8 until 11, break for lunch, wait for the wind to turn to southerly and sail back downwind again for another 3 hours.

Back in 2003 I used to train a lot with Mark Mendelblatt (USA). He invited me over to the US to train with him prior to the US Olympic trials. He already finished 6th at 2003 Laser Worlds, myself I just finished 3rd at the Laser Europeans (in Split) so we made a good training team.

The problem with Mark was that he was pretty slow downwind, so our focus was to make him a bit more competitive for the trials. We spent two weeks training in Oregon on Columbia River doing 20-25 miles downwind every second day. After moving to Texas for the trials we kept training for another two weeks with 75% of time focused on downwind. Mark eventually won the trials and finished 2nd at 2004 Laser Worlds. He was never the one gaining downwind like many of us were, but he stopped losing.

To sum up

So this ended up being my plan for the Split world championship – sticking with the guys going upwind and passing them downwind. Doesn’t sound like very exciting sailing but it actually was. I knew I had to stay focused because of what happened in 2014 in Hyères. On the last day Adonis made it a bit easier for Maxim because he was late for the last race with a black flag so we ended up match racing with Maxim, and was only able to pass him halfway up the last short upwind to the finish. This ended up being the race I was most happy with. 

Looking back at the event with a two month perspective, I’m afraid that if ILCA doesn’t do something with the regatta format, the Apprentice fleet will be gone soon. It was a bit disappointing racing only few boats after driving 1600km. Back in 2015 my home club was hosting Masters Europeans and all fleets sailed together. It made racing really fun.

November 23, 2017

Thoughts from a Female Sailor at the Laser Master Worlds

Intro and Comments by Pam
We received an email from a sailor we met through the blog and then at the Worlds in France and again in Split, and she wanted to share her thoughts. The email made Doug a bit emotional because he's seen me deal with some of the same issues when I've sailed with the local Laser sailors. Not all of them, but enough that it isn't fun and it brings out a protective side of Doug where he drops the gloves and says 'it's on!,' and proceeds to school the offending party on just how not fun he can make sailing for them. Not the most mature response ... so I am adding my comments below instead of Doug.

by Ute
Some thoughts from a female sailor of the last third of the fleet...

What I describe below sounds very negative and this clearly is not my intention. First of all I want to emphasize that I enjoy going to big regattas, sailing with nice sailors from all over the world, and making friends. So the negative I describe, fortunately, is only a small part of what happens during regattas.

Sailing in the last third of the fleet is a completely different experience of racing than what Doug usually describes. And being a woman often increases the differences experienced. [I've often felt that sailing in the middle to back of the fleet is the most frustrating.]

I think, and I know that many women agree, that we sail against different "groups" of co-sailors: [Ain't that the truth.]

Other women: usually very competitive and at the same time nice, decent, knowing the Racing Rules of Sailing, and sailing accordingly. [So very civilized and fun.]

Sailors I call "men": fortunately the vast majority of the fleet, just as the "women" nice, decent sailors, competitive, knowing the Racing Rules, and sailing accordingly. When racing, they do not make a distinction as to whether they compete against a male or a female sailor. [Always such a pleasure to sail with them.]

Sailors I call "macho men": they act differently when facing a competitive situation with a female sailor in contrast to a male sailor. Whether you are in front or way back doesn’t matter. Just being in the situation where a woman sails as good (or bad) as this "macho man" makes him act unreasonably and forget the rules he usually knows more or less well. This group of sailors is often hard - or impossible - to distinguish from the following group, the

"stupid sailors": surprisingly many sailors that go to the World Championships fall into this group and are typically found in the second half of the fleet. These are sailors who don’t even know the very basics of the Racing Rules. They just think about their fastest and easiest way to the finish line. In 2014 in Hyères, and also this year in Split, I filed protests that I easily won. This year the sailor I protested really thought that - being the windward boat on the same tack - he could bear away and not give me my right of way just because he had a bad tack and could not build up speed afterwards. 'What could I do? If I had gone higher, I would have not been able to move upwind….' (His statement to the jury.) And this is just one example of many. Doug, I am perfectly sure that you do not have the pleasure of experiencing this kind of situation at the top of the fleet. It’s amazing to watch the jury more or less successfully trying to suppress too obvious smiles… [It is indeed a challenge to distinguish between the overly aggressive and the challenged sailor. I can identify with the challenged one because I've been there, sometimes still am, but I really dislike the overly aggressive one.]

