2011 Rule Changes - Fundamental Rule

Discussion in 'Laser Class Politics' started by 154537, Mar 28, 2011.

  1. AlanD

    AlanD Former ISAF Laser Measurer

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    Obviously being a member of the class association and for that matter an ISAF Class measurer doesn't get me onto Heini's mailing list. Hell, I don't even get notification of any new equipment coming onto the market or notification of any recent class rule interpretations.

    Heini's and Jeff's handling of this situation has much to be desired. Why hasn't such letters been either put up on the ILCA website for all to see or emailed to all association members? Whilst this forum has been beneficial in this discussion, the ILCA should have put up their own discussion area on the ILCA website, where the ILCA could have responded officially to any questions asked. It's not fair on Tracy to be left answering or providing the few bits of information unofficially here.

    I somehow doubt that through these discussions on different web forums, that we have a better understanding of all the different issues involved. Personally, I'm none the wiser than I was 6 months ago. The ILCA hasn't provided us with such information, the builders / GS haven't added anything either other than a small post be Chris here and the only readily available additional information has been provided by Bruce Kirby and to some extent Tracy who also isn't officially involved.
     
  2. SFBayLaser

    SFBayLaser Member

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    At this stage nobody needs to see yet another long post from me on this topic, I'm sure my opinion on the subject is well known. Still, for those still trying to sort out the presumed intricacies, I'll give it one last go... So... my analysis of the situation is, I think, pretty simple:

    1) The current fundamental rule states that to be a legal Laser a builder must have an agreement with Bruce Kirby, Inc., have rights to use the Laser trademark and have been approved by both ISAF and ILCA. Note that it says one must have rights to use the Laser trademark, not outright own them.

    2) The company that now owns Bruce Kirby, Inc., and the builder who supplies Lasers and equipment to some 70% of the world have a so far unresolvable disagreement. I don't see how it matters who is "right" or "wrong" in this disagreement and, in any case, we can never hope to know.

    3) This disagreement has now included the Laser Class, and all of us sailors, because, we are told, the company that owns Bruce Kirby, Inc., has terminated their agreement/contract with the builder in question and, by the Fundamental Rule, that company will soon no longer be able to build and supply class legal Lasers to most of the world (my assumption is that "soon" means when they run out of their stockpile of plaques).

    4) When that day arrives, the builder has threatened to use his ownership of the trademark to simply build and market a new boat called the Laser but not the same boat we sail now. The design rights holder has threatened to market another boat called something other than a Laser (at least outside the area where they own the trademark), not obviously the same thing we sail now (legal disputes again). We could be looking at the fracturing of Laser sailing into three separate classes: "classic" Lasers, "new" Lasers and something with a name to be determined - all three distinct in some way.

    5) To protect Laser sailing as we know it now, ILCA has put forward a proposal to change the Fundamental Rule to remove the requirement of an agreement with Bruce Kirby, Inc., so that we, the sailors, can continue to buy and sail class legal Lasers while the companies in conflict use proper legal means to resolve their dispute.

    To date I have not seen anyone put forth a solidly viable plan for how to continue sailing class legal Lasers anywhere in the world without changing the Fundamental Rule. In my opinion, at the core of the issue is the trademark - that trumps everything else.

    People ask "doesn't the guy who designed the boat deserve a royalty?" Of course! But I would assume that legal protections had been set in place years ago to protect the designer -and- to protect us, the sailors, from disputes like this that threaten the existence of our class. And I'd sure hope they were based on something far more substantial than the Fundamental Rule - which is not directly controlled by said rights holder! Further, my vote should not have to be a decision between paying royalties to the designer versus the existence of the class.

    The recent complication is that Bruce Kirby may be buying back Bruce Kirby, Inc. and working to restore the situation to the way it was pre-2008. I'm all for that and I hope he is successful. Still, I have yet to see an official announcement (probably due any time now) of the sale back to him, and then a subsequent announcement of the restoration of the contract with LPE. Given that the balloting period ends on Friday, I don't know that I can assume that all will be restored before I cast my vote (which I will do Friday morning), so when I click on the box Friday morning it will be based on the current situation at that moment, not what I might hope may happen in the future.

    The other issue here is that people seem unhappy with the ILCA and/or the builder and are viewing this issue through that lens. No system is perfect, I share many of the concerns expressed on these pages with respect to things like parts supply, moving forward on the new sail/spars, transparency, etc. However, I think its important here to focus on the important issue and not get sidetracked.

