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1971 World Championship - Regatta Report


1971 World's Championshi
p - Seattle, USA
Regatta Results
Report from the 1972 Star Class Log

Note: This report has been scanned in by Ed Sprague. For a collection of Worlds' reports plus photographs contact Ed Sprague ( ejspraguejr@mac.com ) to order his book "The San Diego Bay Star Fleet".

The 49th sailing of the World's Championship of the Star Class had 49 entries, which exceeded by 5 the previous U. S. West Coast record set in 1969 at San Diego. The series was won, not by a 49-er, although he is a Californian, but by a 29-er in that his 29th birthday was the day he earned the gold star, September 16, 1971.

Dennis Conner, who crewed for several years with Alan Raffee in No. 5291, was in his first year of skippering this same boat, which is now his Menace. As one contestant put it, "He was always cool, never erred, and I think it is kind of inspiring that an 'amateur' could knock of all those super-experts. The first fifteen or twenty boats looked impossible to beat." His crew, James Reynolds, is a veteran of many years' crewing experience and previous World's Championships that he sailed with Malin Burnham, including the 1965 World's in which they finished second.

Runner-up was current Olympic gold medalist Lowell North, who has now won the World's three times and been second five times, a formidable record; and series third went to Sweden's John Albrechtson, the 1965 North American Silver Star champion. It is true that any of the first 20 or so could have won the 1971 series - but they didn't. Conner and Reynolds, without winning a race, outsteadied them all. North won no races either, and it is interesting that at the midweek prize presentation, after three races, the 18 daily prizes went to 18 different skippers and crews. Yet it was not a fluky series; everyone agreed that the winners were always those who sailed the beat races.

The fleet was exceedingly well matched. Winning margins were generally small and boats finished in tightly packed clumps all down the line. Traffic jams at marks were often fierce, and aggravated by a current of a knot or more running with the wind.
The week before the series saw light and variable breezes on Puget Sound, in hardly any of which could a race have been completed within the time limit. On Friday the tune-up race, sailed in a 7-mile southwester, was won by Schoonmaker, with Trask and Lewsadder following in that order. The series opened with a flat day- cancellation. But then, providentially, the weather pattern changed the winds thereafter blowing never less than 7 knots and on one day up to about 20 knots, always down-Sound, from the North.

On Sunday, September 12, a dead calm greeted the fleet, until about 3 p.m. when a shaft of air less than a mile wide ruffled the surface and provided air of 3 or 4 knots, but never filled in elsewhere on the Sound. The Stars milled about among more than 50 spectator boats and two 60-foot whales whose dorsal fins projected as high as the spreaders when they surfaced. Not to be out maneuvered by whales, the Race Committee announced that these two had been summoned and obligingly agreed to appear for the entertainment of the waiting fleet. When wind conditions failed to improve, the committee cancelled, announcing a double header for borrow, and opinion was unanimous that this was the wisest possible decision.

First Race
Monday looked like a perfect day as all boats left the anchorage at 8:30. A wind shift during the last seconds before the start favored one end of the line, and the alert committee postponed at gunfire to re-set. Puget Sound is up to 600 feet deep in most of the racing area, and anyone who has tried to raise an anchor with even half that much line may wonder how it was managed. The committee boat never anchored at all, but was held on station under power. The mark setting boats carried cement blocks and rolls of cheap but strong twine. When a mark had to be moved they just cut it loose and threw out another block with 600 feet of line attached. Even so it took a lot of know-how to position the marks; but it was done, and done accurately.

Schoonmaker, Zagarino and Haarstick started together near the committee end and stood out on starboard tack for a while. Bruder barely crossed them, continuing on inshore to arrive at the first mark in the lead. Haarstick persisted to the offshore lay line and was fourth at the windward mark. But Schoonmaker and Frank Zagarino, by going more up the middle of the course, fared very badly. As Frank put it, "Suddenly we were in the 30s, and I still don't know why. The compass showed that the wind was steady. I guess there was either more wind on the edges of the course, or more current in the middle, or maybe both. It is sure discouraging back around thirtieth- there isn't a square foot of clear air to sail in." Schoonmaker worked up to about 10th but was caught between Blackaller and Buchan rounding a mark and was subsequently disqualified under Rule 42.2 (A). Bruder and Thompson Adams, first and second at the end of the first triangle, finished 4th and 7th. The Gerards, Bill and Sheridah, came up from 7th the first time around to third the second time and finally, on the last beat of course "O", worked up to second at the finish. But 1969 World's Champion Pele Petterson sailed a chartered boat quietly around the course minding his own business and won the race. Pelle's own boat sat out the series on a freighter at San Francisco because of a dock strike.