Why is it that so many sailors just stop thinking after they get what they want. Firstly, this holds true at the starting line. With 60 to 70 sailors in each fleet and three to four fleets in one racing area, I think it would be nice that you don’t linger on the starting line. Everybody tries to get a line sight or to determine which end is favored. So why don’t we all leave the line after we have gotten what we want? And, secondly, why can’t the sailors who have completed the last race of the day go a little bit further upwind to not completely block the air for those sailors still in the race. In the last race of my fleet in Split, the boat end was favored. I had tacked accordingly on the starboard lay line - and finished about 3/5 towards the pin-end, just because of those sailors who blocked the wind and created wake after finishing and directly heading home to the harbor. [Being on the finish line boat, I am always amazed at how many sailors at the front of the fleet turn and sail right into those finishing. I've seen the finish line boat repeatedly holler at them to go around and it always catches them by surprise and seems to have really never crossed their minds because they are so tired. Only the very, very top sailors seem to have the muscle memory to turn the opposite direction from home to avoid the finishing fleet. Brett Beyer comes to mind. He never turns into or interferes with the finishing fleet.]

Why is it that so many sailors just push their way through to get in the water in the morning or back on land after the races? In Split we had only four small ramps. So, coming back from the races was always a challenge. And you could count on the fact that, when several sailors came in at the same time and had worked out in what order to use the ramp, another sailor would aggressively come in, passing everybody else and being on land and dry within a flicker of an eye. This was, frustratingly, the case the one day the Bora came in at the end of the racing day. The harbor was packed with boats, what was described as the first motor boat blockade ever was set up so that not all boats jammed the ramps at once, boats where ramming each other or capsizing, one woman basically hung in the mooring lines of big boats secured in the harbor. And some young, strong standard sailors just passed them…. [Watching this dynamic of getting in and out is truly fascinating. So many different personalities at play. What I have observed is that the more people you know, the more considerate they are or the more willing they are to apologize and tell you why they need to jump in front. Doug spent more time patiently waiting than I would have, mainly because he observed a lot of inexperience and he didn't want to get tangled up and tipped by one of them but a few times someone he knew saw him waiting and knew he had broken ribs and would holler at him to go ahead of them.] 

If everybody thought a little bit ahead, if people knew the Racing Rules better (my American husband insisted that I learn the Rules when I started competitive sailing and we still learn by discussing different situations after regattas and checking carefully word by word what the Rules say), if people talked more to each other on the water, the races would be so much nicer! [I couldn't agree more. The longer you attend these things, the more you learn and the more people you get to know. Doug has introduced me to many a person that he has met on the water or in the protest room in less than desirable circumstances and went on to become good friends with them. Another thing I find fascinating and encouraging.] 

Some thoughts recently shared by Lyndall Patterson, multiple Laser World Champion, and top female sailor in the Radial Grand Master fleet in Split...

"I have found over the years a lot of respect and camaraderie amongst most sailors. I do find as a female sailor that the diamond is a disadvantage in a fleet especially in the latter part of a race as basically many competitors will choose to be ahead of a diamond if they can be. I have become aware of this and best way is to be clear ahead if possible and certainly not take it personally. Leave it on water and share support on land."

November 18, 2017

LP At It Again?

by Pam
What on earth is end game of Laser Performance "LP"?  By now, most have heard about LP beginning its hostile takeover of the International Sunfish Class Association (ISCA). Finally, it's the Laser sailors' turn to watch the fight from the sidelines. I know, I know, many have drawn the conclusion that the ILCA is next, but Bruce Kirby may still be holding LP at bay.

We all knew about the Kirby v. LP case. Some were partial to Kirby's side (ImproperCourse), some were partial to ILCA's side (ProperCourse), but very few understood or really got behind LP's point of view.  Some perceived the ILCA to be siding with LP but to me it looked more like the ILCA was playing a chess game with LP, and the ILCA had essentially decided to sacrifice a pawn (Kirby) in hopes of staying in play a little longer.  I thought it was the wrong move but I completely understood the logic of the move.  

When the decision on the court case was handed down back in December 2016, most decided Kirby had lost and stopped paying attention. There were rumors of negotiations taking place behind the scenes and that a decent settlement for all (except Kirby and Global Sailing "GS") was likely and the Laser sailing game would go on as usual. The ISCA has apparently been having those same types of negotiations behind the scenes and look where they are now. Fortunately, for the Laser sailors, Bruce Kirby always had the best interests of the sailors in mind (yes, I believe, even when he added the ILCA to the lawsuit). 