    In the end, I feel very strongly that this is all about maintaining Laser sailing as we know it now, and I think there is a lot worth preserving. For example, this past weekend I sailed in a local regatta with sailors ranging in age from low-teens to mid-sixties and a good gender mix (including my wife!). As one now expects in the Radial fleet, three of the top five (2nd, 3rd and 5th) were girls, the other two of the top five boys. In the Standards the old guys pretty much dominated but the kids were definitely nipping at their heals and it won't be long before they take over. Everyone had a great time and, in particular, the kids are highly motivated. As it turns out, Paige Railey and some friends are here training in SF before heading to Perth and they were cruising through the boatyard after the racing - it was a bit like watching a movie star cruising along a beach with lots of young sailors flocking to her to ask questions, etc. Amazing to watch! And interesting to see kids as young as 15 looking forward to the possibility that they might one day have an Olympic dream.

    What other sailing class can boast such an amazing range of both age and gender with the same high level of competitiveness? What other class can so many people have an Olympic dream in something so accessible?

    And while I was sailing this weekend here in San Francisco, there were Laser regattas all over North America the same weekend. How many other classes have events happening every weekend on both coasts and all points in between?

    Do we really want to see the greatest one design sailing class on earth torn apart over a squabble between two companies that own pieces of the rights to the class?

    We the sailors need to take action to defend our class, this rule change proposal is meant to do that.
     
  3. gouvernail

    gouvernail Active Member

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    If I comprehend the above it says:

    We want boats.

    One of the restrictions we have placed upon builders of our boats is that each builder must have an agreement with the designer before building our boats.

    The builder who builds the largest number of lasers is letting that agreement expire.

    We are removing the builder qualification requirement for a contract with the designer because LPE wants to build lasers without a new contract.

    OK fine...We can rely on the builders manual and let the builders quit paying Kirby.

    I don't think we are being very nice to Kirby when we simply abandon him like that, but who really cares about last week's contributors. What has Kirby done for us lately? He is as dead to us as Broadribb, Kidd, Bruce, Fogh, Young, Lineberger, Johnstone, Johns, or anyone else who ever spent years of his or her time building our game.

    Screw them.

    But while we are at it, how about removing the assinine requirement the builders have rights to use the laser name or sail logo.

    The ILCA has no reason to care what builders call the toys sold to us.

    The builder's manual is sufficient. Make the toys to fit the manual and you can sell them to racers who may use those toys in our races.

    New bumper stickers>>
    Only a boat built to the builders manual is a boat built to the builders manual.

    Sail a boat built to the builders manual.

    Cheat the Nursing Home. Die on your boat built to the builders manual.

    Kirby. So last century. Who cares??

    LPE needs to make more money!!!
     
  4. torrid

    torrid Just sailing

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    Nice write-up Tracy. I have issues with the way this was handled by the ILCA, mostly lack of communication. However, I agree that it was largely a defensive maneuver to protect the interets of the class.

    One thing this whole drama has demonstrated is the vulnerability of the class. Suppose the Red Sea parts, Bruce Kirby gets his rights back, he agrees to a new contract with the builders, and peace is brought to the world. We would basically have returned to a temporary status quo. Who is to say there won't be a similar issue again in a few years? I'm still leaning towards "yes".
     
  5. SFBayLaser

    SFBayLaser Member

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    Fred, this is where you get it wrong. We are told by Heini's email that Global Sailing informed the ILCA office that they had terminated their contract with LaserPerformance Europe. I do not know why they chose to terminate their contract, perhaps they had problems with LPE, perhaps they had a different vision going forward, etc. Whatever the reason, that is their choice and, I claim, we as sailors will never know the actual reasons (in fact I could imagine plenty of he said, she said, stuff which might be fun to watch but would not resolve the situation).

    As much as we might want to know who was the good guy and who was the bad guy, I don't think its ever going to be possible.

    Well, in my eyes they would both be good guys if they would resolve their dispute so we didn't have to deal with this!
     
  6. SFBayLaser

    SFBayLaser Member

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    That's a good point. However, we all believe Bruce has the interests of the sailors at heart and want to see him succeed in the short term. I would hope that ILCA could position itself to gain the rights in the future, just to prevent this from happening again. But the price tag is high so not clear if that could be engineered.
     
  7. Der_Dude

    Der_Dude Member

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    Thanks a lot, Tracy. Laser class members (and sailors) worldwide appreciate your initiative and the time you put into this.

    Just to add another color: I think I will vote for the proposal because I really cannot see how we as a class could go wrong here. Anyone who feels the designer should still profit from the commercial success of the design could propose an amendment to the class rules or simply a class policy for some kind of payment, directly or indirectly, to Kirby or his commercial partners. In other words I do not see the need to maintain the to-be-changed rule in order to do Kirby some good. We have no influence on how he himself or a rights holder like GS is able to negotiate with commercial partners, LPE for instance. Why should we make the class subject to the results of business decisions that we neither have influence on nor even insight into?

