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Forum Index: DISCUSSION: Dock Talk:
Trouble in college sailing
Team McLube

 



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Sep 24, 2012, 12:06 PM

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Date: Fri, 21 Sep 2012 16:31:40 -0400
From: Fran Charles To: Mitch Brindley
Cc: icsa@collegesailing.org
Subject: [ICSA] Open Letter Response

Dear Mitch-

It is with chagrin I have learned the news that you, as the President of ICSA, have signed an eight year contract with Laser Performance exclusively naming them as the only official boat builder at all national and semi-final college championship regattas excluding sloops. According to Article VII of the ICSA bylaws, The Board of Directors is the only authority which can make changes to the conditions of the National Championships and this agreement is categorically a change to the conditions. It is also a change to the Class Rules of the Collegiate Dinghy Class, which also requires approval of the Board. Therefore, as President you have entered into a contract purportedly on behalf of ICSA which you are not authorized to sign. It is wrong to assume, with no public debate or even public notice beforehand that this contract is in the best interests of college sailing. ICSA should immediately renegotiate the contract before LP ‘performs’ any of their services.

Furthermore, and more importantly, this contract is definitely not in the best interests of college sailing. Laser Performance’s inattention to the long term and immediate needs of some customers has created healthy competition for the collegiate boat building market over the past several years. This sponsorship agreement is a strategic move by Laser Performance to keep their competitors out of the college sailing market. If left in place, it will cripple the ongoing efforts to develop faster, more tunable, more durable, and more fun-to-sail boats for the future of college sailing as well as severely effect member institutions that have already chosen to buy from other boat builders who are responsible and responsive to the customer.

I am sure that your intentions were good but the process, legality, and substantive consequences of this agreement are all wrong for the ICSA and its member institutions. Because some of our members’ boats are not manufactured by LP, they are now required to purchase fleets of boats from a sole vendor if they wish to be considered a host for the nationals or semi finals. The LP agreement only requires the builder to provide boats for singles and the host schools must purchase their boats at whatever price LP decides to charge for dinghies, women’s, semis, and team racing.

There are many other schools who will make fleet purchases over the life of this eight year contract who will be forced to buy from Laser Performance, whether or not that equipment is the best value for their program’s needs. That is not fair, nor healthy for our organization. Fordham University, New York Maritime Academy, Columbia University, University of New Hampshire, MIT, Tufts University and all the schools using Performance Catamaran-built west coast FJs have invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in collegiate boats which are now excluded from hosting a championship. The Administration and Alumni of these institutions will understandably be very concerned about the exclusion of their school. Retroactively banning an institution from hosting an event based on their choice of equipment supplier is a blatant disregard for these schools. I am quite sure that you would not have inked this deal if your fleet at Old Dominion University would be subject to this ban.

As a Commonwealth of Massachusetts corporation, the ICSA is subject to some of the broadest consumer protection laws in the country. Laser Performance’s strategy to exclude competitors’ boats might constitute illegal anti-competitive conduct, and through your actions ICSA is now a party to Laser Performance’s plan. The 'confidentiality agreement' that you agreed to as a part of this contract precludes the member institutions from knowing even an estimated value of this contract that delivers the entire college sailing market to Laser Performance until 2020. What exactly is it costing Laser Performance to get exclusive rights to our market? There is no representation in any ICSA meeting minutes that are available about the negotiation or considerations of this agreement. Never was notice given to the membership that this was an item to be considered by the Board of Directors. This is egregious behavior which smacks of favoritism, Mitch. The lack of transparency by you and the ICSA BoD makes the membership feel suspicious of your motivations.

The need to have singlehanded boats for our championships is certainly a concern for ICSA. Though the singlehanded discipline is a tiny part of the collegiate schedule, it is a national championship that the members support. However, with US Sailing having now chosen to work with Zim Sailboats for their youth championship sponsorship with 420s and Bytes for singles champs, Laser Performance is in an extremely precarious position. They obviously view it as essential to have college AND high school sailing singles hosted in their Laser design. This agreement with ICSA does them a big favor. Granting LP the level of concessions that you did in this agreement does far more for LP than they are doing for college sailing. It is a very strange balance of our priorities. There are other options for ICSA’s singlehanded championship if LP is unwilling to work with us. Video production at our championships is an ICSA need but this is a tiny cost to a company which guarantees itself millions of dollars in boat sales over the life of this agreement.

