From Doodle to Kirby Torch
Affectionately referred to as "The Million Dollar Doodle" Bruce Kirby sketched this car-topper sailboat which he then took to the drawing board for completion. The boat was introduced to the world in late 1970 as the Laser. With more than 210,000 boats built and fleets in 141 countries, it has become the most popular racing sailboat in history.
Bruce's "car-topper" got off to a fast start, becoming an IYRU-recognized international class in 1974. Then in 1983, the original builder went bankrupt and rights to the design reverted to Bruce Kirby Inc. Not a boat builder himself, Bruce struck agreements with new builders throughout the world and the international governing bodies to rescue production of his popular racing sailboat.
Under these agreements, builders paid a royalty to Bruce Kirby Inc. in exchange for the right to manufacture boats according to Bruce Kirby's sailboat design and uniform Construction Manual, and to affix a plaque on the hull of each boat featuring Bruce Kirby’s name and trademark, and a unique hull/sail number.
The plaque confirms that the boat was built according to the Kirby sailboat design and is authorized by Bruce Kirby. Only those boats manufactured under the various builder agreements and bearing the appropriate plaque were entitled to race in events sanctioned by the international governing bodies.
This system worked to the mutual benefit of the builders, the international governing bodies, Bruce Kirby, and sailors worldwide for almost 30 years until certain builders decided to breach their agreements by, among other things, ceasing royalty payments. Notwithstanding their breach, these builders continued using both the Kirby sailboat design and the Bruce Kirby name and trademark.
After exhaustive negotiations failed to resolve the continuing unauthorized manufacture of Bruce Kirby’s sailboat design, Bruce Kirby Inc. took the carefully considered step of terminating the builder agreements in Europe and North America late in 2012. The decision was not an easy one to make, but Bruce had been through a similar situation back in 1983 and the continued deterioration of the class and sailors' best interests demanded action. Bruce Kirby Inc. considers boats made by the terminated builders and distributed under the Laser brand to be without his authorization and therefore counterfeit.
Early in 2013, Bruce Kirby Inc executed new builder agreements and rechristened his beloved "car-topper" the KIRBY TORCH. This new chapter of his venerable racing sailboat design looks every bit as promising as the period following the last upheaval in the class some 30 years ago.