The cost of misinformation
As an ILCA World Council member, I am alarmed at some "news stories" in the The Sailor's Voice (Facebook), specifically those posted by Jean-Pierre Kiekens. His comments seem to be an attack on ILCA and, by extension, on me and other fellow members of the World Council. An example is:
"The mistrust between EurILCA and ILCA has actually led to an online petition calling for the resignation of ILCA’s leadership, including the class president and executive secretary. Both have ignored that call for resignation and have continued with their long planned strategy to have new builders and possibly change the boat name."
ILCA does not oppose any of the current builders continuing to build Lasers. The overwhelming majority of representatives (who elect the President and appoint the Executive Secretary) fully support them continuing in their roles. A name change will only be required if the trademark holders fail to reach an agreement to allow new builders use the name - the existing builders can still use Laser. And the class needs new builders to satisfy World Sailing's policy, and as a key strategy to not just build the class, but to build the sport of sailing and particularly in regions with high growth potential.
Mr. Kiekens has been very selective with his sources, and it is clear to me that he has not fact checked. The end result means that an already overstretched ILCA World Council needs to work harder to undo the misinformation that Mr. Kiekens is spreading.
Here is my response to some of JPK's statements from his July 3rd, 2019 article: “Laser & the Olympics: More and More Drama with World Sailing Deadline Looming” (black font JPK statements, red font my comments):
The announcement of this vote came just after LaserPerformance and the Laser class ILCA announced this June 30 they had reached a new trademark agreement for the use of the name Laser and the Laser logo at regattas. Many observers thought it was a greatly positive step towards a resolution of the crisis, but it wasn’t. Actually, ILCA’s position is that the 1998 trademark agreement between LP and ILCA was set to run in perpetuity and there was no need to change it.
Reaching the trademark agreement is a completely separate issue to the effort to get the three trademark holders/builders to reach agreement on FRAND and remain the Olympic equipment. Moreover, in the agreed-to document, LP finally removed their demand over the last few years to amend rather significantly the 1998 agreement by increasing their control of the trademark use. It was an unacceptable agreement to the future of the class and Laser sailors the world over. The agreement reached just recently effectively maintained the status quo with the trademark usage. It is also worth commenting on your remark that it is “ILCA’s position that the 1998 trademark agreement was set to run in perpetuity”. It wasn’t a “position”, as there was no termination or expiry date stated in the agreement.
The rationale of the vote is to undo the control LaserPerformance and its sister company Velum have over the Laser via trademarks in most of the world, including Europe, North America and South America.
This is incorrect. The rationale for the vote is to have the option to unbrand the boat if the builders (now only LP/Velum) do not come to agreement. The other two builders have agreed and are ready to meet World Sailing’s deadline and effectively guarantee being retained as the Olympic singlehanded equipment for both men and women. It is worth noting that ILCA does not desire to undo any control that Velum has over its Laser trademarks, but rather the vote allows for a pathway that does not use the Laser trademark should the holders not come to agreement.
Remember, on March 27th, the international class ILCA terminated LaserPerformance as a builder, despite the risks of shortages of boats globally, with LP producing over 80% of the production of Lasers world-wide. Note that while LaserPerformance was terminated as a builder, ILCA did not suggest there were any technical or non-conformance problems with the LP Lasers.
You’ve skipped over why they were terminated as a builder. It was for a major and on-going breach of the LMCA.
While discussions between the key parties (World Sailing, ILCA, LaserPerformance, Performance Sailcraft Australia, etc.) continued after the May 22nd London meeting, little progress was achieved to reconcile the European Laser associations, federated under EurILCA, and the international class.
Correct, little progress has been made by LP in agreeing to the licensing agreement, as the other two builders have. Two of the three TM holders have publicly said that a “yes” vote would help with negotiations. ILCA is working to correct misinformation, which is at the core of the current difference between EurILCA and ILCA.