Second Race
The afternoon race of the double header seemed to maintain the same pattern of success on one side of the course or the other but not up the middle. We are glad to have Frank Zagarino give us the winner's story.

"In the smoothest water of the week with about 8 knots we started in the top third of the line just under Tom Dudinsky who was over and had to re-start. Ding Schoonmaker was above Dennis Conner and us below us. We seemed to be making a little on Dennis, and Ding was making on us. The water looked darker way out to the left, so we hoped to go out all the way for stronger air. About half way out Ding left us and went back to the middle and threw away his lead. We went to the lay line tacked on a slight header but also in more air. And were 6th at the weather mark. Dick Bates was leading and Bill Gerard was with him.

"The first three boats had a bit of space on the rest, and then starting with the fourth boat every one sailed very high on the reach. We couldn't get up quite fast enough, so we did the next best thing, which was to dive off almost to the lay line. That decision, plus a nice puff near the end of the second leg, brought us up to 4th. On the next reach everyone was close, with few changes in position.

"We felt that left was still the place to go, so after rounding the leeward mark we tacked immediately to starboard and were the first boat to start out to seaward. The farther we went the better it looked. We were holding Conner but Jay Winberg was really moving through the water and going faster than we were. We barely held him off, to round the weather mark first, Winberg second and Conner third. Dennis was very polite about staying off our wind on the run (the mark of a good sailor), and we gained about a length and then blew it by jibing too early and sailing the last 200 feet by the lee.

"We figured that the one who could catch us was Winberg, so to win we would have to go right out to the left lay line and not cover at the start of this last beat- some decision to make the first time in your life that you have the lead in a race in the World's! Anyhow, we tacked immediately to starboard and headed again for the left lay line, Winberg and Conner, after clearing their air, coming out with us as we hoped they would. This time we seemed to be making on Winberg and holding Conner; more adrenaline pumping, I guess. Came up to the finish line with Conner on our weather quarter, Zig Zag a little below the lay line. But we were getting lifted, which made him look good on us, and he was moving and pointing, so we took a safety tack and parked in front of him, and he still almost worked his way out. We finally reached the line ahead by half a boat length. We didn't even know whom got the gun, and had to sail past the Race Committee to find out that it was for us."

Bill Gerard, with his wife Sheridan, the only girl in the series, was fourth, which, together with their morning second, gave them the series lead, one point ahead of Conner and Reynolds. Bill said, "We were surprised we had as much boat speed as we did. When we got with the hot shots we were able to stay right with them. We had pretty mediocre season until a week ago in Vancouver." Petterson unable to do better than 9th. It was the same with everyone; the fleet was so evenly matched that the only way to win a race was to do everything perfectly. The difference between Conner and the others was that although he never sailed a perfect race, he always managed his races in such a way that if he did make an error it was a small one from which he was somehow able to stage a respectable recovery.

Third Race
Somewhat more breeze, some said as much as 15 knots at times, was a bit too much for the light Gerards, tuned and geared for light weather. The right hand half of the course was better today, just the opposite of yesterday. North, Albrechtson was first at the weather mark and stayed in that position for the rest of the day. Stig Wennerstrom must have "gone right" sooner or later, and finished second, passing Alan Holt to do so. Particularly on the third windward leg there was a pronounced lift for inshore boats. For Albrechtson the wind was none too strong, even now. He remarked after the race, "In this light air there is no such thing as a safe margin."

Conner racked up the first of his three sixths, leaving him with a 7-point lead over Lowell North at this stage, and the Vanderveer Trophy. But asked for his reaction to being the series leader after three races, he answered tersely and to the point: "I'm worried."

Fourth Race
In the strongest breeze of the week, up to 20 knots, Joerg Bruder and Eduardo Ramos won going away. It was the only pronounced edge in boat speed observable during the whole week's racing. Ding Schoonmaker continued his upward climb with a second, and Albrechtson showed that he was in earnest about his heavy weather preference with a third. Conner was second until the last beat, when he dropped four places. Twelve boats failed to finish but only two masts were lost one due to a collision.
Jams and close roundings at the tide-ridden weather marks were especially frantic today, with some boats having to round two, three or four times to correct infractions. Some claimed that one windward mark was dragged downwind by the strong current; but subsequent analysis inclined the officials to the belief that it was a back eddy that let boats to overstand. Such eddies are frequent in the area, and there was no direct evidence of dragging.

