Note: This report
has been scanned in by Ed Sprague. For a collection of Worlds' reports
plus photographs contact Ed Sprague email@example.com
to order his book "The San Diego Bay Star Fleet".
Tom Blackaller won his second World's Championship against fierce competition and overcoming some other obstacles along the way.
The tune-up race of Friday, February 22, was a tune?up more for the race committee than for the contestants. Murphy's Law was in full effect: everything that could go wrong did go wrong. First, there were twelve supposedly competing Stars in Rio, but still in the hands of the shipping company, which seemed most reluctant to turn them loose. They were promised for Wednesday, also Thursday, and again Friday morning. The tune-up race start was postponed for an hour in the hope that some of the twelve could make it; but no such luck. Then someone forgot to take down the postponementflag at the club, which required an additional postponement at the start to allow for the 2 ½ hour time between the lowering of AP and the attention signal. This postponement was signalled at about starting time, so that some contestants thought it was a general recall, not allowed by the sailing instructions. After another half hour the boats were rounded up and back at the start again. More problems with flags, halyards, guns, etc., but finally the race got away, an abbreviated affair ending at the second weather mark, but indeed a tune-up race. Some of the pre-race favorites dropped out or did not sail. The frequently mentioned jinx of winning the tune-up race appeared to be in operation again: Axel Schmidt of Rio won the tune up in No. 5895, a beautiful wood creation, but did not reappear above 21st until the last race when he was 13th. The day, a picture postcard of sun, gentle breezes, blue water and lots of Stars, was a harbinger of things to come. Every day for the next week the wind was within a few degrees of 130°; the course could nearly have been left set for the whole week. It was difficult to tell one day from another.
The annual meeting, flag raising and opening ceremonies were held on Saturday. President Malin Burnham presided over a lightly attended meeting. He reported on the financial good health of the Class; 1978 and 1979 were our two best years for new boats and we have nearly 1800 boats actively racing around the world. The International Race Committee was ratified for the series. It was announced that the 1981 World's would be in Marblehead, Massachusetts, 1982 in Holland and 1983 probably in southern California. Five Resolutions were approved and sent on for vote by the membership on the next Class-wide ballot. It was announced that all 54 boats had been measured for the series. Then a touching appeal by twice World's Champion Walter von Hütschler for a return to friendship and sportsmanship in the Star Class was followed by adjournment.
Peter Siemsen, representing
the host club, introduced President Burnham who officially opened the
regatta by announcing the thirteen competing nations as their flags were
raised on the twin piers opposite the club house while the 54 Stars at
their moorings formed an impressive backdrop. Fernando Duarte, Commodore
of the l.C.R.J., added his welcome, and the event was under way. The first
activity was a reception and cocktail party around the huge fresh water
swimming pool, better described as a rectangular lake with an island.
The first race got away to a beautiful start with the boats spread evenly along a perfectly square and amply long line. Three boats were over early. Alexander Hagen of West Germany was spotted by the race committee at the pin end, and Dennis Conner, World's Champion in 1971 and 1977, was called over from the starting vessel. This was to prove very costly to both, as Hagen was first to finish the race with Conner second, of course at least in part because of the initial advantage gained by starting prematurely. With the disqualification of those two, Blackaller, who was third across the finish line, moved up to first which gave him the Elder Trophy and a lead he never relinquished.
The entire fleet went to the left, more or less to the port tack lay line. A shear between the muddy water from the harbor carried east on the ebb tide and the clear blue ocean water gave the leftmost boats a boost; then after tacking to port a slight lift from the wind added to the importance of this course. It was thought that this situation might last through the week, and it almost did. Only on the last day was there a noticeable change, when boats to the right did better.
Hagen, later this year to become North American Silver Star champion, led all the way to the finish with Trygve Liljestrand, the other premature starter, close behind for the first round. Blackaller was in and out of third during the entire race, with Fravezzi fighting his way out of the pack to finish behind Blackaller, and Valentin Mankin of Kiev, Russia, next. As the race progressed the wind increased slightly to about 15 knots at the finish, 2 furs. 40 min. after the start. Daniel Adler broke his mast at the deck just before rounding the leeward mark, due to a hardware failure. 1969 champion Pelle Petterson retired when the forestay sheave box failed and the deck was being sawn down the middle.
Fravezzi led at the
first mark with Gorla second and Blackaller third, then Peter Wright,
Scala, Barton Beek and Eduardo Ramos. The battle raged on with Fravezzi
holding the lead to finish in 2 furs. 12 min. and take the Paul Smart
Trophy, with Blackaller right astern, Hagen pulling up to third, and Gorla
slipping to fourth. As the breeze piped up various mishaps caused nine
to be recorded "did not finish. " Daniel Adler experienced his
second broken mast in two days; Hans Fendt of West Germany was swamped,
but bailed out without further problem.
At the end of the
third race the series begins to take shape. Blackaller is leading to win
the trophy in memory of Bud Vanderveer. Fravezzi is 8.7 points behind
him in second. Scala (third), Gorla (fourth) and Mankin (fifth) are bunched
within a two point spread.
That evening the fleet
was divided into two groups, one half the guests of Peter Siemsen at his
home and the other half going to Harry Adler's, both lovely parties with
cocktails, dinner and good fun for all. In order to avoid missing the
party as we had the night before, we put off the day's protests until
the next morning.
Positions changed rapidly on the reaches, Hagen going from second to fourth and Fravezzi dropping from 5th to 10th at the end of the first round with Blackaller still in 7th place. But now suspense heightens as the top of Blackaller's mast breaks at the hounds. Fravezzi has a chance: he has two beats and a run to move from tenth to second to win the series. Hans Prechter of West Germany also lost his spar at the hounds and two more went at the spreaders as the breeze increased. Conner continued to lead all the way until Gorla nipped him just at the finish line to win his first race, the Parkman Bowl, and series third. Fravezzi pulled up, but only to fifth, for a solid series second. Scala took 9th for series fourth: 8th would have given him third.
It's all over but the shouting. No protests in the last race. Blackaller with his stub mast is towed to the club where he and Dave Shaw are shown the good cheer of all by being thrown into the harbor and dowsed with champagne.
Saturday March 1 was the day for unwinding and packing up to go home. The trophy presentation party at the pool was the premier affair of the week, of course. The trophies mentioned earlier were given out, Dave Shaw was awarded the Mary Etchells Trophy for the winning crew, and then he and Tom Blackaller received the historic World's Championship Trophy. The contestants were individually introduced and presented with their mementos. After dinner we were treated to a demonstration by a Samba school, noisy, fast and fun. The members of the group selected a few of the audience for instantaneous Samba lessons, and somehow Tom Blackaller was rewarded for his participation and enthusiasm by being tossed into the pool, only to be joined by some others who got to close to the edge. Thus ended a tremendous week.
It is difficult to
imagine a better week of sailing. Otto Schlenzka set practically perfect
lines every time, which was a prime contributor to four all clear starts
in six races. Only seven boats were over early in six races; and the races
started on time, one start per day. It doesn't hurt to have good luck,
and the Stars had that too with ideal weather conditions all week long.