Replica Gear: Let's Get It All Out In The Open!!

Discussion in 'Laser Class Politics' started by ALJM, Aug 2, 2009.

  1. jeffers

    jeffers Active Member

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    I agree 100% with Ian's statement above.

    They do have a way to go though as my Intensity replica (which you can pick up for around £150 in the UK) is just over 18 months old and still looks pretty new and is the 'correct' shape (and it has been hammered believe me).

    My 'genuine' sail which came with the boat and had only been used 3 or 4 times looks in much worse shape.
     
  2. LASERNUT

    LASERNUT Member

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    I know the guy who had that sail (the one that was sold as an official one but was not!). Apparently the guy who sold it to him had the paper work to say it was an official Hyde sail. And a few weeks later Laser phoned him up and offered him a brand new sail out of stock but only if he sent them the "fake" sail. Sound like maybe he was sold a sample sail that wasn't suppose to go out into the open market??!!
     
  3. ALJM

    ALJM New Member

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    All,

    First, thanks for keeping the post going! We have slowly migrated back to the true purpose thanks to Tracy's effort to explain the differing processes and Gouv's effort to keep all focused. Jeffers, Alan, Ian & Tillerman have all sounded off and help us get to the bottom line: If class legal gear were competitively priced it would most likely obviate the need for replica gear! Even better if in doing so we were able to open the field up in an affordable way to additional vendors who have found cost effective ways to source gear that they have been able to get manufactured to class specs & standard already. Imagine if a vendor like Intensity or I-Sails has figured out how to source well made gear that is made to class standards, is able to cut several redundant steps from the supply chain while still meeting the inspection requirements laid out in the Builder's Manual, all resulting in a perfectly class legal sail priced competitively and delivered to your doorstep or sitting on the vendors shelf for you to ogle! If they can do it, then I am sure that North & Hyde already are as well (read: you're getting hosed!!) or they can but because of their monopoly, have been lazy because the competitive pressure isn't there (read: you're still getting hosed!!) Either way, we the sailors are paying the price!!

    Would that cut profit margins on current class legal gear made by the handful of vendors now licensed? Yes, on a per item basis the gross margin would probably decrease unless those vendors are currently running a very inefficient supply chain and/or paying to much for the initial manufacturing, both issues that could be fixed. However, their sales volume should increase as the current buyers of replica gear migrate back to class legal gear because the costs no longer outweigh the benefit of class legal gear. So a good portion of the lost margin would be replaced by greater volume. The world of business theory would tell you that the delta between the new overall gross margin on the sales of a particular item over a period of time versus the old higher margin realized on fewer items sold in that same time period was what we have termed the "profiteering" portion that in an open and competitive market could not be sustained.

    Remember, "fair market value" is the price a buyer will pay a seller when the deal is done with both sides cognizant of the facts surrounding the deal and neither side is under any compulsion or is deceiving the other. Right now, today, we are not paying Fair Market Price for sails, foils or spars.....because we are under compulsion to buy only those that are deemed class legal AND we have severely restricted the number of sources for class legal gear as well as accepting a huge lack of transparency in the process.

    Now to comment on Gouv's last post: I must agree that if a vendor to the class is required by the licensing agreement to provide a certain level of support like rehatta boats, etc...(to be translated into a dollar cost) then they should be able to pass a portion of that cost on to the buyers. Note!!! I did not say ALL the cost!! This support is part of the deal and it is the "cost of doing business" in order to get this whole bunch of virtually guarunteed business that the vendor will enjoy during the life of the licensing agreement!!! Especially in a huge & growing class (rare in this day and age) like the Laser class, this is a huge selling point for the class (meaning us chickens!!) and Laser Performance as the owner of the whole shebang, and should absolutely be used to negotiate the best possible pricing structure from vendors. Bottom line is that it is in their best long term interest to keep racing the Laser affordable as it fosters not only continued participation from current boat owners but more importantly, sales of new boats to new owner!!! When I say affordable, I am not just saying it in the context of when compared to the cost of other boats (ie..."oh shut up, my 505 sails cost more than your whole boat!!" as that's a true COP OUT), but also in the context of making the cost of getting a new sailor into a boat affordable when he/she has other competing priorities for his leisure dollars. Remember, the guts bottom line of what has made the Laser the most prolific one-design in history is a combination of simplicity (in terms of controls and as a single person boat) and relatively low cost. Amazing things like a great class association and entry into the olympic realm all contributed hugely as well, but....none of those things matter if you restrict the potential number of buyers via high cost or complexity!!

