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

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

  1. AlanD

    AlanD Former ISAF Laser Measurer

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    Torrid, there are two separate issues you are raising.

    The quality of the cloth, stitching etc is an issue with the class technical committee, it has nothing to do with the sail makers as they merely build the sails to the requirements the class specifies. Change here is required and it's been an on going project, as they are looking at more than just the sail cloth, but also the cut.

    The issue of cost is associated with the sail makers, boat builders (PSA, PSE etc), the dealer network and to a very small extent royalties paid to the class, probably ISAF and those who own the licenses (Bruce Kirby? etc). The cost of the sails it seems has almost nothing to do with the ILCA. Potentially a level of the supply chain could be eliminated by permitting the dealers to purchase the sails direct from the sail makers, or by each part of the supply chain taking a smaller profit, or increased competition amongst sail makers. However, none of these will be able to achieve the type of price reductions which people want so that the replica prices are matched.

    Eliminating the builders from the process will mean that order sizes are smaller, so bulk discounts are eliminated, freight fees are increased etc, so the prices won't change much. Smaller profit margins would probably be the most significant help. Increasing competition amongst the sail makers might provide a small change in price, but most of the costs are associated with the length of the supply chain. Intensity Sails have a short supply chain, your dealing directly with the manufacturer and they probably make the same profit margin per sail as Hyde and North. Further, Intensity doesn't pay any royalties to the class, ISAF, license owners.
     
  2. michael_s_garman

    michael_s_garman New Member

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    We are a new fleet.

    People buy inexpensive older boats because they provide a low cost of entry into the class. With a replica sail, they can be competitive and not get overpowered in heavy air without spending more on a sail than the hull is worth. We had one member buy a complete boat for $343!

    Once active in the class, some of these people may purchase a new Laser.


    The grassroots of the class needs Replica parts!
     
  3. Tillerman

    Tillerman Member

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    It's not really surprising that newcomers to our class are confused about what are and what are not legal sails. After all, the official website of the North American Laser Class regularly displays ads for two of the major suppliers of "counterfeit sails". Surely it is only a matter of time before someone shows up at a Laser regatta with such a sail and says, "It must be legal. I bought it via the class website."
     
  4. jeffers

    jeffers Active Member

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    There is a lot of talk in this thread about regattas sailors and the 'grass roots'.

    I would say (and this is just my opinion) that there are a lot more people sailing Lasers world wide who do not regularly attend regattas (this could be considered your 'grass roots'). These are the people who will tend to use the replica sails (I do include myself in that) because for them (as long as their club permits it) there is absolutely no incentive to purchase a class legal sail for £350-£400 when they can get a replica that is generally more durable for £150-£250 depending on their choice.

    Now were the builder prepared to open up the supply chain to delaer (to remove some of the steps) the volume of genuine sails purchased worldwide might actually increase. If I could get a genuine sail for the same (or similar) price as a replica I would purchase it.

    My problem, like many others, is that they cannot see where their hard working cash is going.

    I have sailed in many classes and know a lot of sailors in other classes. A class in the UK that has recently has a lot of development in terms of rig and sail is the Phantom. They use mylar film sails, there are a multitude of cuts depending on your weight yet a mainsail for a Phantom will still only set you back £500 or so. For that you get a sail that has undergone a lot of development, is using the latest materials and (more importantly) if properly cared for will last you 2-3 years.

    Now as I have already mentioned Laser Performance in the UK have started offering fleet deals on genuine sails and people are getting large discounts so perhaps they are waking up to the 'replica' market and seeing their volumes drop of significantly (simple economics, supply and demand).

    Roll on the sail development program I say, then maybe attitude will change (as long as the price to the end sailor is not stupid of course).

    Paul
     
  5. dredies

    dredies Member

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    I seem to remember that when Intensity started out, they approached the ILCA to become a licensed producer of sails but were turned down.

