Obituary: Bruce Kirby, designer of the Laser dinghy (1929 – 2021)

Bruce Kirby, journalist, three-time Olympian and designer of the Laser dinghy, has died at the age of 92.

A Bruce Kirby designed Laser competing at the Olympic Games in Rio 2016. Photo: Sailing Energy / World Sailing

Bruce Kirby is best remembered as the designer for the Laser single-handed dinghy, now known as the ILCA. He was born in Ottawa, Canada in 1929 and began his journalism career in newspapers before writing for, and later becoming editor of One-Design Yachtsman (now Sailing World magazine).

Bruce Kirby Photo: Neil Rabinowitz

He began sailing at the age of six with his father and brother, and moved on to the International 14 class in his teens. Winning the world championship twice in this class in 1958 and 1961. He also represented Canada in three Olympic regattas sailing the Finn in 1956 and 1964, and a Star keelboat in 1968.

Kirby had no formal education in boat design and used the fairly modest skills he had developed in model boat carving to create his first International 14, which he called the Mark One. Kirby reminisced about his first design, “it did pretty well; we won regattas.”

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