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1973 World Championship - Regatta Report


1973 WORLD'S CHAMPIONSHIP
Complete results
The 1974 Log contained this account of Lowell North's fourth Gold Star.

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".

"Lowell North, the first man ever to win four gold Stars; Bill Buchan, who came close to winning his third gold Star; antique maritime treasures for trophies; unusually cool fall weather; fog; a large number of competitive Stars available for charter for the series, thanks to diligent efforts of the organizing committee: complete, efficient and hospitable arrangements, both for racing and for social activities, These are the things to remember about the 1973 World's Championship."

So began Starlights' account of the 56-boat event sailed off San Diego in October of 1973. This is a composite winner's eye view of the series, written for each race by the winner of that race.

First Race by Henry Rowan
The first race of any regatta is fraught with hopeful anxiety that generates far more excitement than is found in the later races. The battle lines aren't yet drawn, the relative speeds are not established, and the idiosyncrasies of the winds in the area are still untried.

Oh yes, we had had two tune-up races; and with about a 15th and a 4th, Rick Burgess and I knew that the slop and the chop and the light winds of San Diego Bay would not be our complete undoing.

There was a five mile sail from the harbor to the race course, and the noontime frontal passage that the weather man had promised for that Monday was right on schedule. The gusting winds promised plenty of power to get through the mounting waves, and in the smooth waters of the harbor we lake sailors had as much speed as anybody did; but our relative speed did seem to diminish slightly as we hit the ocean. And then, as if the wind were designed for the local talent (actually, I suppose, the local talent designs itself to the wind), the front passed on through, leaving only glassy surfaced swells. The committee wisely postponed until what appeared to be a steady ten-knot breeze settled in from the west. In spite of the high seas and light air, we managed to hold in the first seven or so to the windward mark, and then lost a couple of boats on the reaches as the wind lightened. The air was steady and light on the next beat and we hung on to our ninth place, only to lose two more on the run to the leeward mark. Oh well, eleventh isn't bad in the opening race of a World's Championship with all that gold around. We were pretty pleased.

But what is this? Lowell, with a 200-yard lead, had to tack on to starboard to cover the fleet as they rounded the leeward mark and tacked out to sea. Barton Beek stayed on port just ahead of us for a while giving us a little bad air, and Tom Blackaller crawled through our lee in five foot waves and three knots of breeze. MacCausland and then Knowles took up position a hundred yards or so to the rear.

The weatherman had predicted a final shift to the northwest and we determined to go for it. The water ahead looked a shade grayer and halfway out there was nothing to do but hang on. Once when we thought we sensed a shift and Blackaller was beginning to give us bad air we hitched toward the finish line, to find ourselves pointing back at the leaders of the fleet. So we came back on to port and continued toward the darker water.

Fifteen degrees from the lay line we had to tack if we were ever to capitalize on what shift might be waiting for us. We seemed to inch across the mile and a half of seas between us and the finish as every other wave added to the frustration by shaking what wind there was out of the sails. Blackaller had gone on, and we could see North in the distance edging toward the finish line, but he seemed to be in calmer water and not moving well. Gradually the compass swung first five, and then ten, then fifteen degrees, and we had our shift and were on the lay line. It was Rick Burgess' encouragement that kept this Lake George sailor from going to pieces in the slop. As Lowell fell in 100 yards behind, we knew we had done the impossible. "Who's that?" echoed from the crowd; "Hank who?"

Lowell crossed an easy second, followed by John MacCausland, Durward fourth (with a resounding cheer from the spectators), and Tom Blackaller fifth.

Second Race by Dennis Conner
The second race proved Star sailors to be eager, aggressive, and unafraid of the one-minute rule. After five general recalls during which race committee chairman Ron Simpson, a non-smoker, smoked a whole pack of Marlboros, the one o'clock race was finally started at three o'clock. In 10 to 12 knots Tom Blackaller got a perfect start at the boat end of the line. Blackaller and Durward Knowles went up the right side of the course on the first beat and looked good. We started in the middle of the line with Lowell North and Robbie Haines on the left of Alan Holt and us just to windward. The four of us stayed on starboard two-thirds of the way to the port lay line before anyone tacked. One-quarter of a mile from the mark we took Lowell and Robbie's stern on the way over to the port lay line. At this point a 10-degree port tack lift filled in allowing us to lay the mark in first place ahead of Blackaller and Knowles. Much to our delight North was eighth or ninth- but not for long.

The rest of the race was sailed in steady winds with occasional 5-degree shifts. There was very little change of position in the top ten with the exception of the two masters North and Buchan, who showed their class by recovering to third and fifth places. The top ten were Dennis Conner, Tom Blackaller, Lowell North, Durward Knowles, Bill Buchan, Alan Holt, Pete Bennett, Larry Whipple, Robbie Haines, and Pelle Petterson; they were also the top ten boats in the final standings. (Dennis' crew was Jim Reynolds)

Third Race by Lowell North
The water at the start was quite smooth for the Pacific Ocean with winds about eight knots, just barely hiking weather-no mini-hike on our boat. The current was stronger than usual, making it difficult to lay the leeward end of the line, favored enough so that there was a big crowd there. We came in from above the line, dipped down, and started about 60 feet short of the pin. Even from this distance we laid it with only about a boat length to spare. Both Blackaller and Dennis Conner ended up hitting the mark and had to go around again. Dave Peterson started next to us and we sailed over him and forced him to tack off. A few lengths beyond the end of the line we tacked too, after which we were about even with Dave, up on his hip; but he had better speed and was pointing higher, and we ended up right in his gas pipe about five minutes later and had to tack offshore.

