Boat supply Open Letter

gouvernail

Super Opinionated and Always Correct
Thread starter #1
Let me put on my hat as a past District Secretary, past North American Vice President, past certified Class Measurer, past Fleet Captain, past builder of similar one design dinghies, current sailboat repair business owner, for 37 consecutive years the host of the Easter Laser Regatta, the last person to serve as Executive Secretary of any growing North American sailboat Class of over 3100 members, and a guy who loves to play racing games on Lasers

Dear sailing buddies,
We have a problem. Our inadequate supply of toys is harming our game.
We need to begin the process of solving that problem.
We need a reliable supply of toys for our game.
Our monopoly supplier Laser Performance simply is not effectively selling its toys in North America.
“Why” is not an issue I care to address. It doesn’t matter to me.
We know the game we love to play has certain needs. The single most important need is a source of toys. New toys used to be available in my home town. Over 600 new Lasers were sold in Austin Texas before Laser Performance quit selling toys here. I don’t care why they stopped. I only care that we find a way to make toys available again.
The management of our local sailboat dealership has had bad experiences with LP’s reliability as a supplier and will not pay in advance to a supplier who has previously failed to deliver product. Our closest other dealer in Houston, 200 miles to our south has had similar complaints. If LP wants to re-enter the Austin and Houston markets, LP will need a new business model and LP will need to re-establish trust with our local dealers.
We need toys. Our game will die unless we are able to obtain toys.
The ideal solution would be LP suddenly deciding it is a simply fabulous business model to promote Laser sales through a well supported dealer network. This would include LP delivering product on time all the time on a COD basis or even financing floor plan product.
Ideally, LP wouid also financially support the racing game.
in the meantime, those of us who enjoy racing Lasers need to set up a situation where our game is no longer available as a hostage for a non-performing monopoly toy supplier.
The Laser Sailboat design is no longer something no one else can build. Like many drugs, others can manufacture and market an identical product as long as that other manufacturer does but call it by the trademarked name.
Those of us who race Lasers have always required “brand name” Lasers and parts. It was a convenient and prosperous relationship. We supported our brand name toy manufacturer and our Brand Name toy manufacturer supported our game. Recently it hasn’t been working well. We simply can’t get new toys. I don’t care why. I care that we solve our problem,
Solution step one: In order to defend against short supply by our “brand name” supplier and create options for obtaining toys, we need to remove the IP restrictions from our game.
(We can replace Laser with “Lasers and Class approved equivalent toys.”)
We can simply write up new rules and Constitutional amendments for our existing association. The removal of IP requirements would allow whatever options our new rules and amendments would describe.
As we have enjoyed the simplicity and convenience of “these guys built it and therefore it is welcome to play,” we could continue with a system of limited builder certification. (If we can entice builders)
Step one is to write up the proposals and get the voting process under way.
In the meantime, each one of us is getting closer to the end of our sailing careers and our game does not have a reliable, supportive, supplier of our toys.

Note: If our current monopoly builder sees our removal of IP requirements as as “a huge portion of our dis-satisfied clients going elsewhere” that company’s management may take the necessary steps to make us want to continue to do business with them.
and!!!
Without the self imposed “Stockholm Syndrome Inspired” rules and Constitution to keep us from finding a new supplier, our supplier would always be aware, “we must keep our customers happy or lose them.”
Let’s begin the process. Let’s write up the proposals, convince our fellow sailors on the World Council, print the ballots, and vote.
With appreciation for each of you,
Gouvernail


 

LaLi

Well-Known Member
#2
Gouv, haven't you read the sailing media (including this forum) lately? LP is effectively out of the game, and while the class rules won't be relaxed, we'll have in the near future multiple builders all operating globally to ensure equipment availability.

Anyway, interesting to hear how similar the "dealer experience" has been around the world. But they should soon be free from being tied to a single supplier.