What most don't realize is that GS and Kirby did not just roll over and play dead when the decision was handed down in December 2016. In fact, the case is still pending, with the Judge issuing a decision in June 2017 saying that he made a mistake:

... The Court dismissed Counts I through IV despite the fact that defendants themselves did not seek dismissal of these particular counts on standing grounds (likely because defendants knew that the BRUCE KIRBY® trademark had not been sold to GSL). In view that defendants did not seek dismissal of Counts I through IV on standing grounds, I do not think it was incumbent on plaintiffs to have anticipated the Court's mistake by making a fuller record of precisely what intellectual property rights had been sold rather than licensed to GSL. Because of the Court's own mistaken understanding on this issue, I think it is appropriate to correct the error ...

In that same decision the Judge said it was too late for GS to amend its counterclaims against LP in the pending case so GS filed a new lawsuit against Rastegar in July 2017 and that case was then joined with the Kirby case in October 2017:

As we have seen before, this might buy the Laser sailors a few years before LP can fully swallow up the ILCA and, in the meantime, we get to watch the ISCA class play its chess game with LP and maybe learn a few things along the way.  

And, let's not forget that Kirby was particularly offended when he discovered that LP was trying to obtain the LASER trademark for the purposes of running regattas and he initiated cancellation proceedings of the LASER service mark (for regattas) as well as the LASER trademark (for sailboats). Unfortunately, he was forced to withdraw the cancellation proceedings for the sailboat mark since LP produced an old document stating that Kirby had agreed to never contest the LASER trademark (for sailboats). However, the US Trademark Office ruled that the agreement did not apply to the LASER service mark (for regattas) and allowed the proceeding to continue. That proceeding was stayed pending the outcome of the civil lawsuit but now appears to be moving again (but might get stayed again). In the meantime, LP filed for a new service mark for regattas on the starburst logo, which registered in July 2017.

It is curious to me that the rights to the LASER trademark (for sailboats) are held by Karaya (Jersey) Limited but the rights to the starburst logo trademark (for sailboats) are held by Velum Limited. Seems like that would somehow give rise to a legal argument about two different entities holding a trademark for the same product. I thought a trademark was supposed to help a company identify and distinguish its goods (and their quality) from the products of others.  I certainly do not know if a Laser sailboat is the product of Karaya, Velum, LP or the ILCA. I more closely identify the Laser sailboat as being manufactured by LP (in some jurisdictions) to the global standards of the ILCA and certainly not to the standards of Karaya or Velum (or any of the other Rastegar shell companies).

But, really I digress ... even though Doug and I both sold our Sunfish earlier this year, the main purpose of this post was to offer some information to the ISCA since they intend to play their chess game a little differently than the ILCA: 
  1. Take a look at the Kirby cancellation proceedings of the LASER trademark. Many of the assignment documents included both the Sunfish and the Laser.
  2. Take a look at an old post about the possibility of the SUNFISH and  LASER trademark being up for grabs.
  3. Talk to an attorney about "collective trademarks" and whether the Sunfish class has a rightful and priority claim to the Sunfish marks.  
  4. Take a look at the specimen that Velum filed to renew their registration and to evidence their ongoing use of the SUNFISH service mark for running regattas.  They did the same thing with the LASER service mark in the Kirby cancellation proceeding and then said that the ILCA was a licensee. How hosed up is that?  So the ISCA runs the regatta (allegedly, as a licensee) and that provides evidence for Velum's use of the service mark and then Velum can terminate the alleged license and then gets to keep the service mark ... when it has never run a regatta?  

All of this might be a dead end but it might give your attorneys something to think about.  The ISCA is different from the ILCA in that AMF Incorporated filed for the SUNFISH service mark for running regattas back in 1972 with a first use date of 1959 and Velum subsequently acquired those rights. Sadly, I think it was LP's review of the trademark portfolio that might have inspired and motivated them to take over running of the regattas. But, surely it could be argued that they abandoned the service mark for running regattas because they have not done so for quite some time (like ever according to ISCA's recent writing). Whatever you do, good luck!  We are all watching and rooting for ISCA!

Disclamer:  All of this is personal opinion and speculation from a 20 year patent paralegal who is completely unqualified in trademarks but just might have a slight advantage in knowing where to look for some information.
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