    I can well appreciate the one design aspect, and do not envy Tracy's position in all of this. However, throwing barbs because the sails are produced in China seems a bit out of place when the North production is in Sri Lanka, a state that has been accused of various human rights violations. Let's just keep the argument to the fact that ILCA is trying to keep a strict one-design.

    I still consider myself new to the Laser class, but I have been buying (and will continue to buy) class legal sails for the last 5 years. I also buy Intensity sails for club racing, and have recommended them to all sailors I talk to.

    IMHO, ILCA and the builder's network are getting a nice big piece of the pie, supported by everyone attending larger events. These are the folks that are getting the benefit of the class association, and to whom the one design aspect has an appeal. Most of the sailors that start club racing in Lasers at our club couldn't give a hoot about how many boats were on the start line at the Nationals or whether their equipment would measure in. They need to buy equipment, and want to learn to sail the boat.

    The builder's network (and the ILCA) are facing a decision: continue to make the same margins off a portion of the market, or reduce their margins in an attempt to regain some of the business they are currently losing. Either is probably viable, but a heavy-handed approach is likely to just increase the backlash.
     
  6. IntensitySails

    IntensitySails Member

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    Against my better judgement, I would like to respond to certain claims through this thread.

    First of all, I do have bricks and mortar! I have employees and a warehouse that is heated and cooled as well.

    Second, The disclaimers on my site were worded and approved by the Attorneys for Laser Performance. (Vanguard at the time). I have no control over that.

    Third the erroneous claim that my sails are "faster" The truth has to stand on it's own with so many of my sails out there.

    The comparison to the Optimist class is valid. I also produce Optimist products using my usual pricing model. My Optimist race sails are class legal and sell for $250 & $259 or about half of the price of the other brands. I do pay the class royalty. I use the same level of sail cloth as well. Our Air Bags are also half their price at 3 for $49.99. Our Opti sails for sailing programs are $89.99 each in either lace on or sleeve styles.

    Our 420, Daysailer, JY15, Flying Scot, Sunfish® and CFJ sails follow the same pricing model. Sailing programs around the world have them in use. Our sails & Products fit their budgets.

    We also produce class legal products for the laser. We just introduced a carbon tiller at $139. A new compass set up for the Laser at a total including the compass of $81.98 and all up weight of 12 ounces.

    Our $19.99 Hiking strap has also been very well received. Our $69.99 Foil bag, $14.99 winter sailing gloves have also been well received. My point is that this is not just about sails. I have tried to innovate and make top quality products at lower prices. My goal is to make sailing less costly and more inclusive.

    I did offer the class a royalty when I started. I will do so now again!! I am a Laser® sailor. The health of our sport is important to me as well. The more growth at the grass roots level where people rebuild an older boat at low cost. The more people will get hooked and trade up as they can.

    That said I am personally sorry that our class volunteers, like Tracy, are put in the awkward position of policing the regattas. Class measurers do this in many classes and no one likes to be told that they cannot use equipment they have purchased.

    I have thought that the Laser Class may want to adopt the Green fleet approach that the Optimist class uses. There are no measurers and no awards or trophies. It is meant to allow beginning racers a chance to race at regattas and try it on for size. In order to move up to the Red, White and Blue Fleets they understand that there are different standards. The regatta registration fees are the same for both groups.
     
  7. dredies

    dredies Member

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    Thanks Jim, for wading into the discussion, for the quality products you are producing, and for your continued support to the class. I have enjoyed all of the items I have bought from you and have always found that your staff has worked hard to provide exceptional service. I will always remember how you rushed to get my spray top in time for the North Americans when the first one shipped had short sleeves :)

    I think it says a lot for your organization that you not only help to sponsor this forum but have regularly contributed to the discussions as well. Thanks again, and I hope continued success for you.
     
  8. IntensitySails

    IntensitySails Member

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    Thank you for the kind words and your business. They are appreciated.
     