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Rob B

Well-Known Member
#3
Hi Fred, Isn't this what the ILCA "powers that be" are currently doing? LP supply issues are nothing new in our area. As a result I have become the "e-harmony" of matching quality used Lasers with people. For our district that has worked very well. As for parts our district has loosened some restrictions on parts and sails. Pulling these two measures along with some "regatta merging" ideas together we have actually GROWN our district in the past year and a half. I believe these measures are critical to keeping the "class" alive during the drought of boats/parts we are experiencing. Now that the BIG wheels have been given some WD40 and are beginning to turn I'd like to let them do their thing. It's only been a couple of weeks since the boulder was pushed off the cliff. I have confidence, (along with some finger crossing) that the current actions will bring back the supply chain we have missed and needed for years now. I'd sort of like to stay out of the way and not muddy the waters for a little bit at least. But, that's just me....
 

thieuster

Active Member
#4
interesting to hear how similar the "dealer experience" has been around the world. But they should soon be free from being tied to a single supplier.
Indeed. Without this forum, I would not have known about the distribution problems in other countries! It's all 'off the shelf' here; 40 mins drive or a next-day-delivery webshop.

Sailcenter NL isn't the cheapest, though. There's always a lot of traffic of people and goods between the UK and NL. So we tend to ask around who's willing to go to the UK for a 'bulk buy' of Laser parts. We make a list of goods, pay the one who does the trip in advance and he/she orders all. Last year, I returned home with 6 carbon masts, 8 radial sails and 2 standard sails + general bits 'n' bobs at a 50% discount. Again, off the shelf.

Menno
 
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LaLi

Well-Known Member
#5
Without this forum, I would not have known about the distribution problems in other countries! It's all 'off the shelf' here; 40 mins drive or a next-day-delivery webshop.
One is getting the impression that this correlates with distance from the LP headquarters: Britain and Benelux have no problems, Scandinavia and the Baltics some, North America considerable ones, and South America is close to hopeless.

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thieuster

Active Member
#6
It looks as if you're right. Shipment costs perhaps? On the other hand, you can put a large number of hulls in a container and there's enough room for masts, sails etc. to the hulls. The costs of a container/ per boat won't kill a deal when purchase a new Laser in the US from an LP supplier.

When writing this: LP is also Sunfish-builder. Tons of Sunfishes in the Carib and the US. Are those also supplied by LPE? Or is there a local, non-LPE builder for these boats?

Menno
 

LaLi

Well-Known Member
#7
LP is also Sunfish-builder. Tons of Sunfishes in the Carib and the US. Are those also supplied by LPE? Or is there a local, non-LPE builder for these boats?
The numerous people from the Sunfish department here could of course give a more exact answer, but my understanding is that they have been built by the same North American supplier than the Laser and none else for the last 30 years. (Pearson --> Sunfish Laser --> Vanguard --> LP.) Actually, I don't think they've had multiple (simultaneous) builders since the days of Ten Cate's involvement in the class.

You may want to read (if you already haven't) the threads "Strange goings-on in the Sunfish class" if you want to know how LP has treated them in the recent past.

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torrid

Just sailing
#8
The 'fish has always only had a single builder. There have many similar looking lateen-rigged boats, most notably the Dolphin. There have been so many that "sunfish" has become a generic term for a small sailboat.
 
#9
3 years ago when I was trying to buy a laser sail I was talking with the manager of Annapolis Performance Sailing. They were out of sunfish and didn't know when they were getting them in. I don't know the currant situation but ILCA is doing the right thing. Firing LP and bring in a new builder.
 

thieuster

Active Member
#10
It will become very, very difficult to find a builder when next Monday's verdict (Aero vs Laser) is not positive for the Laser. Starting from scratch, knowing that all will end within 5 yrs is not something to consider for a bright and healthy business model.

Menno
 

LaLi

Well-Known Member
#12
The end of the Olympic status would mean the end of the class as we know it, and the builder/trademark/name issue would move into a new, completely unpredictable territory. If the RS Aero gets chosen for 2024, it means that the Laser has only little more than one year "left". Demand would decrease significantly, and there would be very little interest for a new builder to start.

(But is WS Council actually making the final decision this week? None of the many documents I've read really say it straight out. If they don't absolutely have to do it before November, I bet they won't.)

