The air of excitement, which permeated the Star Class in the last week of August 1962, was particularly evident around Cascais as skippers and crews converged to Portugal from all points of the compass. Something great, something fantastic was happening, and something a little frightening. The record was not merely being broken - it was being shattered! First it had been bruited about that perhaps the 1956 record of 59 boats at Naples would fall. Then this was confirmed as 60 entries were in hand, and the list continued to grow. All over Europe, where the Executive President was travelling during the summer, the question asked in awed tones whenever we met Star people, "Can it be true?"
It was true. At Cascais
rumor became fact. From 19 nations of five continents 73 boats arrived.
Far away Australia was there; the West Coast of Canada, and of the U.S.A.,
and the maximum allowable contingent from Brazil; and notably, for the
first time there was a Russian entry in the World's. And such caliber
World's Champions as far back as perennial Walter
von Hütschler (1938-39), Harry Nye, Bob Lippincott, Skip
Etchells, triple champion Lowell
North and defending champion Bill
Buchan, as well as current Olympic Gold Medalist Timir Pinegin. And
not one of these won it. It was the old story: in the Star Class there
is no king.
But along with the excitement and the exhilaration was the sobering thought that perhaps it was too much and we couldn't carry it off, and that it might turn into a dreadful mess. No amount of discussion, no amount of planning, no amount of orders from officials could have done it-only the Star skippers and crews could do it.
And that was how it was done, and almost without exception done cheerfully. Understanding the problems involved, the skippers co-operated in the many solutions. Launching alone was a gigantic task. Getting out to the boats, and then to the starting line, staying out for double-headers, waiting during long postponements for wind or because of fog, late afternoon races, the cancellation of one race before the completion of the first leg-all this was accepted without untoward complaint.
In the European Championship they had turned marks to starboard because otherwise the triangular mark would be out in the open ocean where heavy winds and seas might make jibing hazardous. This same procedure was advocated (almost to the point of insistence) for the World's. The Race Committee was adamant, sticking to the regular Star course and procedure and relying on the skill of the contestants to handle the situation. The I.R.C. had not misjudged the ability of the competitors. There were no catastrophes, even with more than 70 boats in each race. Again, in the European there had been general recalls, in one race five of them. The I.R.C. emphatically warned all and sundry not to expect anything of the sort. They announced that they were against general recalls and would go to extremes to avoid them. Only in the first race was it necessary to resort to this questionable practice, and this was because the fleet under-estimated the strength of the current sweeping them over the line. On the re-start a dozen boats were over which did not return. The numbers of those disqualified for this reason were posted on the bulletin board (luckily for them the race was called off for fog), together with the warning that in the future they could expect this practice to be continued. This procedure was most salutary not a single general recall for the rest of the series. Here and there an individual boat was hailed back or returned from a premature start of its own accord. The starts were an unforgettable sight, many of them almost perfect and drawing exclamations of delight from the spectators.
Surprisingly, there were not very many close finishes. The I.R.C. had anticipated some difficulties, but never once were they presented with an insoluble finish. One of the nearest questions was the arrival of Shanty at the finish line to win the last race from Ma' Lindo by a scant few inches. Down through the fleet there were overlapped situations sometimes involving three or four boats, but in every case the judges at the line were able to spot the respective places.
Protests by contestants were outnumbered by protests initiated by the I.R.C. or its officials in the stake boats; but altogether these were not numerous considering how many boats were trying to be in the same place at the same time. Perhaps never before has such a high level of sailing competence been displayed in any yachting event. It should not come as a surprise that this was coupled with an equally high level of sportsmanship.
Enough cannot be said for the fine co-operation and entertainment arranged by our hosts. Those who organized the series, those who helped in conducting it and the Club Navale and its officers and members made a success of a memorable and historic occasion which, with lesser ability, enthusiasm and tolerance, might have been- well, you guess. We only hope our hosts were not so worn out by it all that they will be unwilling to repeat when, in the course of events, this series rolls around to them again. Cascais already holds the record of hosting four World's Championships: 1948, 1952, 1954 and 1962. Those of us who were there last year are already awaiting another chance to return to Cascais.
It would not be fitting if we failed to mention the splendid performance of Duarte and Faneca Bello under the most trying circumstances, and the splendid loyalty to the Star Class that they displayed. Although little was said, there was deep appreciation of the manner in which they carried on, being helpful wherever possible, and while on the water racing their boat like the champions they are. The loss of their father on the eve of the series might have deterred or at least blunted the fine edge of lesser champions.
The customary tension, which precedes a big series, was accentuated by the fact that a freighter carrying nine Stars from South and North America to Lisbon had failed to put in an appearance by the time the series was scheduled to start. It was decided to postpone the first race for one day only, on the wireless report that the ship would be in on Monday, and begin racing on Tuesday. All arrangements were made for speedy transportation of the boats from Lisbon to Cascais; the ship did arrive, the boats were hastily rigged and launched, and everything was in readiness for racing on Tuesday- everything, that is, except the wind. The big fleet drifted around all day in a flat calm and came home again without even having been able to attempt a start, and now the series was two days behind schedule instead of one.
On Wednesday the situation looked better: a fine breeze blew from the northwest, the direction, which was to prevail throughout the series. A start was made, only to be called back, and a second start was allowed to stand, as described above. Joe Burbeck's Cyrano worked into a nice lead half way up the windward leg as the fleet sailed into a fog bank so dense that there was actual danger of collision between boats approaching each other on opposite tacks. Needless to say everyone lost all track of the exact position of the weather mark. It was not long before the race was cancelled and the contestants squared off to return to where they thought the harbor might be. Was this series never to get started?