We looked around to see which way Conner and Blackaller had gone, and found Dennis heading out for the left corner. For this reason we went also to the left, until it became apparent that the right side was being favored. By that time, of course, it was a little hard to get there, so we kept tacking to the right every time the wind would let us by shifting maybe five degrees. Many of the boats at this time just sailed to the right through all the small shifts; but probably tacking on each shift was a better way to get there, because we wound up about third when the boats from the right corner came into the mark.

At this point Dave Peterson was maybe four boat-lengths ahead of us, and Hans Vogh was very close to us. We had to duck under his stern as he came across on starboard. By going over to the starboard lay line we got a little shift so that we were ahead of Hans at the weather mark, still about four lengths behind Dave Peterson.

We gained a couple of lengths on the two reaches. The wind and the roughness of the water had increased, so that now we seemed to have a slight edge in boat speed. We had a ding-dong battle with Dave, who incidentally was sailing my old wooden boat, and we managed to get by him about two-thirds of the way up the beat. The wind held for the rest of the race and our boat speed held up a shade better than Dave's did, perhaps because of the extra 20 pounds that we had over the rail? On the run Dave gained slightly, and on the last weather leg we covered him fairly tightly to maintain our lead.

We felt very happy to have Dennis buried in this race, as at that point we still felt that he was our greatest threat. Blackaller did an amazing job in hitting the pin and re-rounding and still managing to salvage 5th. He did this by really taking a beating the first time up and going all the way to the right while Dennis took his chances to the left, hoping for something good on that side. The course was fairly even as to left and right, coming out about 50-50 during the week; but on this particular first weather leg you had to be on the right side.

Fourth Race by William Buchan
Up until this race Craig and I hadn't really been close enough to Lowell, Dennis or Tom to know whether we were in their league or not.

For once we had a fairly good start and tacked over to port as soon as we had a chance. Lowell and Tom had started a little further up the line and tacked sooner than we did. It seemed as though in the light 5-7 knot breeze we weren't nearly as fast as several of the boats around us, and before long it was a struggle to keep in the first ten. As we neared the weather mark the wind had increased to perhaps 10 knots, and with it our speed improved also. At this point I'm sure Lowell had pretty well forgotten us as far as the series was concerned because he seemed to be doing a complete covering job on both Tom and Dennis. What that did was to leave a large gap between Lowell and the rest of the fleet, which we took advantage of and slipped into second place at the mark,

On the two reaches our distance behind Lowell remained the same but on the second beat it appeared that we had a slight edge. Every time we gained a little, though it seemed as if we either made a wrong tack or let Lowell make a better one. As a result our net gains at the weather mark was zero.

On the run Lowell took off on starboard and we gybed immediately to port. It seemed to us that our heading was nearer to the mark and as it turned out we were right. We started the last beat with a lead of maybe 30 seconds and just about held it to the finish. Alan Holt sailed his best race of the series to place third and Pete Bennett came from nowhere to finish fourth, with Tom fifth.

Fifth Race by William Buchan
Due to our poor performance in the first few races we had to win this one and Lowell mustn't do better than fourth, or it would not matter what we did in the last race because Lowell would win the series anyway.

Fortunately for us the wind was blowing fairly well at the start; for it now looked as though our speed was good mainly in the fresh breeze. On the first beat the boats that played the extreme right-hand side of the leg came out looking very good at the weather mark. Pelle Petterson was first at the buoy, but he hit it in the rounding letting Malin Burnham get the lead. By the time we got there it seemed as if the leaders were halfway to the reaching mark. But there were only five boats ahead of us so we weren't too discouraged, especially with Lowell at least five places astern.

On the second reach we managed to pass Durward Knowles and we rounded at the end of the triangle in fifth place with Lowell still several boats behind. Our speed this day was very good and even though we only passed one on the second beat we felt that we had closed on the leaders to the point where maybe there was some hope.

On the run our positions remained quite constant: Malin was still leading, Pelle second and Tom third with ourselves fourth. Each of the four of us were spaced apart by about half a dozen lengths. On the last leg we got a little lift on the initial port tack after rounding the leeward mark. That allowed us to climb up on the weather quarter of the three leaders. When Malin finally tacked across on starboard we had cut his lead to about half of what it was, and it looked as if we were about even with Pelle and maybe a trifle ahead of Tom. As things worked out Malin covered us closely whenever we went on to starboard, which had the effect of forcing us out to the port lay line to keep our wind clear. Finally, within just a few lengths of the finish line, we managed to get a shift our way, to beat Malin across the line by only a few seconds. Pelle finished third and Tom fourth. Lowell closed very fast near the end to finish sixth, which wasn't enough to win the series-not today, anyway.

Sixth Race by Evan Dailey
After about two and a half hours of postponing to wait for the fog to lift, the race finally started. There was reasonably good wind, about 8 knots, but still so foggy that it was difficult to see the other end of the line from the committee boat. The first leg seemed to favor the right side of the course. We rounded sixth, with Eckart Wagner in the lead for the whole first round.

During the reaching legs the fog lifted, and the second round (windward-leeward) was sailed under blue skies in a nice breeze.
As we rounded the last leeward mark, still in sixth place, the fog started to roll in again, and in fifteen minutes the leading boats were completely out of sight. The next boats behind us were just barely visible. We favored the right side again, as the wind was constantly shifting toward a more northerly direction. My crew, Mike Cooper, kept time on his stopwatch as to how long we were on each tack. We finally spotted an amber light just to weather of our course. We sailed on this port tack for about five minutes, carefully watching the light move to the left. When we came about we could make out the committee boat with its cluster of spectator boats. When we crossed the line there were a lot of guns fired and other noise. Mike said he thought we had won. We sailed over to the committee boat to find out, and sure enough we had.

It was very exciting for us to win a race in the World's Championship, but I'm afraid a little unfair to the five boats that probably should have finished ahead of us.