The International Laser Class Association (ILCA) is a self-administered, self-funded international organization that provides coordination, organization, and communication for the class worldwide. ILCA is like a worldwide sailing club specifically for owners of ILCA sailboats and people interested in sailing them.
ILCA’s objectives, which are set out in its Constitution, are:
- Protect the one-design principle.
- Promote and develop ILCA racing in all countries under uniform rules.
- Provide a medium of exchange of information among ILCA sailors throughout the world.
- Encourage and foster the enjoyment of the sporting and recreational aspects of sailing.
On the local and national level, these objects are put into practice by hundreds of volunteers around the world who work all year around in sailing clubs, offices, and even sailing federations to organize class events spanning from club regattas to training camps to national championships.
On the international level, a dedicated ILCA office coordinates the international racing calendar, organizes ILCA world championships, liaises with national and international authorities, publishes the annual ILCA handbook, manages the class website and social media, and works together with the builders to protect the one-design principle.
1. Protect the one-design principle.
One important job ILCA has to do is protect the one-design rules: When the ILCA sailboat was first introduced, a set of rules were drafted which, at the time, were very different from other existing classes. The rules for other classes listed a number of prohibitions which led to developers trying out new ideas if the idea was not specifically prohibited. The result of this is that quite often, older boats became outdated with a subsequent loss in value. The ILCA Class Rules are different in that they prohibit ANY changes unless the rules specifically allow a change. This means that a 10-year-old boat is the same as a brand-new one and as a result, holds its resale value far better. ILCA plays an important part in keeping the class rules strictly one design by preventing changes and providing a measurement structure that maintains the one design.
One aspect of this is to work closely together with the manufacturers and monitor their production to make sure the one-design principle isn’t devalued by manufacturing changes. The construction specifications for the boat are controlled by an agreement between the manufacturers and ILCA, with oversight from World Sailing, which must approve all changes to the specifications.
2. Promote and develop ILCA racing in all countries under uniform rules.
The amount and quality of literature available to an ILCA sailor is high compared with other classes. Many districts and fleets publish regular newsletters and email updates to keep their members informed of class activities. ILCA produces a high-profile website and maintains a strong social media presence to keep sailors around the world up to date on a real-time basis. In addition to the electronic communications, ILCA also produces an annual handbook that contains the ILCA Class Rules, Constitution, By-Laws, age policies, and other important information related to the class. Publication of the printed quarterly newsletter, LaserWorld, ended in 2016 at the suggestion of the Chairman of the European Region.
3. Provide a medium of exchange of information among ILCA sailors throughout the world.
The ILCA office deals with correspondence and communications from individuals, fleets, sailing clubs, district committee members, national yachting authorities, the World Council, World Sailing, and the various manufacturing plants – in fact, anything concerning our class!
ILCA is working for each individual sailor, no matter where they are in the world.
4. Encourage and foster the enjoyment of the sporting and recreational aspects of sailing.
Whatever reasons made you become an ILCA boat owner, they are all results of activity. ILCA plays an important role in promoting and maintaining this activity and keeping our class at the top of the sailing world for both sailors and sailing authorities. The ILCA office, together with the regional and district officers, ensures a strong and healthy future for the class.
The ILCA office is responsible for coordinating and organizing world and other major championships for the class. Of course, these events are only of direct interest to a small group of sailors. However, the organization of top-quality championships has an effect on all sailors. The qualification and training for major championships can only take place at lower-level regattas. This results in increased participation at lower levels, which in turn attracts more people to the class. Standards that are set in sailing, racing, and organization at the international level filter down throughout our organization.
For administration purposes, ILCA is divided into four main levels of activity, each with elected volunteers:
- International (World Council): The World Council operates like the board of directors of a company. They are responsible for directing the work of the association and maintaining its objectives as they are expressed in the association’s constitution. The World Council consists of the president and vice presidents, the chair of each region, the executive secretary appointed by the World Council, and two advisory council representatives. Our World Council is truly international, currently consisting of officers from five continents – all of whom are active sailors and, between them, have a wealth of experience spread over all levels of sailing.
- Regions: These are groups of districts and fleets, usually on a continental basis. Regional activities are coordinated by officers elected by the district representatives.
- Districts: These cover larger geographic areas of varying size and normally conform to national boundaries. Districts are usually formed when there are a number of sailors spread throughout a geographic area. In North America and Australia, districts are single states or amalgamations of states.
- Fleets: Small groups of sailors (up to 50) normally sailing at a club or clubs near each other. Fleet members elect a fleet captain to coordinate their activities. A fleet would normally be formed within a district.
With over 215,000 hulls built since it was first conceived and active class associations in over 120 countries around the world, the ILCA dinghy continues to serve as the boat of choice for a single-handed sailing competition.
Strength in Numbers
At just about every club where people are racing sailboats, you will likely find an ILCA dinghy. And with so many people sailing ILCAs, you can find good competition almost anywhere you go.
Because of the strict one-design emphasis of the class, it is certainly among the purest forms of sailing competition available, where it is the skill of the sailor and not the equipment that will determine the winner.
These two features work together to help sustain the universality and excellence of the class.
So if you are looking for competition, the ILCA dinghy will deliver. If you want to be the best, you will need to sail against the best. And there is a good chance you will find them sailing an ILCA.
The 2016 Olympics: A Case Study
How widespread is ILCA sailing at the highest levels? When taking into account all the events where sailors could qualify their country for the 2016 Olympic games in sailing, 94 different countries had athletes participate across the whole spectrum of Olympic class boats. Of those countries, 85 were represented in the ILCA 7 (formerly Laser Standard) Men’s qualification process, and 69 countries participated in the ILCA 6 (formerly Laser Radial) Women’s qualification process, making these the two most universal classes among the 10 Olympic-class boats for the 2016 Games. In fact, the ILCA 6 represents almost twice as many countries as any other female Olympic class.