    I agree with Gouv that we might just as well abolish the need for a builder to hold rights to the Laser trademark because it really does not matter for our game what the boat is called and it limits our ability as a class to chose the best builder(s). However, that motion is not on the table and it's not a condition for the vote on the proposed rule change.
     
  8. gouvernail

    gouvernail Active Member

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    Wow...If Global terminated the contract first...HMMMM. was it terminated mid contract?? at the end of the contract? because LPE didn't pay on time?
    Because LPE was not building the boats properly?
    because Global was trying to starve LPE out of being a builder??

    So may different ways my vote would be pushed by those answers...

    and I have many more unanswered questions.

    I am thoroughly annoyed by the lack of information being distributed. Heini's note could have said..

    "Global sailing terminated the contract because the owner of LPE used to date his wife's sister "

    or whatever else Heini knew. But instead all we have is a tiny bit of information and a request to blindly vote.

    Where the hell are the full length explanations of the positions held by the two builder powers and their arguments for and against a rule change by the class. What is each group offering us or promising to do for us if they prevail?

    There are literally millions of dollars of future business riding on our decisions. The informative silence is deafening.
     
  9. AlanD

    AlanD Former ISAF Laser Measurer

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    This is why I voted no. The ILCA office has not provided the information which would persuade me see a change in the fundamental rule necessary. We're being asked to blindly make a major change without enough background information.
     
  10. Deimos

    Deimos Member

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    Which is why I will have nothing more to do with the Class Association. Such behaviour by those at the op might be considered acceptable/normal in the US (though I doubt that) but in the UK elected leaders of associations run for the members benefit are accountable to the membership. The ILCA is not a limited term dictatorship. Those elected leaders are clearly aware that the membership wants answers and clearly know what they want answers to and are unprepared to give and details. In fact they are saying nothing.

    I am more than disgusted and the only way I can do anything is to walk with my feet. And I know I am far from alone. A club I sailed at last year now has around 2 Class Association members in its Laser fleet.

    I suspect that the behaviour of the Class Association officers is doing more damage to the class than the spat between corporate interests.

    Ian
     
  11. LQT420

    LQT420 Member

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    Let me preface my little rant by acknowledging all the hard work that Tracy has contributed in trying to get us the facts so that class members can make an informed decision. I really appreciate your work and leadership of the NA Region. However...

    According to Bruce Kirby himself, didn't this whole thing start as a result of LPE stopping royalty payments to Global Sailing?

    "Now it would appear that Laser Performance Europe doesn’t want to recognize the fact that this transfer has taken place. It is really weird because they paid the royalties to Global Sailing for two years as they were supposed to do, and then all of a sudden they stopped doing that."
    http://www.sail-world.com/USA/Laser-Class-major-rule-change----A-disaster-says-Bruce-Kirby/81938

    My observations lead me to believe that LPE has cash flow issues as evidenced by our continual lack of parts availability. If that is the case, then why would GS continue or renew a contract that has been breached by LPE?

    Doesn't a YES vote effectively wipe out this possibility? Why can't the ILCA table the vote to a later date to see how this recent development plays out?

    It just really looks to me as if the ILCA leadership is in the hip pocket of LPE. The ILCA leadership, under the guise of keeping the supply of boats readily available, are effectively pushing for increasing the margins for LPE , guaranteeing that they maintain their monopoly power and handing over full control over the class membership with NO oversight from Kirby or GS as his successor. ILCA Class oversight of the builders has left a lot to be desired - I'll let the Gouv elaborate on that. Why was the push for the vote practically shoved down members' throats with little to no communication of the facts or even the slightest courtesy of answering the many questions that still abound?

    Please tell me why I shouldn't feel this way or why I'm wrong. I don't know, but if it looks like a rat and smells like a rat...
     
  12. Der_Dude

    Der_Dude Member

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    Well, if you like to give the ILCA board the benefit of the doubt, one could assume that their motives for the proposal are the ones they stated, namely that they see a imminent adverse affect of the GS - LPE commercial dispute for the class, namely that LPE must shut down production because they can no longer sell class legal boats if the contract their contract with GS/Kirby or whoever ends sometime soon unless either a) the dispute is settled soon or b) we change the class rules soon thereby allowing LPE to continue selling class legal boats even if they breach some contract with GS or Kirby Inc or whover. There is logic in that. Most of what you say is conjecture, right?

    Whether you believe you have seen and heard verything that's important is of course another question.
     