  9. michael_s_garman

    michael_s_garman New Member

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    As a Laser fleet captain, I consider it my responsibility to inform members of our fleet that they will need official sails and parts for anything but club racing.

    Some of the old boats that people find have missing parts. There is a $500 Laser in our area with no spars. A set of official spars would cost more than the boat.

    We also have a member that is selling a 1973 Laser and buying a brand new 2009 Laser.
     
  10. ALJM

    ALJM New Member

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    I have purposely stayed out of the mix for a day or so to see how the string would develop. Specifically, I have avoided responding to a few direct shots as others weighed in on the invalid line of thinking in the shots and called the baby ugly when it was. However, a few folks have stuck to a theme that is disturbing to say the least, namely that we should blindly accept a bloated supply chain and the absolute need for a dealer network the way it is currently set up, and therefore shutup and pay the bloated price for your sail or go to another class. While I applaud that writer's astounding ability to survive the last 10 or so years with his head buried in several feet of sand while the whole business world snuck past him on the way to either rationalizing their supply chains or dying, I don't think the Laser class, both the sailors and the vendors really want to go down that road. The monopoly might hang in there a little longer, but sooner or later the deck of cards will fall and the backlash will be rather painful! Far better for the manufacturers to get in front of the wave and drive the inevitable changes the way they want it to go down.

    Bottom Line:

    * Someone will always find a way to make a process more cost effective then it is right now.

    * As the business owner whose process it is, you can do it yourself or wonder why the orders are starting to dwindle!

    * While their will always be a few ostriches willing to take it in the *ss for the sake of the status quo, the seeming injustice of the thing will start to grate on the rest until even those who prize an orderly system are willing to risk change for either the economic imperative of the issue or because they are sick of being taken advantage of!

    * The proposition of stepping up to be a class officer will be an increasingly distasteful one to those who believe that the current system isn't the only or best way to maintain the integrity of the class and still bring best value to the members. People will see it as dishonorable to be stuck in the middle and put in the position of "protecting" the vendors in the name of the staying in licensed gear.

    Imagine the combined effect of the "Laser Type" system and the green fleet scenario that Jim suggested! Now it's possible to sail at almost every regatta except perhaps the big championships with a an old $300 hull and everything else is replica!! Spars, blades, sales.......Even worse, imagine if the sailmakers were retarded enough to try to make up the lost volume by increasing their margins at the sailor's expense!! Now they piss off the hardcore loyalists of the class who stood by them and the only schmos sailing in the official side of the regatta are the handful of olympic hopefuls and some former class measurerer from Oz who recreated himself as a pricing consultant!! Somehow, I don't think the boss is going to renew that consulting agreement!!
     
  11. BJ09

    BJ09 New Member

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    There is something fundamental here which has not been raised. Laser is a registered trademark. If people want to sail a laser using replica gear and call themselves a laser then they are in breach of that trademark. If clubs offer prizes and use the laser name on championship boards for lasers using replica gear then they are breaching the trademark.

    If you want to race anywhere using replica gear then create another class association for anybody who wants to sail a boat that measures as a laser but is not supplied by laser. Then you can get everything cheap. Fake hulls, spars, sails etc. You can create your own handicap and start getting sails made that will get you around the course faster than your mate.

    The last thing I want to worry about is whether the other boat might be sailing faster than me because they are using a different sail. This applies to North and Hyde as well.

    Laser is about the sailor not the gear. Yes, laser quality control is not perfect and gear from different suppliers does vary somewhat but at least I know what I have got myself into.

    Losing a club race because someone has a sail which might be 30 seconds faster just makes a joke of the whole laser philosophy. I am sure that replica sails are also being used in district events as well. Is this condoned and is it OK until cubes get handed out for replica gear.

    I'm sorry but if a laser isn't laser then its something else!:(
     
  12. michael_s_garman

    michael_s_garman New Member

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    Replica parts or not $530 is too much for an official Laser sail.

