Encore un fois
2002 World Champion Steve Mitchell reports on a second Star World title for Rohart and Rambeau
The Star class returned to Buenos Aires in the Argentinean summer for the first World Championship of 2005 in the Olympic Classes. The last time the Stars came here was in 1988 when a young, but very similar-looking, Paul Cayard took away the trophy.
The line up was, as always very strong, even in a post Olympic year. The current world number one and world champion Loof/Ekstrom (SWE) returned to defend their trophy, while teams looking to take their title included Athens gold medallists Grael/Ferreira (BRA), 2003 world champions Rohart/Rambeau (FRA), 2002 world champions Iain Percy and myself (GBR), buoyed by the continued support of Skandia - recently re-signed as our sponsors for the four years to Beijing, and 2000 gold medallist Mark Reynolds, who teamed up with former world champion crew Phil Trinter (USA). There were also a few ¡®promising-looking¡¯ new faces, including Laser legend and Athens gold medallist Robert Scheidt (BRA), who has teamed up with Bruno Prada, who sailed for Brazil in the Finn in Athens.
Conditions were as expected; hot, 30C plus, driving SE breezes of 10-15 knots, with one day 20+ knots, perfect Star weather. The venue was on the south side of the River Plate, which at this point is about 80-miles wide, and 100-miles from the sea, so the water is still fresh, although a slightly brown colour, rather similar to the River Thames in London!
As is always the case at the Star worlds, it went down to the last race with Rohart/Rambeau and Grael/Ferreira one point apart, and the next three boats tied on points.
The event had started with the Brazilians carrying on where they left off in Athens, winning the first race from 2004 champions Loof/Ekstrom in the breeziest conditions of the week, which saw us breaking our mast at the gybe mark, giving us the worst possible start to the event. The French replied with a bullet in race 2, with us second with a new rig in the boat, and Grael in 6th. After 2 races the Swedes were leading, but it was tight behind.
Race 3, and the Brazilians again, not the usual suspects, but this time another legend in the shape of Robert Scheidt/Bruno Prada, who have been intermittently sailing a Star for a bit now to see if they like it; I'm sure a world championship race winners' trophy would sweeten the taste of the Laser-like keelboat and have Grael/Ferreira checking the mirrors. We were second again, and feeling fast, but the French were moving up with a third to take the overall lead which they weren't planning on giving up. Race four saw Grael win again, but Rohart's 2nd kept him on top.
We got back into our stride in race 5 to take the closest race so far. The Portuguese Bacardi Cup champions Domingos/Santos led all the way round, with us, Grael and Rohart close behind - we took the gun from the French by half a length, with the Portuguese a length behind. This left it all set for a final race showdown between Rohart, who couldn't finish out of the top two overall, and Grael. Meanwhile we were in a 3-way tie for third with Loof/Ekstrom and the consistent Presti/Salou (FRA), who had put in regular single figure scores in the first first races.
Rohart/Rambeau chose to rely on their superior speed upwind to get them ahead of Grael. They started apart and at the leeward mark it was us first, ahead of the French and the charging Grael who was straight up to 3rd. We had a grandstand view of the battle that ensued, and managed to stay ahead, while the two rivals for the title scrapped it out, sometimes a boat length apart and with the jury in very close attendance downwind! Grael never managed to break the cool head of the French, and it finished with us first, netting us third overall, Rohart/Rambeau second, which secured him the title, and Grael/Ferreira 3rd, getting them silver.
So the spoils to the French pair, who first won in Cadiz in 2003 and added to their bronze from Athens. This pair have proved that they have mastered this complex boat. Grael/Ferreira, who have won Olympic gold twice and the worlds once, retain their place as the legends of recent times, and they now both head off round the world on Brasil 1. We made up for our disappointment in Athens with another medal here, our 4th in as many years. Finally the reigning champs and world number ones Loof/Ekstrom, they couldn't quite match their pre-Athens form, but then no-one has retained a World title in the Stars for the last 20 years! The Swedish pair finished 4th overall, ahead of Presti/Saliou 5th and Scheidt/Prada in 6th.
As always the Star continues to develop. The top three boats at the Olympics and the top three boats here were from Lillia, who since developing a new shape and layout with the help of Devoti in 2002, have seen more boats at the front.
The boats from Folli still have the major market share, and are seen as easier to sail straight out of the box, but we feel that the Lillia has more potential speed if set up perfectly. The differences are small between the boats, Follis are seen as the better boat in lighter winds, and have the match of the Lillia upwind, while the Lillia is designed with a narrower hull with straighter lines and less rocker, which give it the edge downwind. The keels are different shapes, and with a 50mm tolerance on fore and aft position, some experimenting has gone on with this, especially now that the crews are so much lighter than five years ago.
The internal layout is the most obvious difference between the two boats, with the Folli retaining the traditional sidedeck with space under it, and a roomier cockpit with the runner adjustment led forward to in front of the crew. The Lillia has a more Laser style layout, with all round buoyancy tanks to form the decks, a much smaller cockpit and the runner adjustment sited behind the crew. The only other current design that is promising - but still unproven - is the new Mader, designed in conjunction with Juan Kouyoumdjian.
Sails are still primarily a battleground between Quantum and North, but with Grael and some of the Brazilians using Halsey, there were three sailmakers in the top three, with Quantum powering Rohart and North powering ourselves. There are a few differences, but it seems that personal choice is the biggest factor; some new designs have more luff curve for the stronger winds, and this has been the biggest change, the light wind sails have remained very similar for the last few years.
Emetti still rule the mast market with the top 10 all using them, but there are some boats using the new, lighter Spartech mast that have shown good speed. We have experimented with a glassfibre boom, built in conjunction with the Swiss before Athens, which has proved a success. It is deeper by 50 per cent, has a bigger section and is lighter than and as stiff as the current aluminum ones¡¦ and it looks damn cool! Whether these will become widely available has yet to be decided.
So all in all, for a class approaching 100 years old, it ain't so bad! The Star still attracts the big names and still has the kudos it always had, and it earns its place among the Olympic line-up because of this. Who's the Daddy? Well I guess you could say the Star always was and still is!
© Copyright 2007 by starclass.org