History

The Most Popular Raceboat Ever

When two Canadians, Bruce Kirby and Ian Bruce, got together for a couple of drinks in 1969, they knocked around some ideas about how to build the best raceboat ever. On a bar napkin they rendered drawings of boats with only one instruction: make it cartoppable. They fooled around with weight displacement, sail area, and waterline length. What came out of trial and error is a design formula that revolutionized sailing and produced the world’s most popular sailboat – the Laser.

As sailors, Kirby and Bruce knew that if a boat was to become popular it would have to challenge and teach all skill levels. That’s when they decided to keep the hull, but vary the sail sizes of the Laser to make racing available to men, smaller adults, women and youth. By making every Laser identical and accessible, the sailor always won the race, not the boat. This has become an important distinction for Olympic teams.

Starting with one version of the Laser, the design eventually became three. The Radial came at a time when the Laser was be outside of North America and Europe. Around this time sailors started to notice that the Laser had become a big deal on the race circuit. The Radial quickly became an adult racing class boat and for small adult, women and youth.

Following the success of the Radial, the 4.7 rig was developed in England in 1989. Once kids figured out they could master the 4.7, like top adult sailors master the Laser, the boat took off. The 4.7 was popular in Europe and Asia in the 90’s, but didn’t catch on in North America until later. It is fast becoming popular with ambitious youth and Olympic hopefuls in North America.

Now There is a Boat for Everyone!

Since the growth and popularity of the Laser trio, sailors have helped to design the growing LaserPerformance family of sailboats. Yes, the laser is super fast and ultra-popular, but also check out these boats we have developed over the years. Julian Bethwaite designed the super fast skiff 49er and Jo Richards designed the revolutionary Vago that continues to push the boundaries of dinghy sailing.

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