By granting an exclusive right to host all of our national championships in LP-made boats, ICSA is making a long range commitment to stifle competition in the institutional market. Recently, the college sailing market has developed healthy competition from builders who could offer alternative manufacturing processes, improved spare parts inventories and service, and exciting changes in modern equipment like cored hulls with resin infusion, gnav vangs, reef points, and cassette style rudder stocks. In addition, improvements like 420 bow bulkheads, angled thwarts, integrated bow bumpers, and lighter rigs make our boats much safer, as well as more fun to sail. These changes have ONLY come from schools that have been willing to break away from the Laser Performance stranglehold. Now, ICSA is poised to make a long range commitment to the company who has repeatedly been unwilling to change anything until their market share is threatened by other builders who innovate.

There needs to be public debate, full transparency, and the ICSA should take very seriously its responsibility to hear every member school’s concerns with respect. As a college sailing director I am very concerned about this contract, the secrecy behind it, and the detrimental consequences it has on many of the ICSA members. It is wrong, unfair, and probably illegal.
--
Franny Charles
MIT Sailing Master


Jack Wood Sailing Pavilion
3 Ames St.
Cambridge, MA 02142
http://sailing.mit.edu/






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Sep 24, 2012, 12:08 PM

Post #2 of 11 (9964 views)
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From: Legler, Ken
To: Fran Charles, Mitch Brindley
Subject: RE: [ICSA] Open Letter Response
Date: Sat, 22 Sep 2012 03:22:42 +0000

I feel absolutely sick about this. All of our college nationals and semi-finals except sloops have been sold out to a sponsor. What am I supposed to tell recruits? "We don't have official college dinghies but they're kind of like college dinghies."

What happens with our past and future hosts such as MIT, NY Maritime, Tufts and Fordham? Are they supposed to dump their fleet of unofficial college dinghies on unsuspecting buyers if they ever hope to host? If only one builder is "official," what will prevent the price from skyrocketing?

I used to have tremendous respect and appreciation for Vanguard. Laser Performance not so much. But now that college sailing has decided that our Rondar boats are all of a sudden no longer legal boats for college nationals....with the investment we have made.....are we supposed to sell them now, buy "official" boats so we can someday be as good as the other teams? Next summer when I see LP boats while coaching 420 clinics or running 420 regattas, I'm not sure if I should be rooting for our exclusive builder or rooting with all my heart for them to fail.

For all the teams that do not own Laser Performance Boats, you have my full support in fighting against this horrible and divisive arrangement.

Ken Legler
U. Rhode Island
'77 Former Navy and Kings Point Coach
Tufts Coach since 1980
________________________________________




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Sep 24, 2012, 3:36 PM

Post #3 of 11 (9952 views)
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I spoke to ICSA President Mitch Brindley. This is what I learned:

Laser Performance (LP) is a long-time sponsor of ICSA, and the terms of a recently revised sponsorship agreement will apply to the 2012-13 season. In the past, the host of the Nationals received funds to help run the event if LP boats were used. The Nationals host could choose to use non-LP boats; they just would not receive the financial support.

However, the revised agreement between LP and ICSA, which was drafted over the summer, has removed this option clause, requiring college programs to make a choice. Either they buy LP boats, which are the most expensive option, and become eligible to host the Nationals. Or they buy their boats from another manufacturer, saving money but eliminating the school from being a Nationals host.

ICSA President Mitch Brindley defends the decision to revise the sponsorship agreement, noting that it provides a vital partner with needed exclusivity. Clearly, there are some communication issues within ICSA, not helped by their website which is in desperate need of attention.

Attached are the minutes from the Semi-Annual Meeting dated Tuesday May 29, 2012.


Attachments: 2012 AGM Minutes.doc (104 KB)


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Sep 24, 2012, 4:59 PM

Post #4 of 11 (9949 views)
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Mitch provided me with the relevant part of the championship host handbook that is sent to all future event hosts:

ICSA Championship Hosting Guidelines


College Sailors truly appreciate the hard work and dedication of championship regatta hosts. It is the goal of this hand book to help a host provide a fair competition at the championship level of the style, methods, and format expected by college sailors and coaches. Thank you for entering into this endeavor.

ICSA Sponsorship Guidelines for Championship hosts

In addition to the sponsorship guidelines listed in the ICSA Policy Manual, please take the following information into consideration in regards to corporate sponsorship of the ICSA and the ICSA National Championships.