No progress towards reconciling the European and international views seems to have been achieved since, on the contrary, and the current statement by EurILCA is a clear reflection of the mistrust that has built over the past months.
Yes, it is curious why there is “mistrust” from the EurILCA perspective. All World Council members, including the three from Europe, continue to be kept informed on this issue, with a group update conference call taking place just yesterday. I can confirm that they have been kept informed simply by checking my email Inbox and conference call record history. Nothing has been kept from the European representatives.
The mistrust between EurILCA and ILCA has actually led to an online petition calling for the resignation of ILCA’s leadership, including the class president and executive secretary. Both have ignored that call for resignation and have continued with their long planned strategy to have new builders and possibly change the boat name.
Naturally they ignored the call for resignation. The entire World Council (other than perhaps the Europeans), including regional chairs from Asia, Africa, Oceania, North and South America, have been in full support of our class president and executive secretary. It’s interesting that the two European representatives did not respond to requests for their position on this absurd resignation call. Why was it absurd? Because it was an online petition in Europe only that ended up receiving about 600 or so signatures, if I'm correct. Many of those signing did so because they were against a name change and said so in the comments. This compared with over 9000 votes of a similar petition to keep the Laser in the Olympics – something that the ILCA World Council is working hard to do. A “yes” vote will support that.
While this seems to be a European affair, the main beneficiaries of sidelining LaserPerformance via this class rule change are probably found in New Zealand and Australia, with Global Sailing and Performance Sailcraft Australia eager to access the world market for Lasers. Another beneficiary would be the Japanese builder Performance Sailcraft Japan.
I spent this past weekend with the General Manager of PSA, who was in Canada and sailed in a Masters regatta here. Chris confirmed that PSA is hopeful to see LP agree to the FRAND licensing document so that we can all be assured of remaining Olympic.
EurILCA has long been critical of the kind of alliance that seems to operate between the international class and the Australian builder. This is an unfounded statement. I have been on the World Council for 6 years and have not seen any sign of an “alliance”. There is a good working relationship between ILCA and PSA, I think this is because they are reasonable people. ILCA has been firm with PSA when it has been necessary, as PSA must of course observe the same strict standards as all builders must.
ILCA’s involvement with Julian Bethwaite out of Australia - also controlling the 49er -, to develop new rigs, to replace the 4.7, Radial and Standard by the so called C5, C6 and C8 rigs, also contributed to the mistrust, as most European Laser class reps were unaware of this collaboration and also of its scope (thought to be limited to the C5 rig only).
This is not true. The C5 rig was first presented at an ILCA World Council several years ago, with updates presented at subsequent meetings, and with attendance each time by the EurILCA reps and an LP rep. Additionally, the C5 is not intended to replace the 4.7. The C6 and C8 rigs have been mentioned only in passing, as to my knowledge nothing of substance has been presented on these concepts and the status of their development by the private entities. It should also be noted that if the C5 is ever introduced by the class it will be done so using the established procedures for introducing changes to the class and its rules.
Remember the President of the Laser class stated in a video that emerged in mid-2018 on YouTube that there was no future for Lasers with white sails. On the video, Lasers sailing with the new C5 rigs can be seen with sails featuring the letters ILCA and not the Laser logo.
The ILCA letters should not have been on the C5 sail in the video, and ILCA was not consulted and did not agree for the C5 developer to do this.
But since you brought up the subject of developing new rigs, here’s a little tidbit for you. Many people saw the video of the “ARC” rig, developed in private by LP. LP provided the World Council with scant information on its development progress, and the LP rep at the most recent World Council Meeting (Nov 2018) claimed they were thinking of abandoning it. That’s why we were all somewhat surprised when the video was released, but even more surprised when we learned LP had submitted the ARC rig to World Sailing as a candidate for the Olympic singlehanded dinghy sea trials and selection. It’s was rather incredible to me that LP would do this without informing the World Council about its intentions.
