My name is Andy Roy, and I'm the NA Laser Class President and a member of the World Council. I started sailing Lasers in about '74, and have raced in five Laser Worlds and seven Masters Worlds events. I have followed this thread from time to time over the past years and there has been some excellent discussion and debate, but unfortunately also some posts that are inflammatory and/or include unsubstantiated remarks. As a target of your criticism, "Gouv", I feel obligated to respond and hopefully I can provide a little more insight for you and others about the Class Association (albeit from my perspective). I attended my first World Council meeting this past October in Dallas, where I was able to better get to know each of the WC members, some of whom I've known for quite some time. I was also able to get a good understanding of the workings of the class and of the many responsibilities. Here are a few of my observations:
- In any group, team, committee, etc., it is more than likely at least one member will be a pain in the rear. The WC does not have one of these. I left the meeting impressed with every member of the WC, including the three builder representatives who, perhaps remarkably, seem to me to get along very well with each other. Throughout the 3 days of meetings there was an excellent spirit of co-operation and consensus. The meetings were professionally co-chaired by Tracy and Eric, with obvious advance preparation by both. (The only unusual thing about the meetings, however, was the need for the group to take an inordinate amount of bathroom breaks and also a mid-aft nap break, since just about all of us on the WC qualify as old farts.)
- The Class is in good financial shape and class membership levels have been fairly stable.
- The new sail introduction, although long overdue through no fault of the Class Assoc, is great news and more technical developments and progressive rule changes are in the works.
- The Class probably has the top person on the planet for the job serving as its Class President. I have the utmost respect for Tracy. He is an active racer, has true passion for the class, makes reasoned arguments and decisions, and class members are being extremely well served by TU.
- Similarly, we are being well served by Eric Faust as our Exec Sec. Eric has extensive class management experience and he will respond immediately to any question any class member wants to ask him. He's solid and I really can't say enough about him.
- The WC members voted unanimously to establish a new position to enable Jeff Martin to stay aboard on the WC. That's how valuable we think he is. The work he has done for the Class, starting I think in 1975, has been amazing and he continues to provide valuable contributions and work effectively with the not-so-easy-to-work-with ISAF/World Sailing organization on behalf of the class. Moreover, I doubt there are two better PROs anywhere than Jeff and Hugh Leicester (another WC member) to run our World event race courses. Jeff has been the PRO at (I think) every Laser Worlds since 1976!
- Thinking more about what Jeff and Eric have done and continue to do, there is really no other class that remotely compares to the Laser in terms of what has to be organized on day to day, year to year bases. Other classes typically have one annual world championships to plan. Laser has numerous World events held in far flung places around the globe: Open, Youth Radial, Masters, Women, etc. .... and all which require careful contract negotiations with the host site and also arrangement and transport of charter boats to/from each of these events. Moreover, over the past several years they've had to deal with the added complication and distraction of the Kirby-LP legal dispute.
- If anyone who follows this thread somehow believes the WC or any member of the WC has been favoring either party in the dispute, I have news for you. Nothing could be further from the truth. From the beginning it has been the WC's objective to remain absolutely neutral in the dispute between the commercial parties, and in the meantime continue to put forward its best efforts in keeping the business of the class operating well. I read a recent post here, hopefully it was a joke, about Eric making a pact with Rastegar F. from LP. If that person only knew how absurd that is.
- The Class continues to see strong participation at many events. Is there another sailboat class where I can step on a plane with one checked bag, arrive at a beautiful sailing venue, such as Hyeres France, cut away the plastic on my brand new charter boat that's identical to my boat at home, and proceed to race in tough competition on superbly run race courses against 86 others in my 10-year age group with a total of 499 competitors out on the water? What class is in second to the Laser in this regard, I ask?
- Are numbers growing like they were in the hey day of the class? Of course not. With demographics against us and when kids can go kite boarding or do other trendier activities, it's tougher to attract young sailors. But that by no means the situation is dismal! The 4.7 to Radial to Standard rig progression option for kids is fantastic. At the recent Orange Bowl youth regatta the Laser Radial fleet easily met the 100-boat entry limit cap. At the just completed Youth Worlds in Malaysia the Laser Radial Boys and Girls fleets saw, respectively, 66 and 54 entries (one entry per country). In comparison the largest fleet in any other class (420, 29er, RS-X, etc.) was 33 in the Boys 420.
- Could the Class be doing more to promote Laser racing? Perhaps, but remember that promotion costs money. For example, we'd love to update the NA Class website, but this will cost money that's difficult to allocate from the budget (budget figures available on the web site, and suggestions or recommendations are welcome).
- In addition to my comments above about the WC, on the NA Class Association front I also can't say enough about the job done by our Exec Secretary, Sherri Campbell. Along with Jerelyn Biehl they do a tremendous job on the behalf of class members. Again, I believe we are being well served.
So Gouv, if you think the World and/or NA Class Association is "not doing its job, and (we) need to step aside and drag young enthusiastic people into the class management", I would be pleased to "pass the torch", as you suggest. Hell, at 58 I'm definitely in the "ancient / old fart" category as you point out, so I'm way, way past what you would approve of as being suitable for the Class. So let me suggest that you or any other class member encourage anyone interested in serving on the NA Class Exec to contact Sherri. I'll resign and we'll put the youthful candidate(s) up for election. Problem solved and we can prevent Laser sailing "from being killed", as you opine.
(I'm also curious how you arrived at the declaration that 1000 people every year don't take up Laser sailing because of the "pathetic" job we in the class association are doing?)