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.


  1. Kilos/metre (which actually means kilograms per meter) as a 'moment' is completely incorrect.
    A 'moment' is measured/calculated as kg.m meaning kilograms multiplied by metres.


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