    Why the ripe off?
     
  13. gouvernail

    gouvernail Active Member

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    If laser sails were what they are supposed to be, the high price would not be an issue.

    The laser sail has always been priced a tad higher than other simnilar sails but the builders and sellers of those sails have hstorically used their " Excessive price tax" funds generously to promote the game of laser sailing.

    Over the last seven years, the builders have done less of a job promoting the game of laser and the Assocaition has taken support funds from suppliers of formerly unacceptable equipment. The class has promoted the purchase of non builder supplied equipment in the class magazine and on the class website.

    Tracy is totally out of line with his assertion the "counterfeit equipment is not welcome." He is the president of the association whose publications made us aware of the availability of those products.

    I believe teh non class legal equipment is dmaging to teh laser game.

    I do not think it is a gfood adea to allow non class legfal equipmewnt in ANY laser activity.

    I will not deliver a dissertation about my reasoning but I will remind you we HAD the world's largest fleet and worlds largest regattas while stricctly enforcing our rules.

    Locally, people can buy Force Fives, US 1s , Cyclones, Copperheads and other similar boats and bring them to our laser races. Those "not a laser" hulls are just as unwelcome as "not a laser" sails and "not a laser" pulleys.

    Thiose who believe you are buiilding your local game by basterdizing it simply fail to understand that which I am convinced I KNOW.

    The make it up as you go along rules for laser fleets system being used by the NA laser class gives no confidence to anyone.

    people won't even buy a $600 sail because..."there is a cheaper one available".

    The answer should be, "It may be cheaper but I can't use it so it's useless."

    if the game and its management were not sick, the $600 sail would be a bargain and the reason for owning it would be obvious.

    With real laser equipment, you get to play the wonderful game!!!

    Step one: Let's have the Laser Class promote the game of laser and not the sale of boats and parts that are not laser.

    Let's use teh association as teh tool it acn be such that our purchase of a $600 sail or $7000 new laser is more cost effective than the purchase of a whatnot 14 and a whatnot 14 sail.

    Allowing any old boat to enjoy the laser game will end the one design laser game.


    Sorry Tracy...You need to toss out the ads before you complain that they are effective.
     
  14. SFBayLaser

    SFBayLaser Member

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    This is a great thread and I wish that I had more time to spend on this right now... but the next few days are, at best, hectic.

    Anyway, with respect to Fred's post, in this I agree that you are 100% right.

    Many years ago, when a particular company first started advertising in TLS they sold (and continue to sell) a great many pieces of Laser gear that are a) legal, b) useful, c) at a good, low price (and, though this shouldn't matter, the guy running the company is a really good guy). They also sold practice sails. At that time there were other advertisers, in particular Vanguard Dealers, who also sold practice sails - though, importantly, they didn't directly advertise these in ads in TLS. It was difficult to not seem rather inconsistent by allowing advertising from some companies and not others based on a product both sold. And, importantly, at the time copy parts were not the issue they are now. In fact, most practice sails purchased at the time were either really used only for practice, or bought by people who weren't racing, or bought by institutions (e.g. hotels in the Caribbean).

    The ILCA-NA Executive Committee at that time arrived at a compromise which was to allow the company in question to advertise in TLS but only on the condition that they did not advertise their sails, but rather their other, legal, parts.

    Fast forward to the current time:
    1) Vanguard convinced their dealers to not sell copy parts
    2) The advertiser in question, through aggressive marketing in other media, has developed brand name recognition, so that his name is synonomous with sails
    3) The advertiser is now selling more copy parts than the sails
    4) We now have a growing problem with copy parts

    On the website, the ILCA-NA Class Office has, to date, never attempted to control what appears in the google ads in the right column (which is why you sometimes see ads for Laser Hair removal). As it was set up, there are supposed to be 4 small ads appearing there but I guess that its possible for aggressive advertisers to purchase, from google, the full column and frequency.