  13. whitfit

    whitfit Member

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    Der_Dude says:

    "Well, if you like to give the ILCA board the benefit of the doubt, one could assume that their motives for the proposal are the ones they stated, namely that they see a imminent adverse affect of the GS - LPE commercial dispute for the class"

    But there is no reason that more information could not help us to better understand why they see an imminent adverse affect for the class. The benefit of the doubt should be reserved for where you really trust somebody, or there is missing information that cannot be resolved. In this case, there has been plenty of time to explain further. That hasn't happened, and besides the information on the voting page, there has been a deafening silence until now.

    Heini Wellman says:

    "The importance of this rule change triggered a lot of discussions between the Laser sailors and on the different web forums. These discussions were very healthy and contributed to a better understanding of all the different issues involved. Personally, I kept a certain restraint in order to allow an as free discussion as possible. For those who want to refresh their memories on the reasons of the rule change can go to http://www.laserinternational.org/rules2011 ."

    A certain restraint in order to allow as free a discussion as possible? Have you been paying attention? Most of the discussion has been conjecture and frustration stemming from an almost complete lack of information. Gouvernail and I had an exchange a few weeks ago that made it clear that there was a lot of information missing from this discussion, and most other discussions on this board and elsewhere have indicated the same. You may have thought that you were acting in the most appropriate way by staying out of it, but the discussions have made it clear that the information available on the ILCA web page is woefully inadequate in order to make an informed decision.

    It seems to me that the ILCA has not done nearly enough to get the information that would be required to its members. In effect, the attitude is: "trust us, this is the only solution, and it will be the best thing for the class". Well, I for one, don't trust a leadership that fails to answer the most important questions to its membership when asking it to make a fundamental, indeed historic (for our little corner of the world) decision on the fate of the Laser class.

    That is why I voted no. I am not convinced it is a bad change, but the onus is on the proponents to effectively argue their case, and to inform the membership that this change would be beneficial. That hasn't happened. This is disappointing, and I only hope that the class is strong enough to carry on despite failure of leadership.
     
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  14. gouvernail

    gouvernail Active Member

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    Simplicity.. I usually fail at this but here goes my attempt.

    LPE knew when they bought the rights to the laser logo and name that it was for a very particular boat used for special types of racing which could only be sold for racing if certain rules and regulations were met.

    The expenses related to royalty fees and contracts with the designer were clear then and have not been changed.

    Part of that which made the purchase of the laser building facilities a good business decision was the guaranteed market provided by those people who race the boats. The racing customers buy boats and endless replacement parts for which they EXPECT to pay absurdly inflated prices......because the rules make it such that the builders have a monopoly AND a quid pro quo obligation to support the game and the organizations who manage the game.

    No other builder of any boat anywhere in the world ever had to spend the number of dollars on game and class promotion the ILCA demands of Laser builders, but in exchange for the builder's agreement to absolutely abide by the rules , potential builders KNOW laser building is a safe investment because of the GUARANTEED market.

    LPE has already to quit being a builder as described by our rules. I see no reason to change our rules so they can be allowed toprovide diminished support and return to our very reliable marketplace..

    We can change the name of our toys if necessary. We have learned to say Celcius. NAYRU is long gone. The boat is the same toy no matter what it is called. We race the design not the name or sail logos. LPE no longer wishes to pay for the rights to build the design. Let's find a new builder who comprehends the fact that his success is directly tied to our success and power together into the next major boom in sailing.
     
  15. AlanD

    AlanD Former ISAF Laser Measurer

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    It's nice to know that Heini's letter is now up on the ILCA website, it was put up Tuesday; a couple of days after it appeared here. There is still no official confirmation of Kirby's re-acquisition of the business from Global Sailing.

    Still a case of "too little, too late".
     
  16. SFBayLaser

    SFBayLaser Member

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    I guess I have to question the assumption I see in many posts that LP are alone in being the bad guys here. I would agree that many of us in their trademark area have some amount of disdain for the way their operations have gone over the past few years, though I might argue that the solution to that lies more in an improving world economy than in anything else. And, of course, that article in SailingWorld implied to us that LP precipitated all of this by not paying their due royalties. And we don't know anything about the company that currently owns the "design rights". Take it all together and its easy to point a finger.

    But is it fair to conclude that "LPE no longer wishes to pay for the rights to build the design"? Remember that what is now LPE was born out of the merger of PSE and Vanguard and the same family has owned PSE/LPE for over a decade now. So what precipitated this apparent sudden decision to simply stop paying royalties - after having done so for at least a decade? Has LP really said they will no longer make royalty payments? What about LP in North America? Don't they still have a builder's agreement? If so, that must mean they are still making their payments but then why would one side of the company make payments while the other didn't?