A process to protect the trademark for the alternative name ILCA, via a Delaware corporation named « WeatherHelm » was started in secrecy in 2018 by the international Laser class. ILCA is now a registered trademark for sailboats for the whole of Europe, and very close to be one in the US.
Yes, and this was a proper and prudent move recommended by legal counsel. It is disappointing to hear claims from some Europeans that WeatherHelm was established for ILCA commercial (i.e., revenue generating) purposes.
Also contributing to the mistrust has been the issue of the « Aussie Lasers » and the fact that neither the membership nor World Sailing were informed of the non-compliant boats produced by Performance Sailcraft Australia.
This subject has been well covered and explained by previous information releases by Tracy Usher and submission to World Sailing.
European sailors mostly sail on LaserPerformance sailboats, and some results at international regattas may have been affected by the use by some sailors of PSA non-compliant boats.
With LP refusing ILCA’s Chief Technical officer to inspect its factory and boats over several years, how do we know LP boats have been compliant? Regardless, there has been no known or proven advantage between different builder's boats, and at World Championships boats are supplied by the same builder. Previous to 2011, LP used to supply all boats to major events, however in recent years has pulled back from doing this and relies on dealers to supply charter boats.
The last attempt to change the Laser name, in that case for the « Kirby Torch » and to sideline LaserPerformance, ended up in court and was unsuccessful. While this is about 5 year old, the court case is still ongoing.
This is misinformation. What court case are you referring to regarding a name change? During this time, ILCA released plaques and inspected LP's premises to ensure that boats complied with the strict one design principles. ILCA was also a respondent in that legal action and emphatically rejects the notion that the case was about “sidelining LaserPerformance".
We have heard many times now from EurILCA reps that “they don’t want to change the name from Laser”. I can assure them that nobody on the World Council wants to change the name. The name would be changed (or better said, simply not used for the boat) only if required to remain Olympic due to LP not signing on.
ILCA intends also to require steep fees from builders - US$100,000 annually, according to ILCA president Tracy Usher. This is down the US$200,000 that were initially considered.
It is important to state that the fee is not “for ILCA”, but is to place funds into a royalty pool for the current trademark owners/builders to share on a representative basis. Any final decision on fees is subject to the negotiations still taking place, and based on the number of boats built.
And if LP is officially re-instated, with their already amortized building facilities and their trained manpower, which builders will dare competing with them, including on the European market?
If it ends up that an interested builder assesses the situation and the potential market and economic as not being not a wise investment, then they simply won’t compete. Note that the key regions of focus will be the area that have not received good supply (e.g., NA, SA, Asia).
And the timing of the vote is also an issue, as the full month required by the class rules may not be respected.
The class rule will be respected.
With the ongoing distrust, the issue of having independent parties to verify the voting is also being raised, as under the current system, ILCA is in charge of receiving and counting the votes.
The vote will be completely valid and fair, of that I am certain.
And all of that has to be done nearly in real time, as the vote runs until July 31. Initially, there was talk of about a week to process the votes, but this is not possible any longer.
Not true (see Tracy’s recent statement on this).
For example, the European sailors may vote mostly for the No.
And they may not. We remain hopeful and optimistic that European Laser sailors and throughout the world can see that a yes vote increases the chances of an agreement reached by the trademark holders, with two of the three TM holders publicly pushing for a yes vote. Only a “yes” vote secures the Laser class for the 2024 Olympics. Significantly, EurILCA do not have a position (referred by some as an “insurance policy”) if the TM holders do not reach an agreement.
North American members may mostly opt for the Yes too because of the supply issues, which are supposed to be resolved with the appointment of new builders.
Yes, it is true that there have been significant supply issues in North America and other regions, as it seems LP is not interested in meeting the demand. A yes vote means that new builders can be appointed in those areas and meet the demand for Laser and parts.