One inland lake skipper, unaccustomed to tides and deep water with their accompanying problems, although he has raced in several World's Championships, felt compelled to write: 'Sunny Vynne and his crew did the greatest job I have ever seen in the general conduct of the series. In all races, perfect lines the right length, right-angle perfect weather lets, the weather mark moved in three of four races, correctly indicated by signals, to compensate for a ten degree wind shift . . . He always made the right decision to give the best possible race, even to canceling rest day to complete the series before the favorable weather cycle ended."

Fifth Race
The committee postponed the start of the last race for 45 minutes while working to perfect the line. But the wind, blowing nicely at 12 to 18, foiled them somewhat in the very last few seconds before gunfire by heading enough so that some boats at the pin end could not cross on starboard against the current. Lowell North, near but not too near the flag, got away flying and led easily at the first mark

Dennis Conner was buried at the start, and it looked to spectators as if his nerve had failed him at last: it was his worst start of the week. But now he made a cool and daring decision. Instead of panicking and splitting with the fleet, he stayed on starboard and chased the leaders, counting on his ability to climb back up to a good position. Of course that 8-point lead was money in the bank; he had only to reduce the number of boats between him and Lowell to less than 7, and as it turned out he did much better than that.

Dennis' decision not to tack saved him the series. The left side of the course was favored all day, so much so that the last windward leg was a one-sided procession. The spectator fleet was slightly in the way out there on the left hand edge, so that sometimes it was necessary to take a short hitch to get out of the washing-machine, but otherwise it was "starboard to the lay line."

Schoonmaker put on his finest burst of speed of the week. At the last leeward mark North was still leading by nearly a minute, but Ding turned on the steam and passed him on that one short windward leg to win the race. Double World's Champion Bill Buchan, who brought the series to Seattle, also turned in his week's best performance for a third and a well-earned series fourth. "Even today we went the wrong way," he mused after the race. "We're learning."

Dennis Conner gave lavish credit to his crew Jim Reynolds. "He's the big factor in my winning. A crew is really important .... You know they give equal trophies to skipper and crew in the Star World's." Conner also showed that he has already learned to parry reporters' questions with as much skill and finesse as he does his opponents' thrusts on the racecourse. Still soaking wet from the victor's plunge, he was asked whether he had thought, a week earlier, that he had any change of winning against such a fleet. He pondered for a second and replied quietly, "I think everybody who came felt that they had a chance of winning."

We end with a quotation from the yachting publication Nor' Westing because it mentions the hard working crew behind the scenes, those men whose services, so necessary to the success of any regatta, so often go unnoticed.

"Committee work throughout the series .... will offer a standard toward which other Northwest committees can strive. General Chairman was Eustace (Sunny) Vynne, ably assisted by Dick Marshall. They put together a crew of the ablest people in the sailboat racing business, drawing heavily on the memberships of the Seattle Star Fleet, Corinthian Yacht Club and Seattle Yacht Club for expert assistance. From the organization of the program (Pete Nolan) through the special take-home trophies (Dick Gates), to the setting of the courses (Bill Lerch), to providing information and facilities for the press (Max Agather), everyone worked to make this the most impressive regatta ever held for sailboats in this area. After the first day's abortive attempt to find a little wind, Sunny Vynne even managed to fill the vacant job of wind chairman - or at least somebody upstairs must have been listing.

"A special round of applause should go to the Coast Guard and Coast Guard Auxiliary for course patrol. C. W. O. Paul Harp, in charge of course patrol from the cutter Point Glass, even chased a Navy destroyer off the course during the Friday practice race ....
"Another special well done should go to the Port of Seattle and to Shilshole manager "Buck" Buxton, who pushed completion of one of the new mooring docks just north of the Corinthian club house where the racing boats moored during the regatta, and insured that the boats were hauled or launched from the south end of the marina with dispatch ....

"Five large boats were provided by their owners for various jobs during the regatta, with Phil Duryee's PS acting as communications center and committee boat ... Phil also furnished CB transceivers for all the small boats that set marks and did other shores on the course. The international Officers and members of the press were aboard Gary Horder's Inisfail, stationed on the other end of the starting and finishing lines. In addition a special press boat toured along outside the racecourse, Exact, skippered by Bob Watt. Franklin Eddy's Dorade marked the weather end of the course and George Reeve's Cormorant patrolled the reaching mark.

"The course .... was 10.8 miles long, set by radar aboard the PS. The Olympic type course had three beats, a run and two reach legs, using an area generally north of the mid-channel buoy off Meadow Point."