As the fleet neared the anchorage, the fog lifted and guns were fired from the committee boat. Although it was now late in the day, the weather appeared to have made up its mind to stay clear, and the I.R.C. decided to try again. This time, at last, the first race was successfully sailed.
In his description of the starting line President Smart, who chaired the Race Committee, modestly omitted the major part, which he played in getting the big fleet away so successfully day after day. As every racing man knows, good starts, with the fleet evenly spread Out across the whole line, mean one and only one thing: somebody has set excellent starting lines. Paul Smart's lines were long- long enough to accommodate 73 boats without crowding, and this means a four or five minute line, at least a quarter of a mile in length, usually longer. When so long a line is even slightly favorable to one end, a frightful jam occurs there. That there were no jams is a tribute to the fact that Mr. Smart accomplished the impossible: he set five perfect lines. In order to do this, he canted the outboard or offshore end slightly to windward- just enough to offset the advantage gained by tacking shoreward from the in-shore end. The shore tack vas usually the one to take, for reasons of local wind and current; but there was that flag out there at the other end of the line, inviting you to start there because it was substantially to windward. The result was an even distribution of the fleet all along the line, with only a slight "sagging" to leeward in the middle due to uncertainty about being recalled.
Burbeck again took Cyrano away to windward in the first (completed) race, but was nicked by the Russian Pinegin at the weather mark as Cyrano overstood by a few yards. They rounded almost overlapped, but Pinegin kept Tornado in the lead the rest of the way around. After Cyrano came the Bellos in Faneca and then Stearns and Williams with Glider. The handwriting was already on the wall, but most people failed to interpret it.
The next day a double header was scheduled and completed, so that with three races accomplished and rest-day eliminated the series was back on schedule, and in fact it finished on time. Bill Buchan, the defending champion, had been 14th in the opener; but in the morning race of the double header he took Frolic away to a fine first start and led all the way. It was true that a start in the first rank was all-important; to get buried below the middle of the fleet was doom. It also happened that the boat, which got away to an early lead, usually went on to win. This speaks well for the steadiness of the wind in general. Although there were local small shifts, no major upsets were caused by windshifts, if one excepts the fact, well-known to all the contestants ahead of time, that the inshore tack was supposed to be heavily favored over the offshore tack.
Burbeck's Cyrano was again second in the morning race and Glider third. Pinegin went somewhere and got lost, and Tornado came in 30th. Even though Dick Stearns never finished above third, it already was becoming apparent that Glider was one of the two or three potentially best contenders there.
The third race was won by the Bellos, transferring the series lead from Cyrano to Faneca. As the fleet sailed home wearily after four attempted and three completed races in two clays, all eyes were turned toward Duarte Bello in amazement and admiration. Was he really going to accomplish the "impossible"? He already held the coveted Vanderveer Trophy, which goes to the series leader at the end of the third race. Could he stand the pace for the remaining two?
Stearns was only two
points back in Glider. Cyrano had hit the skids for a 30th
in the third race, and Edler's Big Daddy, a strong contender till
then, likewise with a 26th. Etchells' Shanty had an undistinguished
showing so far and did not look like a serious threat. Etchells had other
ideas, which he proved in the last two races. Joaquim Fiuza's Espadarte
actually stood third at this point, but she was 13 points behind Faneca,
so that it looked like a possible battle to the end between Stearns and
In the fourth race, the wind struck harder, and so did the Tornado. It must fairly be said, without detracting in the least from the magnificent showing of the new World's Champion, that Timir Pinegin was the flash skipper of the two weeks' racing if one combines the records he piled up in the European and World's Championships. In the ten races he took four firsts, yet he placed only eighth in the World's and tenth in the European. That tells the story; in series like these you have to be consistent and brilliant to come out on top. Incidentally it is interesting to note that Tornado and Faneca were in their sixth year of racing; that two-thirds of their competitors were sailing in newer boats did not seem to bother Messrs. Pinegin and Bello. Pinegin likes heavy weather, and Tornado won the fourth race in a breeze that varied from 20 to as much as 30 or more knots at times. But some other skippers like air too - among them E. W. Etchells, who came to life for it close second in this race, and Bob Lippincott, whose third was by far his best showing of the week in Razor.
Sam Beard's Tantrum also put in an appearance for the first time, to finish fourth. But by taking sixth, Stearns and Williams nailed down a four point lead over the Bellos- not enough, perhaps, for a secure night's sleep on the eve of the last race, but still something to be thankful for. Furthermore they now held a 16-point lead over the third boat, Espadarte.
A fog greeted the fleet on the last day, causing a three-hour postponement. Oddly enough the wind blew very hard despite the fog, then at times lightened. When the fog finally lifted, the wind steadied off to somewhere around Force 5, plenty to handle in the open ocean. After four days of conservative starts, Dick Stearns hit the line on the gun in the last race and was able to keep Faneca under cover all the way around the course for a final eight-point lead in the series. Fiuza forfeited his place with a 22nd. Just to show that they had not been lucky yesterday, Etchells and Allan won the race, with Mario Quina alongside for second and Timir Pinegin a short distance back in third place.
Dick Stearns received a victor's welcome at the yacht club, and another one in Chicago when he arrived home. Sonic 150 friends and admirers greeted him at O'Hare International Airport with a brass band and banners.
A summary of Stearns'
racing record would fill many paragraphs and would doubtless be embarrassing
to him. There is not a major event of the Fourth District, which he has
not won, most of them many times. He has won four Silver Stars in two
years, a feat accomplished by no one else in the Class. He has raced in
many World's Championships and done well every time, his closest previous
bid being in 1951 when he lost the Gold Star by a scant one point.