    OK, nuff of the soapbox, absorb that stuff and we'll move forward from there!!
     
  4. Wavedancer

    Wavedancer Upside down? Staff Member

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    I just LOVE gouvernail's proposal of having different sailmakers compete, on a four year basis (agrees with the Olympic cycle), for the exclusive right to make the 'legal' sails. The contract between Laser Performance and the chosen sailmaker should include language that these sails will be offered at a certain price for that period (+ some inflation %). Because the same supply chain with markups etc. would be in place, the sails would not be as inexpensive as those offered by the 'China Direct' sellers. Therefore, this idea would not eliminate replica gear, the topic of this thread.

    How can we, as ILCA members, push gouvernail's proposal?
     
  5. SFBayLaser

    SFBayLaser Member

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    Ok, first, what makes everyone so certain the builders don't periodically test the waters with respect to their vendors? For example, North has not been a sail supplier from day one so I'd think there is no guarantee that they, or Hyde, will be a supplier forever.

    Second, within the range of horseshoes, the cost to produce a Laser sail is approximately the same for the legal sails and the various copy sails. The legal sails are probably a bit more expensive since the sailmakers must use "special" cloth (defined by the LCM) and the copy manufacturers are using off the shelf cloth with approximately the same characteristics (clearly a potential cost savings here, but when the LCM specs were set the cloth was off the shelf). There is also a 5 pount sterling royalty paid to ILCA (not ILCA-NA) for each legal sail. But all of this results in a small difference in cost per sail, I'd be surprised if it amounted to more than $10-15.

    So, the cost savings to you of a copy sail is entirely in the distribution chain and associated overhead, not in the production cost. Given that, I can't see how supplying new boats with, for example, Intensity Sails will result in any cost savings. It seems to me that only introduces yet one more hand in the distribution chain. To me, this would act to drive prices up, not down.

    Going one step further, the copy parts folks are niche suppliers who are able to undercut specific parts of the market and I don't believe their business models are extensible in terms of replacing the builders.

    Finally, I disagree that the copy manufacturers are producing "class legal" equivalents. With the sails they can come close, but with other parts, in particular foils, they don't know the LCM requirements and can't possibly be reproducing, for example, the flex characteristics of the centerboards. Things like this make subtle, but important, differences. Which is why you don't want to see them when you are racing - its no longer just you against the competition, now it might be their equipment too.
     
  6. AlanD

    AlanD Former ISAF Laser Measurer

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    I must agree with Tracy. It's naive to believe that the current cost of a Intensity/Rooster or any other replica sail would be the same, if those sails had to be supplied through the dealer network. I have no idea what sort of percentages each level of the distribution network makes, various taxes in each country or what royalities are paid and to whom. But currently there are many more levels involved, each wanting to make a profit in order to stay in business.

    Letting the sail makers supply direct is also not the answer as sails, as no dealer is going to run a successful business supplying just hulls and a few other bits, sails are one of the few true consumeable items on a laser if the boat is well looked after.
     
  7. bjmoose

    bjmoose Member

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    If you want to know what the laser class would look like with "replica" parts allowed at regattas, all you need to do is look at the Optimist class.

    Designer spars, designer blades, designer sails, etc... Everything much more expensive because it has some "secret sauce" that lets it be just a wee tiny bit faster than the competitor's.

    For that matter, look at the uncontrolled part of Laser equipment - the tiller and tiller extension.
     
