Buying an ILCA Dinghy

New boats

To buy a new boat, please contact a dealer in your region.

Used boats

Over 225,000 ILCA dinghies have been built. Most of these are still racing and can offer a low-cost way of experiencing the thrill of ILCA sailing and racing enjoyed by many people throughout the world.

Like most products, the value of an ILCA dinghy depends on the amount and type of use a boat has had. A one-year-old boat that has been raced 10 hours a week in strong winds and waves by a fit young man is probably more “tired” than a five-year-old boat sailed only occasionally in light winds.

There is very little that can go wrong with a ILCA dinghy. Most faults in used boats are a result of user abuse, an accident, or general wear and tear. The following guide may be useful in highlighting some of the more common problems that might be found in used boats. This guide is not a substitute for an inspection by a qualified marine surveyor.


All ILCA dinghies built by an approved builder will have a number embedded in the gelcoat of the hull, either under the bow eye on the deck or in the transom. In addition, boat numbers after 148200 should have a tamper-proof adhesive foil sticker in the back of the cockpit showing the International Laser Class (ILCA) sail number.

The hull is made from glass reinforced plastic (grp) with foam stringers. Inside the hull there is positive buoyancy, which will be either white polystyrene foam blocks (sometimes within plastic bags) or plastic air containers. These can normally be seen through the transom drain bung. The buoyancy can move around inside the hull and can sometimes be heard if the boat is inverted.

A hull that has been painted on top of the gelcoat is likely to have had more hard use than a non-painted one and will need repainting regularly to maintain an attractive finish. Look out for hairline star cracks as these are normally a sign of impact. Cracking might also occur around the centerboard box or mast step as a result of collision or bad storage. Normally gelcoat cracking will not affect the structure of the hull.

With the boat hull side up check the fairness of the hull. Bad storage with point loads can cause dents in the hull.

While the boat is upside down, check the glue join between the deck and hull for evidence of cracking along the join. Any cracks can be repaired by raking out the joint and re-gluing.

If a black plastic bailer is fitted to the cockpit drain it should lay flat to the hull and when the metal arm in the cockpit is pulled, the bailer should “snap” open. When the arm is pushed, the bailer should “spring” close. If there is a fault, a replacement bailer is easy to fit.


The checks applied to the hull should also be applied to the deck. After hard use, the deck foam can occasionally separate from the grp creating soft areas. Test with the palm of your hand, working over the deck and firmly pressing the nonskid areas. Pay particular attention to the side deck in the cockpit area. Soft areas will have a different feel to the rest of the deck.

Pay attention to the mast step. Wear and damage can take place at the join between the deck and tube, along the length of the tube and at the base. Use a torch to look down the tube. Later boats have a metal disc in the grp at the bottom of the tube to prevent wear.

Some owners put a hatch in the boat to air it or the hatch would have been put in for a repair. If the hatch is alongside the centreboard, it is probably for airing the boat. Open the hatch cover and with a torch, look inside for obvious signs of a repair. Pay attention to the mast step and mast tube. Any repair, if done properly, should not adversely affect the strength of the hull or deck.


The mast and boom should be straight. A slight bend in the boom is not significant. The biggest enemy of aluminum is corrosion. Check all rivets particularly at the gooseneck, the vang (kicking strap) fittings on the boom and mast, upper mast collar, and the boom blocks. Watch out for stress lines, corrosion, and/or cracks at these points. Loose fittings with corrosion will mean the spar has been weakened. The fittings can be removed and the spars end for end.


All sails for any boat lose their performance the more they are used. For racing above “club level,” most people will purchase a new sail every one or two years. For fun sailing, training, and non-performance racing, any age sail is sufficient, providing the stitching and cloth still holds together! Unfortunately it is impossible to measure how good a sail is. A general opinion on the look and condition is the best you can do.


Most centreboards and rudders are made from foam which is reinforced with steel wire. Any dents in the foam can be filled with car body filler. Chips can be repaired using epoxy or polyester resins with reinforcement. Remove the rudder blade from the head, and look for cracks caused by the rudder bolt not being tight enough. Also check the rudder downhaul hole for damage that might have been caused by the rudder grounding when tied down.

Check the aluminum rudder head for corrosion and security of fastenings. Also make sure the head is not bent.


This depends a lot on the condition of the boat and what is included in the price. A launching trolley (dolly) is very useful as is a top cover. Foil carry bags, bottom covers, roof rack, and spares can all add to the value and are certainly significant if you have to go and buy them new.



It is a question that comes up again and again, often from someone who has found an old hull that had been sitting neglected for some years and wants to give it new life. Or maybe you are planning to buy a used boat and you know the sail number and want some idea how old the boat is.

What year was this built? 

If you know the hull/sail number for the boat, you can likely find out the answer by reviewing the following table. (Please note that for several reasons, this table is not definitive or guaranteed to be accurate, but may serve as a reasonable guide for the approximate age of an ILCA dinghy.)

YEAR    Sail Numbers
1977      35265 – 42273
1978      42274 – 56277
1979      56278 – 72998
1980      72999 – 86490
1981      86491 – 93254
1982      93255 – 104928
1983      104929 – 112845
1984      112846 – 118022
1985      118023 – 123688
1986      123689 – 128595
1987      128596 – 132231
1988      132232 – 136322
1989      136323 – 139659
1990      139660 – 142789
1991      142790 – 145705
1992      145706 – 148322
1993      148323 – 152360
1994      152361 – 155822
1995      155823 – 158264
1996      158265 – 161382
1997      161383 – 164398
1998      164399 – 166270
1999      166271 – 168874
2000      168875 – 171536
2001      171537 – 173950
2002      173951 – 176694
2003      176695 – 179554
2004      179555 – 182213
2005      182214 – 185370
2006      185371 – 188573
2007      188574 – 192439
2008      192440 – 194846
2009      194847 – 197063
2010      197064 – 200309
2011      200310 – 202431
2012      202432 – 204542
2013      204543 – 206662
2014      206663 – 208458
2015      208459 – 210618
2016      210619 – 212235
2017      212236 – 214962
2018      214963 – 216182
2019      216183 – 217579
2020      217580 – 218359
2021      218360 – 220548
2022      220549 – 222993

Being able to date an ILCA dinghy in this way supposes that you know the sail number corresponding to the boat. For many years, this number has been printed on a plaque placed on the aft end of the cockpit. Although the plaque design has changed over time, the function has remained the same: identifying each ILCA dinghy as an IYRU/ISAF/World Sailing–recognized class-legal hull and specifying the sail number for that boat.

If there is no plaque to consult, the difficulty becomes a bit greater. A number of years ago, Shevy Gunter published some information about dating older ILCA dinghies on his website. Although that website is no longer active, it can be accessed through the internet archive. His FAQ page answers questions for quite a few different topics, but there are three in particular that relate to the question of identifying early ILCA dinghies (accessible through the drop-down menu of his FAQ page):

– How do I determine my sail number and boat year?
– How do I determine the age of a boat from the sail number?
– Who owns the oldest Laser afloat?