ILCA/Laser Cartopping Equipment

Cartopping with a Diesel Jetta Wagen

Over the years I’ve had a wide variety of methods for transporting Lasers around.  Everything from 2x4s on the roof of a van to aluminum trailers specifically built to lasers to a giant van the laser went inside of. I’m back to cartopping a Laser and my new vehicle is a 2019 Volkswagen Atlas SUV.  Back when I had a 2012 Volkswagen Jetta SportWagen – I learned what worked pretty well for cartopping and here’s what I’ve recreated for the Volkswagen Atlas.

Volkswagen Atlas with ILCA atop
Volkswagen Atlas with ILCA atop

Thule Bars, end Caps

Thule roof bars with pads
Thule roof bars with pads

These hold the boat – I like to get bars longer than the boat is wide to make it easy to tie the boat down and leave room for the spars out the side. The 78″ ones are more than enough and I could likely cut them down if I wanted a little less likely of catching something. 78″ is exactly the width of the Atlas from the edges of each side view mirror. The end caps don’t do much other than make it cleaner. Good quality pads are needed to protect the boat. I’ve got 2 20″ Dorsal pads on each bar. Thule makes 18″ ones and there are a variety of alternatives. These also have the effect of cutting down on wind noise when a boat is not present.

What I have on the Atlas:

It seems that since I originally set this up in 2019 that Thule is no longer selling the longer version of the Load Bars (LB78 or LB65). Look for alternatives of an appropriate length.

Thule Feet

Thule rack feet shown without lock cylinders
Thule rack feet shown without lock cylinders – not a tight fit and worries me they won’t hold on the road.

These will be a bit more specific to the vehicle. For both of my vehicles that had a roof rack that ran fore/aft these universal feet were able to grip around them. Note they also must match the roof bars, so if you get different bars, be sure to get the feet that match. These feet have a rubber coated metal strap that goes underneath the bar to secure it. The end cap has a built-in allen wrench used for tightening them. The end caps themselves seem a little loose without the lock cylinders so a set of those is necessary and to ensure the rack doesn’t disappear. Tip: if you think you would use other Thule products, buy extra lock cylinders so they are identically keyed or visit a vendor in the future who will sell matching cylinders. (If buying the paddle holders – go for the 8 or 10 pack so everything keys the same)

Paddle Holders

These paddle holders are great for transporting spars – they are big enough to go around 3 spars at a time – lower, upper and boom. With the Jetta when I traveled with the Radial lower I just put it in the car. With the Atlas I wanted the ability to travel with the Radial lower and a spare upper, so that’s why I have the extra wide bars and got two sets of Paddle Holders. Note in the picture the inner set are backwards, I ended up having to turn these around so the tightening strap pulls away from the vehicle in both sets. The lock cylinders can also be put on these – the paddle holders will hold the spars securely without locking, the locks just prevent anything from disappearing.

ILCA Spars in the or and paddle carrier
ILCA Spars in the or and paddle carrier

Spars can be transported without a cover just fine – they just get a little buggy on long trips. I prefer to use the spar bag to keep them clean and make it easier to load and unload 1 thing instead of 3. Be sure to tuck in the extra material and handles to keep things from flapping.

ILCA spars inside a spar bag on the Thule rack
ILCA spars inside a spar bag on the Thule rack


There’s two ways I like to tie the boat down – two straps over the hull where the roof bars are. These are made rather tight and do 100% of the work of keeping the boat on the car. The forward one should be forward of the max beam of the boat so if the boat does slide forward, the strap is smaller than the beam and the boat can’t slide through it. These straps have rubber to protect the boat and easily cinch the strap tight. The loose end of the strap gets tucked into the cover on the underside.

The other straps I use attach to the bow eye and the rudder gudgeons. These are not intended to be super tight and do very little to keep the boat on the car. They are really just there for emergency use in case another strap fails or the rack itself fails – this will keep the boat with the car – and limit damage to the boat, car or anyone else. I don’t like making this tight so that it doesn’t ‘bend’ the boat over the car nor put a lot of stress on the bow eye or gudgeons for long periods of time while the boat is racked. Thule makes a set of quick ties that use a ratchet system with some hooks to easily attach and tighten them. It comes with some webbing straps – I attach these to the boat before putting the covers on and slip them out the holes in the cover before putting the boat on the roof so they can be easily hooked to.


  • Thule and other sell Aero bars – but these are sold to a width matching the roof bars and cannot extend much beyond that – making them less suitable for the Laser with the spars on the side. They would work boat only. And it’s not possible to just buy a wider bar than compatible for the vehicle, they won’t fit – I tried.
  • Thule LoadBar is different than the SquareBar and the LoadBar appears to be a product they are starting to do away with.
  • Put the spars on the driver side so when making a quick stop to check things, it doesn’t require walking all the way around the car.
  • Yakima has a line of roof bars that are also widely used.
Atlas with the Laser and a bike rack

Bike Rack

Another accessory I’ve gotten quite a bit of use out of is a bike rack. Great for taking a bike along when rigging or camping just a little away from the clubhouse and a great way to get around when parking is tight.


2 Comments on “ILCA/Laser Cartopping Equipment

    • I have done it before with a sedan by balancing the bow on where the bar meets the car while using a very long bar, and I could think of some ways to make is smoother and less risky but I didn’t once drop it and had to have repairs made. I have not attempted that with the taller atlas SUV.

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