  8. gouvernail

    gouvernail Active Member

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    reading and reading and reading above...including finding myself asleep in the chair a couple times....

    it seems all who have posted are contributing rather than mindlessly complaining.

    All of you are leaving one thing out of the equasion;

    the Laser trademark in North America is owned by a for profit corporation.

    Certainly the designer and early builders were competing in an environment where the object was to create and market the ultimate singlehanded dinghy whee low price and durability and consistency and performance were important.

    the reality is, our builders really only have one objective today...Make money and position themselves to keep making money.

    As an owner of a fiberglass production facility and a long term employee of other Fiberglass product companies, I can assure all of you, making boats is not the most profitable use of our space.

    On the one hand I hate it when our builders prodiuce products I find to be substandard.

    On the other hand, unless we allow them to make a certain amount of money, we will have no fleet support, no warranty service and perhaps no builders at all.
     
  9. michael_s_garman

    michael_s_garman New Member

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    We are a new fleet.

    Many members have old boats with blown out sails. These blown out sail no longer match the dimensions of a new official Laser sail! These members buy inexpensive replica sails so they can compete on a more level playing field in club races.

    Replica sails and parts keep the cost of entry reasonable. I used to windsurf in the late 80's. I stopped buying gear because sails hit $800.

    Replica sails and parts are good for the grassroots of the class.
     
  10. Deimos

    Deimos Member

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    I guess that in that regard the knock-off suppliers might then help achieve better pricing for us. The higher market share the knock-offs gain and the more clubs that allow imitation sails, then the fewer class legal sails will be sold so, to maintain profits the builders might starts to reduce their prices to encourage people back to class legal.

    That does not mean I like paying high prices for short life expectancy sails but I knew the price and situation with regards to sails when I purchased my Laser (though was unaware of the knock-offs) so I cannot really complain having known when I made my choice.

    Ian
     
  11. tewtops1

    tewtops1 New Member

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    i have class legal sails, and intensity sails......so, why is it that the intensity sail--at about half price, uses a better quality cloth, and better stitching???///..Im all for one design....but give us a comperable product for a reasonable price
     
  12. AlanD

    AlanD Former ISAF Laser Measurer

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    As mentioned by Tracy above, the sail cloth used in official class legal sails was selected back in about 1985 when it was a common weight sail cloth with the properties of the time. Nearly 25 years on, this cloth is completely obsolete, however Hyde and North are forced to use this cloth to meet the class rules (builders manual), whilst the replicas can use whatever cloth they want and with what ever properties are readily available at the time of production.

    In my opinion, it is well over due that the ILCA Technical Committee revises the cloth used and also reconsiders other aspects in order to improve the longivity of the sail. However I also realise that changing any component of the laser is a process that the Technical Committee does not do lightly as it makes all equipment issued previously obsolete particularly when the changes are large.

    It may also have the reverse effect, they may also raise prices to maintain their current profits in a diminishing market.
     
  13. tewtops1

    tewtops1 New Member

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    hulls, booms, spars, daggerboards, rudders, etc are long lasting...sails ( especially these) are disposable....i still say, that if someone is making a better and cheaper sail..what gives....i like one design, but at least offer me a durable sail ....Im new to this class,,but have sailed/raced for 30 yrs....selling an inferior product for way more than its worth seems counter productive to the class... terry
     
  14. torrid

    torrid Just sailing

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    DING! DING! DING! We have a winner!

    I think the situation with the sail is approaching the situation with the old "stupid Laser rope tricks" rigging - it is taking the concept of "strict one design" a little too far.
     
  15. AlanD

    AlanD Former ISAF Laser Measurer

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    What do you mean by that Torrid? You don't think the sails should be one design? That sails should only be produced by licensed sailmakers?
     
  16. tewtops1

    tewtops1 New Member

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    im just saying...give us a quality sail...for a fair price
     
  17. suthera

    suthera Member

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    There’s a very basic point, that is probably included in the above discussion, but has become somewhat clouded in the above analysis that suggests we’re all budding economists as well as recreational sailors.

