1997 World Championship, Marblehead, Massachusetts, USA
by Harry Walker
The 1997 World Championship was sailed off of Marblehead, Massachusetts and out of the Eastern Yacht Club. The championship was decided in the jury room. The winning skipper, for his second gold star, was Alex Hagen of the Gluecksburger Fleet crewed by Olympic and former World Champion crew Marcelo Ferreira of Brazil. Alex sailed a solid series with one win and only one finish out of the top 10 in six races.
In contrast, Eric Doyle from San Diego with Brian Terhaar up front were brilliant going into the final race with 3 firsts and a second in the first 5 races. However, Doyle’s disqualification in the sixth race could not be dropped and it knocked him back to eleventh.
Mark Reynolds and Magnus Liljedahl were second and Bermudan Peter Bromby sailing with Michael Marcel took third. John MacCausland with Phil Trinter finished the series ahead of Australian Olympians Beashel and Giles.
The practice race was canceled due to light winds and big shifts. Racing started on Monday after both the Opening Ceremonies and a tumultuous Annual Meeting. It was a relief to get on the water. The first race was blown off by veteran P.R.O. Charley Cook of the host club as the breeze would not settle down. After a 60° shift the guns were fired and the fleet went home.
Tuesday was a gray, cold, misty day with 10-12 miles of wind and lumpy 3-foot seas. After two general recalls the first race of the double header was started under the "Black Flag" rule. Three boats were over early. MacCausland, who eventually won the race, describes the events. "At the first mark Peter Bromby and Mike Marcel rounded the weather mark first and we rounded second. As we neared the jibe mark we were able to establish an inside overlap, which entitled us to room at the mark. From this position we were able to open up a substantial lead. The second beat we protected the right side of the course positioning ourselves between Peter and the next mark. At the final weather mark we had maintained our lead over Peter and on the run to the finish there was no change in our position. The final positions for race number one were MacCausland / Trinter, Bromby / Marcel and Hagen / Ferreira.
The second race, held under the same conditions, saw the boats who went right get buried by a shift to the north. Eventual race winner Eric Doyle recalls "John and big Phil made a good comeback near the end of the reach as some big puffs filled from behind and the wind backed to the left a little bit. They were able to sail higher than us for the first part of the beat in the left-hand shift, but when the wind later went back to the right, we had extended our lead. The last run was lots of fun in the building breeze with big rollers to ride. It was still just a two boat race and John and Phil again gained slightly on the run. Both Of us rounded the left mark at the gate and proceeded to the right side again. Good boat speed on our part and a loose cover gave us the gun at the finish. Brian and I were extremely excited as this was the first time we had ever won a race at a Star World Championship!"
Race three on Wednesday was the '0' course. One boat was over early but returned for a clean start. The crush was towards the pin end with most of the fleet going right again. At the first mark Larry Whipple / Barry Van Leuween was leading followed by Bill Allen and Baron Farre in third. The left side and the left middle had been best. Leader John MacCausland rounded 62nd. As the breeze picked up a new leader was Farre with Whipple and Allen close behind. At the finish though it was again Doyle, having come from the 20's, who nipped Allen and 3rd place Reynolds— Farre had slipped to 7th and Whipple to 10th.
Things were tightening up among about 8 boats. Peter Vessella of Boston Harbor had a 5th in race three sailing fast. The Mid-week party and prize giving were ably handled by Regatta Chairman Tim Hunt.
The fourth race was again in light to medium air and lumpy seas from the north. It started with a postponement with 2 minutes to go; a general recall; and then a Black Flag rule start. Bromby, Hagen, Beashel and Rickard started at the pin. Again left and left middle paid and at the first mark again it was Doyle in 1st. Frank Gordon, former Class President, was aboard Arthur Ivy's luxurious yacht and had comments about the downwind gate— not all of them complimentary.
At the end of the second run it was Bromby, Doyle, Howie Shiebler and John King. Hagen was in 5th place sailing his usual good race. On the last leg the wind lightened and Doyle took Shiebler with Beashel next followed by MacCausland and the ever-present Hagen.
Thursday started in fog, mist, lighter air and lumpy seas. After two general recalls and the Black Flag— only Cuyler Morris was over. The wind was 90°. At the first mark the leader out of the fog was Doyle followed by Dieter Gast of Boston Harbor. Third was Baron Farre (the big Argentine is often up front through 2 to 3 legs) with Mitchell and Hagen following.
Off into the fog. Light air down wind with big swells. At the gate Doyle 1st goes to the right Hagen, 2nd goes to the left and had Doyle at the first crossing. Ben Mitchell / Bill Stump had moved into 3rd and Farre had slumped to 9th. Bromby and MacCausland were buried deep. Mark Reynolds was up to 5th. Then the fog really closed in. Alex Hagen stated "The 5th race I would call 'The Fog thriller'. We rounded the first mark in 6th position. Downwind without seeing the mark, we were the first boat to jibe to the left. This put us in 2nd position and also closer to the left gate-mark. Eric took the right mark and was all of a sudden behind us. On the second run the fog became the worst. Marcelo and I were so afraid of passing the bottom gate behind because the maximum visibility was less than 120m. Everybody jibed a few times, had the crew standing on the foredeck and was focused on just finding the mark and not on boat speed. After a long run in light winds with all nerves tight like guitar strings, we rounded still in first. After that— the upwind leg into the finish was a piece of cake." Alex held his lead with Doyle 2nd and surprising Dieter Gast 3rd. Mitchell and Beashel finished out the top 5.
Going into Friday's race Doyle held a seemingly unbeatable lead. Only Bromby and Hagen would take him and only if they won and Eric was 14th or worse.
The sixth race looked like little to no air, glassy sea and a completely different breeze direction— also the current was strong. After innumerable Postponements and general recalls and several Black Flags, the race got away at about 3 PM. At the start the right end looked best and all the boats who went left were lifted— which did them in. Cuyler Morris recalls, "Mike and I knew we wanted to stay right based on our experience from the 1st District Championships." As the fleet reached the weather mark this writer has never seen a fleet as spread out on the first leg.
"Starting on starboard we were pinned from tacking onto port for about one minute, once on port and footing under a boat we continued near starboard layline and tacked inside and behind Reynolds and Peter Wyss" stated Morris. Dr. Peter Wyss was 1st at the mark but he had been over early. Second was Mark Reynolds and Cuyler Morris 3rd. Again steady Hagen was 4th followed by Doyle and Beashel. Bromby was nowhere to be seen. Three of the first seven boats were flying protest flags. "On the run we stayed to the left of our competition and passed Reynolds" said Morris. Ninety percent of the boats picked the left gate and went right. Morris recalls, "On the last beat we again went right but tacked to starboard sooner as Hagen was trying the middle and we wanted to stay in touch with the competition. Half way up the beat Wyss had fallen far back and Hagen was in a distant second with Reynolds in third. We rounded the last weather mark first and extended our lead on second and third place boats respectively by staying to their left on the run." At the top mark Morris had taken over with Hagen 2nd and then Reynolds. The finish was Morris, Hagen, Reynolds, Doyle, Wyss, Beashel, Brun and Wefer.
However the finish after protests turned out to be Morris, Hagen, Reynolds, Brun and Wefer. At the protest hearing the jury gave Eric Doyle a DND— and that pushed the seemingly unbeatable winner to 11th. Alex Hagen became the winner. He sailed a solid series— as he always does— with only one win and ended up with 7 points under Mark Reynolds.
The final banquet was a gala but slightly tinged by a day of important protests. The World Championship goes to Hagen / Ferreira, a deserving team; and Alex, World Champion in '81 at this same Marblehead, a worthy winner.