It is of great importance to protect the interest of existing sponsors and present a consistent message from the ICSA and a consistent value for the sponsor’s dollar. The current sponsorship letters of agreement are all a little complicated and slightly varied. It is for this reason that the ICSA president be the point of contact for the ICSA and prospective sponsors. The packages offered by ICSA can be of greater value and are of national interest for the sponsor. Any initial leads should be presented to the president for follow-up and confirmation.

Current ICSA sponsors through 2012 are:
• LaserPerformance- Title sponsor of “ICSA / LaserPerformance Women’s National Singlehanded Championship” and the “ICSA / LaserPerformance Men’s National Singlehanded Championship.” (Note the name is spelled as one word with the L and P capitalized). LaserPerformance is also a “supporting” sponsor of the Spring National Championships. Official programs and all releases are to indicate that the events are “Supported by LaserPerformance Sailboats”. There will significant financial implications for the Association if LaserPerformance built boats are not utilized for the spring championships due to the current sponsorship structure. If LP boats built boats are not used, ICSA will not have funds available to support the events.

• Annapolis Performance Sailing- Title sponsor of “The ICSA / APS Team Race National Championship”. ICSA provided APS Team Race mainsails must be used, and CollegeSailing.org jibs.

• Sperry Top-Sider- Title sponsor of the “Sperry Top-Sider / ICSA Women’s National Championship. ICSA provided Sperry Top-Sider mainsails shall be used. Sperry will be onsite with a retail vendor. They have vendor pass through right which means that they can pass their rights to be onsite to one of their vendors.


- Craig Leweck, Scuttlebutt




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Sep 25, 2012, 12:01 AM

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Is that the same Sherri Cambell in your College Sailing Association as the one who has been involved in the Laser Association/rules affair?


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Sep 25, 2012, 6:29 AM

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In Reply To
Is that the same Sherri Cambell in your College Sailing Association as the one who has been involved in the Laser Association/rules affair?



Yes.

- Craig Leweck, Scuttlebutt


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Sep 26, 2012, 5:23 AM

Post #7 of 11 (9230 views)
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From Julie Ashton:
Thanks for laying out the sponsorship scenario that Inter-Collegiate
Sailing Association has created (in Scuttlebutt 3683). While requiring
schools to buy boats from LaserPerformance is clearly an aggressive sponsor
requirement, it may have succeeded if handled differently.

ICSA needs to communicate better with its members, and ICSA needs to
partner with companies that schools are eager to work with.

This sponsor agreement was not mentioned in the May meeting minutes, and
schools are only now learning about the agreement after it was finalized
this month. Additionally, schools can now choose other boat builders which
have succeeded in entering the market because LaserPerformance has been
difficult to work with.

ICSA leadership clearly misread their membership if they thought requiring
schools to work with a supplier for whom overall respect has dipped would
be well received. It will be worth watching to see if this eight year
agreement is upheld.


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Sep 26, 2012, 5:23 AM

Post #8 of 11 (9229 views)
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From: Mitch Brindley
Sent: Wednesday, September 26, 2012 2:15 AM
To: 'GTN/Michael Callahan'; 'H/Michael O'Connor'; 'Dave Elsmo'; 'Kyle Eaton'; 'Blake Billman'; 'COC/Greg Fisher'; 'danielle.richards@ussailing.net'; 'Samuel Hodges'
Cc: 'John Vandemoer'; Sherri Campbell
Subject: ICSA and the LaserPerformance agreement

Dear ICSA Board of Directors (Please share with the conference undergraduate directors),

I want to thank you for your patience in awaiting my reply to the recent emails and web postings that have unfortunately served to incite controversy and further misunderstanding. For the past five days I have been focusing on a pressing family matter and cannot devote the needed attention to the ICSA issue. I thank all those that have taken the brunt of the attack and have responded on my behalf, particularly the ICSA Executive Committee. The authors were misinformed, and it seems largely based the emails, responses and postings on assumption and innuendo. For me the emotional responses highlight the enthusiasm and passion that so many people have for college sailing.

Below are some facts as it relates to the sponsorship agreement that were misrepresented in recent emails, and sailing websites.