    I agree with you that the standing policy is long overdue for review... and, in fact, it is under review where currently we are looking at all the advertisers in TLS to see which are selling non legal equipment. Again, if there is a change in policy then it must be applied consistently to all advertisers.

    Hindsight is always 20-20, but its hard to see how we could have had a consistent policy back then that would have not excluded a good many other long time advertisers.
     
  15. Deimos

    Deimos Member

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    Difficult one. I also strongly believe that a Laser should be a strict one design and thus the knock-offs should be dis-allowed at any level. However, were I then forced to decide to have a race me against another Laser (because we were the only two legal boats) or me in a fleet of 10 where 8 were using knock-off sails then I would probably chose the fleet of 10 as the knock-offs don't give the others any real advantage.

    But is that actually the choice ? Some people sail to very limited budgets and they maybe rely on the knock-off pricing. However, I suspect the majority of Laser sailors only sail at club level and thus, if a club allows knock-offs then they will get them because they are cheaper. Thinking about my own club which allows knock-offs (decided before I joined), I reckon that everybody there could easily afford class legal sails (even at UK prices) and that this would not impact their lifestyle at all. Of course I don't know their incomes/bank balance but there at quite a few other local clubs where the membership fees are a lot cheaper and where Lasers are also sailed. Certainly some have both class legal and knock-off sails. Knock-offs used at the club (as they are allowed) thus saving the class legal sails for regattas and thus they last a lot longer.

    I life we all have limited budgets and do what we can to achieve the best with them. Maybe some would end up buying 2nd hand class legal sails, maybe manage with the out of shape sail a bit longer, etc. So often you see somebody with a really old boat and totally blown out sail will a race because they are good at sailing (not at regatta level but certainly at club level).

    Maybe it is the clubs allowing these sails that is encouraging they widespread adoption. Maybe the ICLA should start pressuring clubs to disallow such sails (e.g. a club cannot hold a Laser Open Meeting (Regatta) if its normal rules allow Knock-offs).

    I don't have any real answers but would prefer it were we all to be class legal and would prefer larger fleets and hope that these are not direct conflicts.

    Ian
     
  16. ALJM

    ALJM New Member

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    I am hearing BJ09, Gouv & Tracy but I just can't agree on the suggested methodology to get us all back in class legal gear! And NO, the ILCA folks have done no wrong in allowing "other" folks to advertise on the website with the result being the large scale proliferation of replica gear. Per my last post the issue would have reared itself eventually because not everyone will ignore a $400 price difference for the same sail regardless of how they found it.

    I am for class legal gear!!!!! I just refuse to believe that we need to pay ridiculous prices for it!! I stand with Michael when it comes to the grass roots growth of the class. Cheaper gear, whether it be replica or better priced legal gear, is the key to making entry into (and therefore growth of) the class affordable!! Isn't that why the Laser is now an Olympic boat?????

    Not a single Laser sailor deserves to overpay for a sail, spar or blade simply for the sake of staying one desgn and class legal BECAUSE it has already been proven that those items can be made to class legal standards for much less with vendors still making a profit!!!!!

    Bottom Line: The onus to fix this mess lies with the manufacturers and vendors; NOT with the class officers or members!!! Don't do it for them at both your and our expen$e!!! They owe you the class officers and we the class members better than that!!
     
  17. BJ09

    BJ09 New Member

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    OK, let's fix the cost issue.

    1. Do we want quality control of the sails so the days of checking 5 sails to find a "fast one" like the old days don't come back. That costs something.

    2. Do we want the builders to administer and control the distribution of laser gear in the various regions. That costs something.

    3. Do we want the dealers to carry stock and have gear available when we need it. That costs something.

    Try turning up at a laser regatta with non legal gear and the excuse that I broke it yesterday and the replacement part hasn't arrived in the post yet. This costs something.