    Let's also not forget that barely a month after the ILCA office received notice of termination of the builder's agreement "Global Sailing Limited" ran an ad in Scuttlebutt Europe looking for dealers in the European Region for the "Bruce Kirby designed Olympic Sailing Dinghy" (see this issue). That does not strike me as a conciliatory effort aimed at resolving a dispute.

    So, once again, I have to argue that we, the public, are just never going to know the genesis of the dispute between the two parties, nor the intimate details of what its all about and what it would take to solve it. More importantly, we're just simply never going to know who are the good guys and who are the bad guys. Unfortunately for us, it doesn't appear that this whole mess is going to present itself in some neat and orderly package that we can understand and clearly say "this guy is the bad guy and he needs to be punished".

    That's just my opinion and I would hope to be proven wrong. But its now about 48 hours to the close of voting and this thread's been going for nearly 6 months.
     
  17. gouvernail

    gouvernail Active Member

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    Certainly understand...anybody who reads this..

    If there are any "bad guys" they damn certain are not the folks who volunteer and serve in various capacities of the association in exchange for nothing but an occasional free sweatshirt, ride to a regatta, or pat on the back...between bitching.

    and I really don't see the LPE guys as "Bad guys" even if they want to build boats and refuse to pay royalties. Anybody who believes boat building is some sort of cash cow is a damned fool.

    I suspect that when all is said and don we will find at least some of the driving influence behind the operations of LPE that are of the style sailors don't like...

    will be found to be driven by book keepers, businessmen, and investors who simply cannot understand why anybody would jump thorough all our hoops for such a pathetic return on investment.

    Someday I hope Lasers in North America will once again be built and promoted by guys like Chip and Steve and their team of employees who love sailing as much as they love money but want to build great boats and make some money while doing it...while realizing, "They could make more by renting out the shop and sitting in lawn chairs cashing checks and watching somebody use the place as a car repair facility or roller skating rink.

    The reason I am not a player in the "let's build lasers" sweepstakes is I could not do it without investors...and there is no way any investor will tolerate the return on investment a laser factory generates.
     
  18. redstar

    redstar New Member

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    Like Tracy, I don't understand why most people are assuming, based on uninformed speculation, that LPE are the cause of all this. To balance things up here is some vaguely informed speculation from the opposite direction, hopefully worded carefully enough that I don't run foul of any lawyers... or have they given up watching? I suspect the watchfulness of the lawyers at least partly explains the reticence of Heini, Jeff and co to say very much.

    It was GS who terminated the building contract with LPE, not the other way around. I doubt that GS dropped a big chunk of money to buy the 'design rights' from BKI just to get some loose change from royalties, I imagine they did it so they could become global players in the Laser game. It seems they bought the rights then immediately went after the largest Laser market in the world, Europe. Why would LPE just decide not to pay royalties any more? That just doesn't make sense because it would be such an obvious breach of contract that they could never defend. It makes much more sense that GS, after acquiring the rights, changed the rules and gave LPE no options. This would mean that GS aren't interested in coming to an agreement with LPE, but that they want to simply take over their business. Whether this would be a good or bad thing for the Laser Class is a whole different discussion.

    It's worth noting that a similar situation already exists with the SB3. LPE sell this boat into most parts of the world as the Laser SB3. In Australia, they don't own the Laser trademark - PSA do. So in Australia, rather than coming to an agreement with PSA to use the Laser trademark, LPE's agents sell the Dart SB3. Same boat, different logo, different name, just the roles of the two players are reversed. An interesting bit of recent history that shows that the relationship between the two companies might have already been testy.

    Bruce Kirby has come out publicly on the side of GS. I find it very interesting that the channel he chose to do this, Sail-World, just happens to handle PSA's media for them. Is this just a coincidence? He might be the benevolent godfather of the Laser Class but he also has a commercial stake in all of this, and his statements could be interpreted as protecting this stake, despite being outwardly about protecting the class.

    At the end of the day a yes vote gives the class association (that's us, the sailors) more control over who builds our boats. How can that be a bad thing, and why are so many people interested in protecting commercial rights of the builders rather than looking after ourselves? Our longer term aim should be to have complete control over our boat, but there are a few more hurdles to jump before then.
     
  19. Merrily

    Merrily Administrator Staff Member

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    Watchin' the detectives....
     
  20. sorosz

    sorosz Member

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    I think that having the Class acquire the rights and trademarks would be a great long-term goal. Maybe someone could figure out a creative financing apporach that could spread whatever the cost is over a number of years.
     

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