Olympic Games Naples, Italy - Regatta Report
XVII Olympic Games Naples, Italy 1960
by Stanley E. Smith (From the 1961 Star Class Log reprinted from the November 1960 issue of the American yachting magazine
|Timir Pinegin, Gold Medal winner.
the biggest surprise of the yachting events was the performance of Russia’s Timir
Pinegin in the Stars. When he won the first race, many wrote it off as a fluke.
But when he turned in a second and two more firsts in the next three races,
there was a shaking of heads in bewilderment. How could one man make so many
winning rolls in this nautical dice game?
veterans recalled how Pinegin had languished far behind the leaders in Melbourne. They had no
reason to believe the situation would be any different this year, especially
since the Russians had not entered any important European regattas. People like
Paul Elvstrom of Denmark, one of the world’s greatest racing skippers, had
predicted that the Russians might do very well in the Finns, which were all
built in Italy, but doubted if they could do much in the other classes because
of inferior boats.
Pinegin had a good boat - a Skip Etchells product from Old Greenwich, Conn.
Canada, Italy, Malta, Portugal,
Spain and the U.S. also had
Etchells boats, so Pinegin was in good company. He also had a suit of Lowell
North’s sails from Mission Bay,
What he did
with these equal materials in just four races is somewhat fantastic. With three
firsts and a second he was 1,800 points ahead of Portugal’s Mario Quina, his
nearest competitor, and in a good position to coast the rest of the way,
avoiding possible fouls. This he did, and by this time it was too late for
anyone to worry about covering him.
But if the
rest of the yachting world was surprised by Pinegin’s performance, he himself
was even more amazed. When interviewed after the fourth race, he said that he
had come to Naples
with hopes of being within five boats of the leader. He thought that a fourth
place might have been the best possible he could attain, especially in the
light breezes of the Bay
of Naples. His colleagues
on the Soviet team were also surprised—they knew he was a good helmsman, but
they had never anticipated anything like the actual result.
assumption was that perhaps the Russians had spent the past four years
investing in foreign boats, culling out the best. This is far from the truth,
according to Pinegin. Although the number of Stars in Russia has
tripled since 1956, there is only one American boat—Pinegin’s Tornado. There
are also a handful of German boats and one English. The remainder of the 200
Stars were built in Russia.
Likewise, except for Pinegin’s set of North dacrons and four others by Murphy
and Nye, the sails for the Soviet Stars are made in Tallinn on the Russian Baltic coast.
still remained, however, that the boat Russia sent to the Olympics was an
American. Did this mean that it is much better than the Russian-built boats?
Not at all,
said Pinegin. This was probably true until about three years ago, when the
Russian builders began perfecting their technique. Now they are about equal.
Pinegin emphasises this by explaining that he had much closer competition in
the first four races in the Olympic qualifications in Moscow
than he had during the first four actual Olympic races at Naples. He had led by only 100 points in Moscow—in Naples
his lead was eighteen times as great! The logic of this thinking could be
challenged, but it nevertheless means top-flight competition from the Russians
from now on.
There is no
question of Pinegin’s ability as a skipper, especially to windward. Although
not a particularly good starter (he prefers to avoid close quarters, waiting
for an opening to keep his wind clear), he works his boat beautifully and
appears to be exceptionally cool—and either clairvoyant or lucky in the wind
shifts. He has been sailing a Star for about seven years, but does much more
sailing on an “M”, a Russian-designed boat which he says is the most popular in
entry, Bill Parks of Chicago, started the series badly, but improved his
position daily and eventually won a bronze medal. He was ninth and seventh in
the first two races, never went below fourth after that and finally won the
last one. He came to Naples
with a reputation for rarely making a mistake, but he night have taken two more
firsts had it not been for a couple of tactical errors.
in the fifth race, in a tussle among the U.S.,
Russia, Switzerland and Italy. The American boat, Shrew II,
was fourth at the last lee mark, with a beat to the finish line next. Parks
sailed beautifully, edging past the Russian boat, then past the Swiss boat,
which had rounded first. Italy’s
gifted Agostino Straulino, perennial European champion, who was second around
the leeward mark, also passed the Swiss. About 150 yards from the finish, both Italy and the U.S. were on the starboard tack,
with Parks to leeward, holding a small but clear lead.
laying the middle of the line, while Parks apparently realised he couldn’t
fetch on that tack. Therefore he went about, crossed the Italian’s bow on the
port tack, then tacked to windward of him. Either Parks’ wind failed him a bit,
or he lost time in tacking, but whatever it was it was enough to allow
Straulino to sneak across the finish line six seconds ahead. Instead of crossing
Straulino, it would have been tactically better for Parks to have tacked in the
safe leeward position, which would have meant a shorter route to the line.
occurred on the following day in the sixth race. The U.S. was at that time fifth in the
overall standings. Russia
was first, beyond overhauling. In second, third and fourth, respectively, were Portugal, Italy
and Switzerland, with just a
few points separating them from each other and from the U.S. Durward Knowles of
stood sixth, more than 500 points behind Parks.
the last leeward mark, the U.S.
was third to the Bahamas and
In fourth and fifth places, just astern, were Portugal
Knowles chose to stand out to sea on the starboard tack and Russia followed.
Portugal and Italy stayed on
the port tack and headed inshore. Here Parks clearly had a choice, and it
appears he chose the less fortunate one. He decided not to cover Portugal (whom he had to beat to pass in the
series) and Italy, but to
tag along with Russia and
As it turned
out, Portugal and Italy found a
more favorable breeze inshore and finished first and second. The U.S. caught Russia
on the final leg, but not the Bahamas,
thereby finishing fourth. If she had covered Portugal, whom she had an excellent
chance of overhauling in the rankings, she probably would have won the race.
It is perhaps
too easy to criticise in retrospect without the tension of the actual
performance. It must be said that Parks had his boat going exceptionally well
toward the end of the series and he won the bronze medal. That should speak for
itself, especially against the type of competition he faced. Knowles, third at
rough Melbourne, was sixth at placid Naples, Straulino, second
in 1956, was fourth.