I. Authority to negotiate sponsorship agreements and claim of improper action of the ICSA President:

ICSA By-laws empower the President and the Executive committee to administer and develop the operational policies of the association, and conduct the daily business of the association. Furthermore the ICSA Sponsorship Guidelines (adopted by the ICSA BOD in 1989) give the President the specific authority to negotiate the sponsorship contracts, quoted below. This is in addition to the authorities and duties expressed in the ICSA By-Laws:

ICSA Sponsorship Guidelines- Adopted June 1989; as amended through June 1997

1. Sponsorship arrangements for any of the six National Championships or for the ICSA All America Sailing Team shall be approved by the ICSA. Negotiations regarding the terms of sponsorship shall be conducted by the President or other designated ICSA officer. Contracts shall be signed by the President or other ICSA officer…”

The LaserPerformance sponsorship agreement is compliant with the current ICSA Conditions for National Championships. The conditions serve to broadly define the type of boat not the builder: “BOATS: SEMI FINALS & FINALS- The events shall be sailed in two-person dinghies of not less than 11 feet, or more than 15 feet, in length. The boats may be either sloop or cat-rigged. The use of two fleets of boats (one for each division) is permitted.”

Historically sponsorship agreements define the requirements of a championship host. These requirements are related to the championship host directly during the planning process. For example ICSA requires the use of the ICSA owned sails branded with sponsor logos for the Women’s, Dinghy, and Team Race Championships. This too is not specifically defined in the conditions. Such information is contained in documentation supplied to the hosts.
When examined, the Championship Conditions match the new agreement; meaning that nothing is in conflict with the agreement.

I. Transparency:

It has been charged that the agreement was confidential and lacked transparency. In actuality, the contract was shared and reviewed multiple times by ICSA Executive Committee, and only after extensive input and negotiation from all of the members of the ICSA Executive Committee and the LaserPerformance Board of Directors was the agreement accepted. The Executive Committee did not take lightly the rights and obligations committed in this sponsorship agreement. To be perfectly clear, there is no intended secrecy, but all of the parties must adhere to the confidentiality of the terms as required and expected with many business agreements. Most of the negotiations took place over the summer; with the final approval coming on September 13, 2012. A report on the status of all sponsorships will take place at the Mid-Year ICSA Board Meeting. And the implementation of the terms of the sponsorship will be public.

II. Misinformation about LaserPerformance

Statements made earlier were false and misleading. In regard to LaserPerformance being dropped by US Sailing, I have been assured that LaserPerformance terminated the contract with US Sailing effective July 2012, but continued to support the US Olympic Sailing Team, and many of its members on an individual basis, regardless of the contract termination. We are also very aware of LaserPerformance faithfulness to Collegiate sailing as can be illustrated by their commitment of considerable resources in regard to this contract. In fact, we are aware that LaserPerformance has committed 2 full time employees to insure that it is able to properly serve colleges and universities with their equipment and service needs. I am also aware of LaserPerformance’s initiative to develop and produce a new higher performance dinghy based on the current 420 platform with significant guidance from both college coaches and sailors alike. Certainly the actions of LaserPerformance are consistent with the needs of the ICSA.

III. Exclusivity

Exclusivity is part of the reciprocal function of sports sponsorship agreements. All of our title sponsorship include category exclusivity rights and have as long as I have been involved in the management of the association. The charge that ICSA has acted in a way that embraces anti-competitiveness and compromises the investment of colleges who have bought boats from other sources is unfounded. The ICSA has never prevented any institution from buying boats or other equipment from any particular manufacturer. Similarly the NCAA doesn’t prevent a school from buying footballs from any manufacturer, utilizing them in practices and competitions; however the NCAA does require that the Official Football of the NCAA Championships, Wilson, is used for the NCAA Championships. It would be wrong for an institution to assume that by owning a fleet of boats that they are entitled to host a national championship in that fleet. The ICSA Championship & Competition Committee makes a point to have the competitive characteristics of its championships reflect the nature, and type of competition sailed every weekend throughout the year. With or without this agreement or the previous agreements that we have been operating under with LaserPerformance since 2000, the limiting factor in terms of fleet would be the ease, frequency, normalcy of access to that type of boat by all schools who compete in the event.

To be clear, the premise of the previous and the new agreements are the same as what we have been operating under since 2000. We have many sponsors that want to support our sailors, teams, and our sport. In return for the funds provided by the sponsors the ICSA must give something in return. Is it not expected to support our partners who have skin in the game?

The ICSA is fortunate to have supporters such as LaserPerformance who have worked with us for years. They provide boats, equipment, funds and services because they believe we are an effective means to communicate their brand attributes. We need these sponsors and I suggest thanking them for their support rather than publicly bashing them is a better means to growing and improving our sport.

I hope college sailing family continues to support our all of our sponsors. And I welcome further discussion on this issue in a mutually respectful forum.

I will offer a copy of this email to the editors of Scuttlebutt, Sailing Anarchy, and Sail1design.com.