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AlanD

Former ISAF Laser Measurer
#13
May be in Europe, but I think in Australia and New Zealand (I suspect North America also) it would be beneficial. Club sailing and regattas would revert back to being for those with a passion for sailing rather than for over coached kids and a few Olympic hopefuls that use the rest of us as fodder and who get the coaches upset when we beat their charges. The ordinary sailors want to compete on a level playing field and that extends to how the boats get to the course, carrying food and drink and even tips on favoured sides of the course. When that doesn't happen, people don't bother turning up unless they are in the programs.

Personally I got sick of the youth squads turning up stuffing up the starts but pulling out of races part way round, to continue their training session and at the end of the day not helping pack up. No paying race fees, membership fees etc, but using the club facilities all week. It pissed a lot of members off.
 
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thieuster

Active Member
#14
Personally I got sick of the youth squads turning up stuffing up the starts but pulling out of races part way round, to continue their training session and at the end of the day not helping pack up. No paying race fees, membership fees etc, but using the club facilities all week. It pissed a lot of members off.
I haven't seen it happening here (luckily). I guess know that the first coach who tries this with his squad awaits a 'warm welcome' when getting ashore!
 
#15
Do folks think the laser getting Olympic status had any real impact on numbers at all?

Pre Olympics it looked like there was about 10,000 boats sold every 2-3 years, post Olympics it seems to be 10,000 every 3-4 years: Sail Number Age - Laser Sailing

I'd think there's more prestige and sense of accomplishment from a sailing perspective in winning a Laser World Championship compared to wining Olympic Gold. IMO it's way more difficult to win the Laser World Champs compared with beating the limited number of competitors at the Olympics.

There's more general public recognition with Olympic gold so that might be worth more to an individual with regard to sponsorship deals or being able to make a living from sailing professionally.

IMO, the top laser sailors will continue to sail lasers, those that have Olympic aspirations would likely sail both the Laser and Aero as it's a very simple transition. The top guys and girls sail more than just Lasers currently.

With tons of old lasers at clubs around the place, I don't see them going anywhere in terms of grass roots sailing, juniors will still have them available to mess around on and have fun
 

thieuster

Active Member
#16
Do folks think the laser getting Olympic status had any real impact on numbers at all?
Yes, especially the younger people with hopes and aspirations will not touch it again. They will go straight for the new boat. The remaining numbers will be down to recreational sailing or Masters who're used to this boat.

'd think there's more prestige and sense of accomplishment from a sailing perspective in winning a Laser World Championship compared to wining Olympic Gold. IMO it's way more difficult to win the Laser World Champs compared with beating the limited number of competitors at the Olympics.
True, but every single one of the top guys and gals aims for the Olympic. Those 3, 4, 5yrs campaigns all aim for one or perhaps two Olympics. Most take the WCs as 'halfway measurement'. The Olympics are a reward for years of hard work under the spotlight of cameras etc. More or less the only opportunity to show the whole world what you can. Apart from the Olympics, sailing, in general, is not something that attracts attention like football or ...
Participating and winning at the Olympics is far more rewarding than winning a WC'ship. One of my school friends won 2x gold and 1x bronze at the Olympics - rowing and won the World Title. I've asked him that question. For him, there was no doubt: Olympics.

IMO, the top laser sailors will continue to sail lasers, those that have Olympic aspirations would likely sail both the Laser and Aero as it's a very simple transition. The top guys and girls sail more than just Lasers currently.
I know that some British sailors do. But here in Holland, there's no sign of that. In fact, Aero only sold 15 boats thus far! (And I wonder if they will keep up with the demand once the Aero gets elected... that company is way too small to handle the demand). Here, 99% of all sailors with Olympic aspirations stay away from other boats. One has a Moth and one U17 sailor has Wazzp, but that's for fun only.

With tons of old lasers at clubs around the place, I don't see them going anywhere in terms of grass roots sailing, juniors will still have them available to mess around on and have fun
True. They will stay on the water for ages, especially when sailing schools etc will be able to scoop up the Lasers from people who have sold them to change to the aero (second hand prices will drop). Until the moment that every sailing school and recreational sailor discovers that the hull is stronger than a Laser's and that rigging is easier and cheaper. My guess: there will be an aftermarket for sturdier (= alloy) parts like masts and carbon. That way it's financially safer for sailing schools to have a fleet of these. Within 5 - 7 yrs, 50% of the recreational Lasers will have vanished. Look how things worked out for the Europe, the Yngling and the Elliot (Olympics 2012)... Extinct.

