The Laser 5000 was originally designed as a potential Olympic boat for the 1996 Games, but narrowly missed that event and has since been superseded by the much lighter 49er.
But there's no doubt that the Laser 5000 was originally a grand prix racing machine. With hull lines drawn by Phil Morrison, it's essentially a simple craft with few frills or complications. Combined with the one-design concept this bought twin-trapeze performance to large numbers of people for the first time.
The 5000 also went a long way towards introducing two other staples of the modern UK racing scene: an equalisation system of adjustable racks and correctors that removed - to a large degree - crew physique from the winning formula; and the sponsored race circuit run by the manufacturer, rather than more traditional clubs or classes.
With her vast sail plan, the Laser 5000 performs in light winds, achieving full upwind planing in just five or six knots of breeze. But even in 22 knots towards the end of our test - admittedly aided by supercrew Andy Hemmings - things were never out of control.
The madforsailing team found plenty of features that scored highly. The rudder was well balanced, while mainsheet, cunningham and kicking strap all fall easily to hand and render the rig superbly controllable. The 2:1 jib sheet proved easily adjustable even if highly loaded.
We were also well impressed with performance. Once the kite is up, all that remains is to get to the windward side and strap in for the ride of a lifetime.
All the major components and fittings, along with the boat itself, are top quality and maintenance should be minimal. The rig seems strong and secure. The sails were the subject of an enormous amount of development work and were impossible to fault on our test boat. They are strong and should last a long time.
We did observe a few faults, the strings in the back of the boat tended to look like a bird's nest if not well organised. Turning corners was quite tricky, requiring good co-ordination and confidence from both crew and helm. In any breeze, the kite can only be hoisted by bearing away onto a run.
When full-on reaching the daggerboard in the review boat buzzed loudly enough to be heard in our chase boat, itself near to full throttle and not exactly moving quietly. In some respects the boat is intimidating to sail, with its huge rig, massive acceleration, and wide wings. Practice is needed - this is not a boat for the weak or feeble.
These downers aside, those looking for competition will find it in the 5000. The Laser race circuit provides plenty of action throughout the season, aided by the Audi sponsorship, with events both here and abroad.
Having said that, the glory days are probably over. The Laser 5000 was an important boat for the development of the modern dinghy scene in the UK, coming after the Iso and further defining the elements that make up what we now know as the manufacturer one-designs. But if it had been 50 kgs or so lighter, it could have been a definitive boat in the global dinghy scene. The switch from prototype to production took the edge off the boat's performance and the 5000 failed in its push to become an Olympic class. History records that the final step was taken by the 49er, which so delighted the crowds in Sydney harbour.
Ease of Sailing
Looked at on the shore, the Laser 5000 can be an intimidating piece of kit, with its huge rig, twin trapezes and wide wings. It's not an unreasonable reaction either, but practice certainly helps. As Andy Hemmings - no stranger to high performance trapeze boats - commented, the second sail is a lot easier than the first.
One of the apparent difficulties is getting out onto the racks, but once we'd tried this we found it no problem for sailors of average height. We were left wondering how more 'vertically challenged' crews (with longer racks) would manage, though in practice, increased agility would probably prove adequate compensation for shorter legs.
Upwind in a straight line, the boat is relatively easy to sail. A well balanced rudder provides fingertip control, while combined use of kicking strap and Cunningham renders the rig superbly controllable, with additional mast rake adjustment available before departure in the form of Stay-lok adjusters on the lower shrouds.
As with most high performance boats, it's turning the corners that will present most of the problems. The 5000 is not a difficult boat to tack, but it does require confidence and co-ordination from both crewmen. The trick seems to be, as you might expect, to start the tack reasonably fast and exit more gently. Once the boat slows, control is reduced and the problems begin.
As for turning the corner to go downwind, in any sort of a breeze, hoisting the kite can only be accomplished by bearing away onto a run. Downwind sailing in itself is not a difficult art to master. But getting stopped and started can prove troublesome, especially if the spinnaker is allowed into the water.
In general, communication between the helmsman and crew is on a more equal footing than is the case in single trapeze boats, and team work is the key to performance.
Those used to sailing high performance boats with spinnakers should find the transition no real problem. Anyone without high-speed trapeze and spinnaker experience thinking of transferring to the class would be well advised to hone their skills in these areas before setting foot in a 5000. Fortunately everything works smoothly, but make no mistake - this is not a boat for the weak or feeble.
Adrian Jones from Laser is probably right when he says the boat should appeal to the accomplished club sailor - provided the word 'accomplished' is properly emphasised.
Systems and Layout
Aside from the rig and foils, all the major components can be transported in a fully-assembled state, keeping the time taken to get from the trailer to the water to a minimum.
