Laser (dinghy)

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Current Specifications
File:Laser dinghy.svg
Crew 1
LOA 4,064 mm (13 ft 4 in)
LWL 3,810 mm (12 ft 6 in)
Beam 1,422 mm (4 ft 8 in)
Draft 787 mm (2 ft 7 in)
Hull weight 59 kg (130 lb)
Mainsail area 7.06 m2 (76 sq ft)
D-PN 92.5 [1]
RYA PN 1078 [2]
PHRF 225
Olympic Class

The International Laser Class sailboat, also called Laser Standard and the Laser One is a popular one-design class of small sailing dinghy. According the Laser Class Rules the boat may be sailed by either one or two people, though it is rarely sailed by two. The design, by Bruce Kirby, emphasizes simplicity and performance. The dinghy is now manufactured by several boat manufacturers worldwide.

The Laser is one of the most popular single-handed dinghies in the world. By 2010, the number of boats produced was approaching 200,000. A commonly cited reason for its popularity is that it is robust, simple to rig and sail. The Laser also provides very competitive racing due to the very tight class association controls which eliminate differences in hull, sails and equipment.

The term "Laser" is often used to refer to the Laser Standard (the largest of the sail plan rigs available for the Laser hull). However there are two other sail plan rigs available for the Laser Standard hull and a series of other "Laser"-branded boats which are of a completely different hull designs. Examples include the Laser 2 and Laser Pico. The Laser Standard, Laser Radial and Laser 4.7 are three types of 'Laser' administered by the International Laser Class Association.


File:Laser Radial 160588 02.jpg
Sailor hiking out on a Laser Radial

The boat's history began with a phone call between Canadians Bruce Kirby and Ian Bruce. While discussing the possibility of a car-topped dinghy (a boat small enough to be carried on a roof rack of a typical car) for a line of camping equipment, Bruce Kirby sketched what would be known as "the million dollar doodle". The plans stayed with Kirby until 1970 when One Design and Offshore Yachtsman magazine held a regatta for boats under $1000, called "America's Teacup". After a few sail modifications, the Laser easily won its class.

The prototype was originally named the "Weekender"; the sail held the letters TGIF, a common American abbreviation for "Thank God It's Friday". It was renamed Laser and officially unveiled at the New York Boat Show in 1971. The Laser became a men's Olympic-class boat at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, and a special Olympic edition of the boat was released that year in commemoration. A version with a smaller sail, the Laser Radial (see below), was first sailed as a women's Olympic-class boat at the 2008 Summer Olympics.

The first world championship was held in 1974 in Bermuda. Entrants came from 24 countries, and first place was won by Peter Committee from the United States. Arguably the greatest champion of the Laser Class is Robert Scheidt (nickname "El Demolidor") from Brazil; he won the world championship eight times and won two gold and one silver Olympic medals.


As a one-design class of sailboat, all Lasers are built to the same specifications. The hull is 4.23 metres (13 ft 10.5 in) long, with a waterline length of 3.81 m (12.5 ft). The hull weight is 56.7 kg (130 lb), which makes the boat light enough to lift onto a car-top rack.

The various sizes of Laser are all uni rigged; they have only a main sail. The Laser Standard sail has sail area of 7.06 m² (76 ft²) and, especially in higher winds (15 knots and over), is most competitive when sailed by a very fit, agile and muscular person weighing no less than 80 kg (175 lb).


File:Laser Standard 160588 02.jpg
Righting a capsized boat

Laser sailing and racing presents a unique set of physical and skill based challenges. Fast Laser sailing requires an advanced level of fitness in order to endure the straight legged hiking and body-torque techniques required to get upwind and reach quickly.


A Laser's date and place of manufacture can be determined by looking at the serial number stamped into the transom or under the fairlead on the bow on older hulls. This serial number is unique to the boat and is also the same number that must be displayed on the sail if used for racing. The Laser is unusual in this aspect, since almost every other sailing craft has the numbers assigned by the national organization. This means that the same Laser can be moved between countries without having to change sail numbers. The first commercially sold Laser sailboat had sail number 100: earlier boats were considered "prototypes".

Other rigs using the Laser Standard hull

Laser Radial

In Europe the smaller Radial sail has surpassed the original Laser Standard sail in popularity, and replaced the Europe Dinghy as the Women's Singlehanded Dinghy for the 2008 Olympics. The Radial uses the same hull and fittings as the Laser Standard, but has a smaller sail, shorter lower mast section and has a different cut of sail to that of the standard or 4.7. Optimal weight for this rig is 121 to 159 lb (55 to 72 kg).

Laser 4.7

A smaller sail plan for the Laser was developed about a decade later. The sail area was reduced by 35% from the Standard with a shorter pre-bent bottom mast section, allowing even lighter sailors to sail. The same formula as the Radial is kept. The hull is the same as the Standard and Radial. Optimal weight for this rig is 110–120 lb (50–55 kg), thus becoming an ideal boat for young sailors moving from the Optimist.

Laser M

A fourth and lesser-known variant is the Laser M Rig. This sail was the first attempt at making a smaller rig for smaller sailors. It employed the same lower mast section, but a shorter top section. This variant flopped when compared to the other rigs. This is primarily because the shorter top section didn't allow enough bend to be induced in the mast (as the bottom section is very stiff), this made the boat difficult to sail and de-power especially in heavier winds. This is not a rig recognized by the Laser Class.

21st century rigging update

In recent years and to move the boat with the changing times, the basic sail controls have been upgraded by means of the XD performance kit, with parts made by Holt. Fitting this kit allows the outhaul and cunningham to be adjusted more easily when under sail via cleats fitted to the deck so that the lines are always available to the sailor. As well as this, a second rigging kit has been released, utilizing Harken products. This gives an extra purchase on the outhaul system, but the kicker is largely unchanged, other than aesthetically.

Rooster 8.1

Rooster Sailing, a company based in the UK, designed and created a larger rig for the Laser hull called the Rooster 8.1, specifically designed for heavier sailors. There are two optional mast configurations. Either a 3.6 metre one piece aluminium lower mast section or an fibreglass extender to fit the Laser Standard aluminium lower mast section. The Rooster 8.1 rig is not recognized for racing in events run under the rules of the official International Laser Class Association.

The inaugural 2007 British Nationals were won by Steve Cockerill, principal of Rooster Sailing. 34 entries competed for the 2009 British National Championships which were won by John Emmett of Weir Wood Sailing Club.

The first sail number issued was number 81. At the end of 2009 the highest issued sail number was in excess of 420.

See also

  • Laser 2, a double handed dinghy similar to the Laser Standard
  • Laser Pico, a small double handed dinghy designed by Jo Richards in the 1990s mainly for family use


External links

Wikimedia Commons has media related to:

Class associations

Manufacturers and distributors

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