The Laser

Nigel Cherrie reflects on the popularity of this stalwart dinghy class
Still the biggest class at Hyeres... Russell Coutts, Dean Barker and Paul Cayard have each raced one, and it is not an America's Cup yacht. At the Sydney Olympic Games, it was the only class to claim four gold medallists. This is the boat that led the way in competitive one design racing for two decades and is still growing in popularity today. With over 174,000 now in existence spread over 122 countries, the chances are if you have sailed or raced a dinghy this will be the one. In fact, one wonders if Canadian Bruce Kirby had any idea of the worldwide phenomenon he had created when he penned the lines of the Laser single-handed class over 30 years ago. The Laser has not just survived the high performance revolution of the last decade through the explosion of visually more exciting and faster singlehanders, but has emerged stronger than ever. Imagine if the car you brought in the 1970s was still as popular and being sold in its original form today? Even the Mini has been updated. You have to look at the Laser as the complete spectrum in order to understand why the class is so strong, explains Jeff Martin, Executive Secretary of the International Laser Class Association and its 16,000 members. Mum, dad, son or even grandad can race at the local club or in a regional, national and perhaps international championships in either the 4.7, Radial and full rig format in the same boat Ben Ainslie rewrote Olympic history with. The beauty lies in its simplicity. No matter what version of the boat you sail, the hull and the four control lines (mainsheet, outhaul, cunningham and vang) always remain the same, all that is required is just a separate lower mast section and sail. For a few hundred pounds, the entire