I attended a club level event yesterday in North America. Very experienced sailors doing an evening series. It was real Laser sailing. The kind of authentic Laser sailing that disappeared unfortunately in many places, including in Montreal, where the Laser was born.
You have mentioned more than once in your blog about the decreasing Laser activity in the Montreal area, yet it appears (from my discussions with active Montreal sailors) that you haven’t offered to volunteer to help turn this around. A year ago I contacted and encouraged the great folks at Beaconsfield Yacht Club (Montreal) to host the Canadian Laser Nationals. They came through and put on a great event this past May with 55 boats entered. It was interesting that you did not even drop by at the club or sail in the regatta (and join the class association). I note that you have a child that races a 4.7, who would have been welcomed to sail in the regatta. Now you would likely say that this was because there were only four 4.7’s entered, but should that matter? Your son could have sailed in the Radial fleet, as it was a light air event.
But this vote may not be that important after all, because ILCA’s plan may actually be more a fairy tale than a real strategy, as it entails substantial legal perils.
ILCA is always in search of sound legal advice. If you are privy to any, we want to hear. In reaching its position ILCA has received legal advice (and at very reasonable cost), which does not match what appears to be your subjective opinion.
So whatever side you take, like in a nasty divorce case, a negotiated settlement usually offers the best, or least damaging, outcome.
I first joined the ILCA World Council in 2012. During my time as the North American chair I have been impressed with the conduct of the ILCA in what has been described as one of the most challenging periods in its existence. The number of emails and phone conferences is impressive. Meetings are held, proper minutes are kept and the Laser class is run much in the way you would expect of the most popular Olympic sailing class in the world. We are in regular contact with not only Farzad Rastegar, but also his senior managers. Until April 2019, Laser Performance were on the ILCA World Council, so they received much of the same information that I have, and had the same opportunity to make submissions. The decision to dismiss LP for not allowing inspections was not one taken lightly, and could have been made in early 2017. The decision to move forward with the rule change vote was based on making a contingency plan in the event of the three TM holders not reaching an agreement. All three TM holders were at the meeting in February 2019 when that decision was made.
Moreover, recently the WC was in complete agreement to have a EurILCA rep (not a member of the WC) negotiate with Farzad, and although some progress has been made success has not been achieved as yet.
When one of the parties to a vote organizes the voting, can one expect it to be fair?
For an answer, check the voting form that ILCA has put on SurveyMonkey. Instead of simply mentioning the rule change and asking a Yes or a No vote to the proposed rule change, ILCA has included all its one-sided argumentation and slogans in favor of the rule change, i.e. in favor of the Yes. The No is not offered any space to make its case. This is a far cry from acting in a neutral manner. Such bias in the voting process would not be allowed in any democratic process at any level.
Why is the voting page set up this way? It’s because in ILCA World Council vote this past February, with members having plenty of time to consider and discuss the proposed wording, the rule change was overwhelmingly approved by an 11 to 2 margin (one of the two no votes was LP's), including the unanimous approval of all six ILCA Regional Chairmen. With effectively full ILCA approval of a Yes vote, yes, we are going to promote what we strongly believe is right for the class – a Yes vote! The ILCA World Council, on the basis of years of negotiations and attempts to provide a solution have put forward a solution. The ILCA World Council is now asking, as required by its own rules for the ILCA membership to support them in this decision.
Note that Europe’s Jean Luc Michon and Alexandra Behrens voted for the rule change in February, but have since changed their minds. JL has cited “poor communication” and “being mislead” as the reasons for his position change. I can confidently state, in my opinion, we definitely have not had poor communication and he has not been able to explain precisely how he has been misled.
It's sad to say, but, irrespectively of the merits of the Yes and the No, this looks very much like a rigged voting process. And this was prefectly avoidable.
This is an egregious and offensive statement. And perhaps you can explain how the vote would have been avoidable, and it would also be good to hear your solution if the TM holders/builders do not reach agreement over the next week or so?