    This basic point is to ask ourselves exactly what we get when we buy a sail, or any other piece of Laser equipment. Sure, like anyone else I get that feeling of dread when my new sail is flogging away in the breeze. I can see the dollar bill signs flying off the leach. But what did my hard earned dollars buy me? Was it really just a piece of redundant cloth, mass produced in a developing economy and sold to me at great expense?

    A quick look around any regatta suggests I have exchanged my money for way more than just the sail. I go to at least 5 regattas every year. There are rarely less than 40 boats on my start line. On any Saturday, or midweek twilight, there is rarely less than 15 boats on my start line. I’m into Lasers in a big way because I love big fleet one design racing. How do we have such successful big fleets? All part of the magic of the Laser formula, but a big part of this is that it’s super easy to get involved. I know people in Sydney who have ordered a brand new boat and were sailing in it the next day. Delivered to the club and on the water in 24 hours. When I got into the sport there was a dealer who sold me a second had boat. His advice and support made the plunge into boat ownership as easy as it could be. I later bought a brand new boat and traded in the second hand one. The old boat was picked up, a trade in given, and the new boat delivered. I still to this day receive excellent support form these dealers. Despite family commitments and a horrific work schedule I get to enjoy a lot of hours on the water – most of my friends from Laser sailing would be quick to agree the advantages of the service offered.

    Of course the class association also take a cut of my hard earned dollars. Is this money well spent? I’m sure I could write a long list of things I would like our class association to do better. But, as someone who is involved in the organisation of sailing, I understand all too well just how much volunteer effort is required to run regattas. In fact, if I look at my total expenditure on sailing over a year, the association membership and regatta entry cost are almost negligible, but they provide the best racing of the season.

    Our sails do indeed need modernised. But we all know that work in this area is happening and the sails will be replaced eventually. When it happens I would hope there is no further change for a long, long time. Any change has to be the right change. I would rather the ILCA take as many years as they want to get this right; pushing through a change that is not 100% right for the class just to appease some members who want immediate action would be the worse course of action imaginable.

    So maybe next time the 1 minute gun goes, and the adrenalin builds as the worlds most successful one design packs in for another start, take the time to pat yourself on the back. You helped make this happen. The money you splashed out to get to the start line has also directly contributed to the success of the class, and you’re now benefiting all over again. Now that I think of it I’ve got a bargain. Steal of the century. Try to see past the fact the sail is just a piece of awful cloth. You’ll feel way better and enjoy the experience much more.
     
  18. torrid

    torrid Just sailing

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    No, of course I think the sails should be one design. The way the class sole-sources the sails was initially an attempt to be fair and keep the class simple. However, it seems to have evolved into a monopoly which delivers an over-priced product of inferior quality (does anybody dispute either of these facts?).

    In the other classes I have sailed, you went and shopped sailmakers when it was time to buy new sails. The only other class I can think of which may sole-source sails is the JY-15 class (I think). Competition among sailmakers should give Laser sailors better prices and quality for their sails.

    I realize that multiple sailmakers presents other problems. You get into Brand X vs. Brand Y vs. Brand Z, which takes away from the one-design aspect of the class. And with more sailmakers, more time must be devoted to sail measurement.

    Let me clarify that I am talking about sails only - the disposable part that tewtops1 points out. Multiple vendors for hull, spars and blades would only create hardware wars.
     
  19. tewtops1

    tewtops1 New Member

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    well, that was a good warm fuzzy reply......but if the world/national/regional ...champs are sailing on new sails...that says alot
     
  20. suthera

    suthera Member

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    Which is funny as I’m usual a right cynical *!#$. But I love my sailing, and credit where credit’s due - we’re actual on to a sweet thing.

    Yup – champs are on new sails. Don’t really know what that says. Winners are well prepared? When I bought my brand new boat the local dealer set it up exactly like the current world champs boat, and told me all about how this champ would have his boat set up (he also provided this champ all of his sailing kit). That money spent on that tatty rag hanging from my spars is looking like pocket change now.
     

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