    Try sailing at a regatta, any regatta with competitors who want a one design fleet, and put up with a measuring process checking the branding of every piece of equipment.

    Many people sail Lasers because of the simplicity, ease of competing and true one design principles.

    Once upon a time there was a market for 2nd hand sails. This reduced the costs of buying the new ones. The mid fleeters and tail end charlies used to think that a decent 2nd hand sail was better that an old blown out sail.

    Now they can get a new replica for the price of a 2nd hand sail. That means my 2nd hand sail is worthless, and that just increased the cost of buying new sails.

    Finally, the replica's are not replica's. Just like the Hyde and North sails used to be different so the replica's are different as well. Unless the club states that only one brand of replica sails can be used someone will just find the fastest replica they can until the rest of the fleet gets upset that someone is "buying" speed.

    Has anyone measured a replica sail? Has it been laid out and actually measured? Too much work? That is something else we accept as laser and I for one am willing to pay for.

    So ALJM, tell everyone how you want to change things. Do you want regatta measuring, no dealers, Hyde and North selling direct and expect the builder to make no money when supplying a sail with a boat.

    Monopoly is some of the answer, how do you want to solve the rest?
     
  18. jeffers

    jeffers Active Member

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    @ Deimos

    Sorry Ian but the ILCA (and ISAF) have absolutely no influence over what classes of boat a club can sail and they certainly cannot influence if a club decides to hold an open event. They may choose to refuse to endorse or advertise such events but this, in my opinion, would be counter productive and would be seen by many as 'big brother' using a 'big stick' to bring club in to line.

    As for the comment about everyone in your club being easily able to afford the cost of a 'genuine sail' when required I would like to know where in the UK you live. I am live in Cambridgeshire which is a relatively wealthy area of the country and I can say with a reasonable amount of confidence that 75% of the fleet at my local club could not afford to replace their sail once a year (which is what is generally required) with a genuine part but can with a replica part (and the more important part is they do not feel like they are being ripped off).

    @ DJ09

    One of the criteria we have is that the sail must 'measure' the same as a standard Laser sail and use the same battens. If someone wants to use a 'replica' that has not been seen before then they are told it will be checked against a genuine sail. If it does not 'measure' against that then it is not allowed. Most of the replicas (or practice or training sails) are pretty much identical to the genuine parts because there is no point praticing or training with a sail that does not perform like the genuine article.

    To qualify the statement above made about people being ripped off this attitude is changing as the attitude of Performance Sailcraft Europe is changing. The builder (at leat here) has realise that sales of replica parts (mainly sails) is hitting their volumes and are trying to do something about it. It is a shame they are not doing what they should do which is drop the price across the board rather than only make it for 'bulk' orders.

    This thread has stirred up some good and contructive debating, it seems there are 2 definite camps and very little middle ground. There are those that say 'live and let live' and there are those that say 'genuine only'.
     
  19. AlanD

    AlanD Former ISAF Laser Measurer

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    Would you care to provide this proof? The replica sails are being made from a heavier grade cloth and cheaper cloth, that does not meet the current class specifications for sail cloth. Yes, the sailmakers of the replica sails can make a sail that looks like a legal laser sail, but the physical properties of the sail are different.
     
  20. jeffers

    jeffers Active Member

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    Here in lies the crux of the problem. North and Hyde have to have the cloth made specifically (different cloth for each).

    Intensity (IMO) have proven that a heavier and more durable cloth can be used and it does not affect overall performance. The sail does trim slightly differently than a genuine sail but once you get used to that it is no faster or slower.

    I am hoping that as part of the sail review that is being carried out they are also looking to change the cloth to one that is available on the open market as opposed to a class specific cloth (anyone 'in the know' able to comment?).

    I know the cloth was commercially available when the sail spec was last changed but times roll on, the class has in the past changed the cloth (were the original sails not a 3.2oz cloth?).
     

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