Stepping the tall mast is facilitated by pinning the keel fitting to the step with the mast lying horizontally out over the stern, attaching the shrouds and jib, and pulling up on the spinnaker halyard.
The jib furls easily on a Harken roller unit and rig tension can be adjusted using what is a difficult to work purchase on the front of the mast. It's easy enough on shore; not so easy afloat.
Once out on the water, other controls that fall into the nearly-non-adjustable category include the outhaul - mounted under the boom, and the daggerboard - buried under the spinnaker bag. Given the high apparent wind speeds and wide angles sailed downwind, neither of these is likely to present a problem.
The principle mainsail controls - sheet, Cunningham and kicking strap - all fall easily to hand. Though lacking a ratchet block, the 2:1 jib sheet proved easily adjustable if highly loaded. But the back of the boat does require good housekeeping if the mainsheet cleat is not to become the centre of a bird's nest.
The boat is well engineered to prevent dramas in the spinnaker work downwind, with every control working freely; even the pole outhaul - often a problem in bowsprit boats - runs smoothly. The vast crocodile of a spinnaker bag with its boom-mounted elastic opener takes some getting used to, but once mastered proves highly effective.
With her vast sail plan, the Laser 5000 is a performer in light winds, achieving full upwind planing in just five or six knots of breeze. As the wind increases things become even more interesting, though never on our test (in up to 22 knots) were they out of control. The hull lines drawn by Phil Morrison are moderate in every respect: static stability is more than adequate with no discernable shortcomings at speed.
Upwind she purrs, while downwind it's a question of hooking into trapeze and foot straps and hanging on for the ride of a lifetime. Fast and furious though the 5000 is, it clearly has no aspirations to be the ultimate speed machine. Durability, cost and one-design status have been put before pure speed and, it must be said the boat is none the worse for that.
Construction follows the well-established Laser philosophy of using a mixture of woven and chopped glass reinforcement materials in a solid laminate of polyester resin. The deck is similarly constructed, with the addition of a foam sandwich core.
All the major components are from well-established suppliers with Laser themselves building and fitting out the hull, Proctor supply what looks a strong and secure rig, while Hyde make the sails. Fittings are from a variety of sources, all of them top quality and, apart from the rudder assembly and daggerboard, no fault could be found.
Sadly, the lower rudder fitting on our test boat failed while we were sailing. The rudder stock itself was a non-production item, but the parts that failed, the bolts securing the lower gudgeon, were all standard. As befits a company of Laser's stature, the problem was quickly resolved.
The foils, like the hull, were from Laser's own factory and constructed in female moulds. Our test boat was clearly suffering from some problems here. When full-on reaching the daggerboard buzzed loudly enough to be heard in the chase boat, itself near to full throttle and not exactly moving quietly.
The sails were clearly the subject of an enormous amount of development work and were impossible to fault on our test boat. The mainsail is constructed from a relatively heavy Dacron/Mylar material and with five full-length battens should last indefinitely. The material even looks strong enough to contend with a crewman in high-diving mode.
The jib is made from 5.5oz Dacron, and although the loads are undoubtedly high, judicious use of the roller-furler to prevent flogging should maximise the time between replacements. A similar theme is pursued with the spinnaker which is built using Polyant Elastic, a material renowned for its long life, high performance and ease of handling.
Our test boat appeared well put together and maintenance should be simple and limited in quantity. While heavier than an all-sandwich boat, the 5000 scores on durability.
Quality of Race Circuit
In its heyday, the weight equalisation system, Audi sponsorship, one-design status and Laser organisation made the 5000 race circuit second to only the Olympic classes. With TV coverage still in place it still lays claim to grand prix status with a major event every month through the summer, and a number of mainland European events as well. But in truth the real glory days are over, the pros have moved onto the 49er - but that's no bad thing for those of us who have to hold down a real job.
Value for money
With its grand prix glory fading like the looks of a black and white movie star, a new 5000 doesn't represent the value for money it once did.
Rant - Put simply, it's too heavy
Rave - First to bring twin trapezing to the man on the Clapham Omnibus
|Beam||1.90 - 3.05 m|
|Weight||135 kg (fitted out hull weight)|
|Sail Area||21.16 sq m + gennaker 33.0 sq m|
|Ease of sailing||40%|
|Systems and Layout||60%|
|Quality of Race Circuit||70%|
|Value for Money||70%|
Banbury, Oxon, OX16 5TL, England
Phone +44 (0)1295 268191
Fax +44 (0)1295 273682
Class association: www.web9906.vs.netbenefit.co.uk/class_assoc/laser5000/index.html