Forgot to mention: about 6 yrs ago, Dutch Yachting Association cancelled the 420 as one of the boats for an Olympic campaign (420 -> 470 or other double handed boat). They changed it for the 29'er and the RS. Within one year, no-one sailed the 420 anymore! There is literary not a single 420 on the water anymore. Boats are for sale for less than 500 euro and remain unsold. The road trailers they were stacked on have more value than the boats... Killing a boat as Olympic boat is the end.

Same goes for the Vaurien. My wife used to sail that boat - she went to 3 WC - unsuccesfully though). Once a very popular boat. Then nearly extinct. Nowadays more or less on the way back because of the easier rules: fat-boy sail, GPR hull, making it more 21st century. It's a prettier boat than an RS, but not a popular one, because it's not on the Olympic path...
 
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LaLi

Well-Known Member
#17
Pre Olympics it looked like there was about 10,000 boats sold every 2-3 years, post Olympics it seems to be 10,000 every 3-4 years
The number has been going down, very slowly, since the early 1980s. The peak years were 1978 to 1980, and it was market saturation and an economic downturn in those markets that killed the growth (of the growth!) then. The Olympic status came ten years later, and it didn't have an immediate effect either way. We can't compare the growth after that to a fictional non-Olympic timeline, but it's pretty damn amazing that any dinghy today is selling some 2000 units a year, Olympic or not!

I'd think there's more prestige and sense of accomplishment from a sailing perspective in winning a Laser World Championship compared to wining Olympic Gold. IMO it's way more difficult to win the Laser World Champs compared with beating the limited number of competitors at the Olympics.
This is the same argument that countless people have made over many decades, about all other Olympic classes as well. And it's wrong: the Olympics are special. Very special. Read Menno's post above for more :rolleyes:

What happens with old Olympic classes is that they revert to their pre-Olympic core markets, and may even have a long and relatively healthy "afterlife" in those. But new equipment isn't needed nearly as much as before, and although the Laser is somewhat of a special case (it was huge and global to begin with), I am afraid that demand would drop enough to seriously discourage potential new builders to pick up the baton.

But by next week we will know if we will know more.

_
 

Rob B

Well-Known Member
#18
LaLi. Do you think WS will take the vote now or delay until later?

Just and FYI- in the US the 420 is huge strong. 29er, 49er's not. The Yingling was a dead boat before the Olympics here and dead after as well.

I believe Lasers will survive either way, but will ultimately go the way of the Sunfish as all boats fade at some point.
 

AlanD

Former ISAF Laser Measurer
#19
Just remember that the ILCA openly resisted for about 15-20 years becoming an Olympic Class because traditionally becoming an Olympic class has been a death nail for that class.

The strength of the Laser class has been the result of the stability in the design, with only small well considered changes of the class rules. I fear all the recent changes with alternate rigs etc will upset the long term stability. The whole LP issue is definitely not helping.
 
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LaLi

Well-Known Member
#20
Do you think WS will take the vote now or delay until later?
They haven't given a straight answer, which indicates that they want to keep the option of not deciding before November. I understand that was the original plan anyway, but I think they'll give the ok now to the easier cases, like keeping the 470 (albeit as a single, mixed event) and the RS:X.

ILCA openly resisted for about 15-20 years becoming an Olympic Class because traditionally becoming an Olympic class has been a death nail for that class.
The Laser was first suggested for the Olympics in 1976, and it failed mostly because the then-influential Soviet bloc opposed the highly capitalist business model of the class. ILCA was a fairly new organization then and managing an Olympic class would have probably been too much for them at the time.

As for the "death nail", read my previous post. It's not that simple, and in the 1970s and '80s there wasn't even much of a "tradition" of former Olympic dinghy classes, yet.

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