Respectfully,

Mitch Brindley
President, Intercollegiate Sailing Association





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Sep 26, 2012, 5:39 AM

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In Mitch's note, he references the Board of Directors and the Executive Committee, which are listed on the ICSA website. Given the current disarray of the ICSA website, it is possible that the individuals listed on the BOD and EC are not correct.

- Craig Leweck, Scuttlebutt


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Sep 27, 2012, 11:43 AM

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ICSA Executive Board Statement to Chalk Talk
September 25, 2012

There have been some questions and concerns recently about the sponsorship agreement signed between the ICSA and LaserPerformace (LP). This statement is an attempt to address the questions and concerns raised about that agreement as well as the greater needs of the ICSA. This is a statement from the ICSA Executive Committee as President Mitch Brindley is dealing with some family matters.

For the past few years the membership and supporters of the ICSA have increasingly called for greater online and video coverage of championships and high level events. The ICSA also has a need to secure the supply of institutional fleets for Singlehanded Nationals.

These needs and additions cost money that ICSA does not have and would not like to tax the membership to cover, but rather make partnerships with companies and supporters to provide.

ICSA has a long history of corporate partnership with LaserPerformance, and Vanguard before it. Many past championships would not have been possible, nor as successful without the monetary and logistical support they have provided, which in many cases went beyond what they were contractually obligated to do. The majority of member schools currently own LP boats and the last 11 years of national championships have been exclusively sailed in LP/Vanguard sailboats.

The ICSA is proud to continue its partnership with Laser Performance. This new contract allows ICSA to not only provide new boats at Singlehanded nationals and support for our other national championships but it brings top of the line media coverage of our championships with video and commentary. We owe it to our fans, alumni, parents and players to give them a great video product that will keep everyone excited about college sailing.

The exclusivity of the contract is something that the leadership of the ICSA felt was worth the exchange and is in line with equipment supplier rights in other sports. Many of our schools have exclusive contracts with athletic suppliers. Nike would not sponsor an event to be played in Adidas equipment, likewise LP was not interested in supporting college sailing if championships were not to be held in their boats.

ICSA is run mainly by coaches and volunteers that spend a lot of their time giving back to the sport, because of this the ICSA membership has always relied on our President to handle our sponsorship. In fact, The ICSA Bylaws and sponsorship guidelines specifically empower the president to negotiate and sign any sponsorship contract. Mitch Brindley has done an admirable job for the good of college sailing. He has always sought advice and council on these decisions from the executive committee and from others throughout the ICSA.

Sponsorship is difficult in this economy and getting a contract like this will meet the growing needs of College Sailing.

- 2012 ICSA Executive Committee- John Vandemoer, Blake Billman, and Mike O’Connor.




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Sep 27, 2012, 2:33 PM

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LaserPerformance would like to take this opportunity to add to Mitch Brindley’s response to Franny’s unfortunate and misleading letter.

LaserPerformance has been a supporter and partner of Collegiate racing since 1976. The new contract extends and expands the sponsorship of the ICSA programs. LaserPerformance has nothing to hide and should the ICSA decide that the contract is not in the best interest of its members, we would be happy to still continue our support for Collegiate sailing by providing the 36 Laser or Laser Radials to the ICSA at our own expense.

LaserPerformance support of college sailing goes well beyond our contractual obligations. We have and we will continue to support college sailing directly and indirectly by, for instance dedicating exclusive and full time staff to college sailing, outstanding operations support as well as focusing our marketing resources on the growth of college sailing. This has a significant cost attached for LaserPerformance, one that is equal to millions of dollars over the 7 years of the contract.

LaserPerformance has also committed itself to college sailing by investing heavily in the next generation of the 420 as reported on Sail 1 Design’s Airwaves. This new boat has been designed after consultation with collegiate sailors, coaches (including Zack Leonard, Bill Healey, Bill Ward, Adam Werblow, Greg Wilkinson, David Thompson, Mitch Brindley and many more), boat designers led by Naval Architect Peter Levesque and the latest sailing trends in both design and equipment. As a result our new 420 addresses issues such as the ability to adjust and tune the rig and sails, maneuverability, crew weight, performance, durability and safety. Early results from our plant in Portsmouth, RI indicate we will be able to reduce the overall weight of the boat significantly more than previously reported by Adam Werblow on Airwaves. Other impressive results indicate that we should be able to maintain our current base price while offering a product that is far superior to anything on the market today. Stay tuned for announcements in regard to our demonstration program and schedule that begins before the end of the 2012 Fall Sailing Season.

-LaserPerformance North America




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