March 06, 2019

The New Laser Rigs Explained

The Laser class is now more than 50 years old and some are trying to cash in on the inevitable improvements that the class will take. The best candidates by far IMHO are the rigs being developed in Sydney under the leadership of Julian Bethwaite. I’ve know Julian for more than 45 years and we’re pleased to share the development process that will help keep the Lasers class relevant. The C-Rigs are the new family of rigs, and the process started with the C5 for people currently using the Laser Radial…

2016 drawing and turning point for understanding the 4.7 problem
By Julian Bethwaite
It’s been about 4 months since Eric Faust (ILCA Executive Secretary) showed the C5 video at Sarasota, which was then shown on Sailing Anarchy, Scuttlebutt and other social media platforms. Some suggested that I should not add facts to spoil a good conspiracy theory.
It’s time to just set the record straight so the conversation can be re-centred. C-Rigs, as they have become known, spun out of a far more comprehensive rig development project that Up Marine started in 2012. In chronological order:
  • Up Marine is a disruptive Hong Kong company that decided to use the Laser because of its vast success and its simplicity.
  • In 2014, Chris Caldecott (GM, PSA) learned about the project and asked if we could ‘screw’ the development to generate a new carbon rig for the Laser. MoU’s were generated and we altered focus a little. At the November ILCA conference, Chris showed photos and reported on the development.
  • In 2015, an International Patent was filed by Up Marine and has been subsequently granted as a unique and novel invention. The ILCA conference in October reviewed the larger C8 rig, liked it, and the focus changed from the C8 to the smaller C5 and the issues of the lighter Asians. At the time, 4.7 rig was hugely successful in Europe but not elsewhere. Hugh Leicester (VP ILCA), Chris Caldecott and I met in Sydney and the C5 progress was called exciting. The development process to date included 28 masts, and 4 sails, with testing by sailors that included Tom Burton, Gerard West, Brett Perry and many others. At this point, the project was nicknamed Flame Rig.

  • In 2016, Tracy Usher (ILCA President) flew to Sydney for one day to sail the C8. Subsequent meeting Tracy, Hugh, Chris and myself started to map out a process but at this stage, the Asian issue and the lack of traction of the 4.7 started to come to the fore. Mid-year, lead builder started to move from PSA to PSJ, mostly due to the physical stature of the principals. Chris is 95kgs, whereas Takao Otani San (PSJ owner) is significantly lighter.

    Takao and I had met in Montreal in 1978 under the watchful eye of the late and great Ian Bruce and we had become lifelong friends. Takao was pivotal in the 49er and 29er programs being a founding partner. The 29er just would not have happened without Takao, so there was considerable history between the two of us.

    By late 2016 a complete re-thinking of the smaller rig had started and we tested various breakthroughs, the biggest one was the spliced mast which allowed us to get the Centre of Effort in the right place WRT the CLR (centre of lateral resistance) which in turn leads to weather helm (or in this case lack of it) without ridiculous mast bend, which leads to longevity and ease of pulling the mainsail up.
  • In 2017, the C5 was being sailed at Sydney’s RSYS by their junior program and a continuous development program led to fitting development evolved at a rapid pace. There’s nothing quite like arms length testing. There were various meetings between Tracy, Eric, the late Jeff Martin, Takao and myself, mostly at World Sailing conferences.
  • In 2018, Takao tested the new C5 rig in Sydney in windy conditions. Takao had not seen the larger C8 so I sailed it. Videos were sent back to Tracy and the ILCA. In March, Up Marine and PSJ entered into a contractual arrangement for the C-Rigs. Midyear, Tracy and Eric traveled to Sydney to see the C5 and the “talking head clips” that you see in the video were done then.

    A C5 rig was flown to Japan for Takao to test in the local market. That lead to some subtle but significant modifications. There was also a meeting at the Sarasota World Sailing Conference between Takao, Tracy, Chris, Jeff, Eric and myself about introducing the C5. Late in the year, the ILCA/ALCA decided to test the C5 nationally in Australia. Ken Hurling (ALCA President, ILCA VP) fully supported the project.

    The C5 rig then went to Tasmania so Sarah Kenny (Chair of WS Events) to be sailed by as many kids as possible, and then more testing and refinements with the C6 by Takao, Ian MacDiarmid.
The last four months has been chaotic. We knew that if you are going to have a family of rigs, then you need to have plans for all of them. For example:
  • We decided that a rigs should be small enough to fly on commercial flights. The C5 and C6 are relatively easy but the larger C8 was more complicated because it involves three pieces.
  • CST owner Clive Watts has developed a new technique to “kink” the mandrel in the winding process, so it comes off the machine finished.
  • ILCA wanted the C5 rig with a full specification “suitable for the LCM" (Laser Construction Manual) so they engaged Clive Humphries (ILCS tech officer) to generate the whole spec. Clive traveled to China with Ian to oversee the whole sailmaking process, he also liaised with Clive Watts about the mast making process, and has a full set of drawings/3D files.
  • Two days ago, Chris, Ian, Clive Watts and I put every rig in a Laser and checked the whole process and then sent the C5, C6 and C8 rigs to Valencia, Italy as an insurance policy.
  • The plan is to produce 100 C5 rigs for Australia over the next 4 months and scatter them across the country with a few leaking into Asia and no doubt to other parts to test the whole process that we have gone through to ensure that these rigs are ready for the market. Specifics about how PSA will do this can be read at the ALCA Annual General Meeting.
Arms-length testing is critical, we have learnt that time and time again, nothing beats it. From my point of view, the C5 is near perfect as a final product.
Takao and I have sail the C6 but I have not seen a young 60kg girl or boy sail it. The C6 has been sailed extensively with glowing reports, but we need more testing to be sure. The plan is to make five C6 rigs for testing this year.
I’ve sailed the larger C8 in everything from 5 – 30 knots, have tried to break it, and have tested it capsizing. We’re not done with the “checked luggage” solution yet, but the rig looks good. Chris believes it’s “fit for purpose!” The plan is again to make five C8 rigs for testing this year.
The feedback from Ken, the analysis of the feedback coming from social media, particularly the interest coming from Asia in particular for the smaller C5 tell me that Tracy and the ILCA/ALCA have hit the nail right on the head. This has all been a clever, think outside the box, structured plan.
There will always be change, and change is always painful. But if done well, it will always leads to significant up-side. For example, the Radial rig and the Carbon rig on the 49er/FX both have led to significant growth in their respective classes. It will be a busy year.
Julian Bethwaite
Sydney, Australia


  1. Great news. It's good to see that things are proceeding so positively. Especially pleased to hear that there is a specification ready to add to the Laser Construction Manual for the C5, and that the C rigs will be in Valencia for the Olympic boat selection sea trials, even if only as an insurance policy. I hope that they do select the Laser with C-rigs for the 2024 Olympics.

  2. Thanks for sharing. The new rigs look great, and being able to check it in on a plane is awesome.

    That said, it's interesting that concussion avoidance was't a bigger design consideration, especially since the C5 will often be sailed by younger kids, and concussions are an increasing issue in our sport. What do you think?

    On another note: if you want tips on getting a C5 rig into check-in luggage, this article on traveling with an Opti rig might be helpful:

  3. Thank you so much for "adding facts to spoil the conspiracy theory". But, I'm still a bit confused. Is this the same thing as the proposed "ARC rig" (

    I have to admit that I'm a bit nervous about the possibility that the C6 and C8 this will split the Radial and Full Rig classes. I like change and advancing with the times, but it seems like these developments will not be performance neutral (like past changes to the classes), nor will the C6 and C8 extend the range of athletes that will be able to participate (like the M-class, Radial, and 4.7 tried to do). Instead, the C6 and C8 seem to be in direct competition with the Radial and Full rig. If everyone agreed to switch over, and the cost of the new rigs were similar to the old, then they could be a very positive change, but if there's only a partial change over, then we could end up with fewer boats on the start line for C6 and Radial and C8 and full rig. I guess for me, the best thing about the Laser class isn't the boat. It's the sailors. As long as I can sail along with (well, actually mostly behind), these great competitors and friends I don't really care what boat I'm sailing.



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