WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP Havana
Article from the La Salle School Magazine of Havana on the1955 championship
from the 1956 Star Class Log
Not often has the favorite, usually the current defender, come through to win a Star World's Championship. Hardly anyone is rash enough to predict the outcome of a series whose entry list consists of 37 Fleet champions, most of them previous gold, silver or blue award winners. There were some predictions prior to the 1955 Havana series; however, to the effect that Charlie de Cardenas would do it again; and do it he did, in convincing and masterly fashion. Only three times before in the 33-year history of the event had there been World's Champions who held the title two consecutive years and Charlie defeated two of these three in achieving his 1955 victory.
In Portugal in 1954 Kurush won four firsts and a second. In Cuba in 1955 she was slightly less spectacular with two seconds, two fifths and a sixth. As Paul Smart remarked at the presentation dinner, "Last year at Cascais Charlie de Cardenas was consistently brilliant; this year at Havana he was brilliantly consistent: both spelled WORLD'S CHAMPION."
Of course the first place taken by Kurush V is only half the Havana story. The other half is the second place taken by Kurush IV. Until some of the other wheels got rolling at the end of the week, it looked as if North American Champion Jorge de Cardenas was going to outclass everybody, perhaps even including Papa Charlie and brother Carlos. In fact but for their 15th in the opening race, Jorge and his crew Alberto Garcia Tunon would have done just that. Charlie de Cardenas was no flash in the pan at Cascais; neither was Jorge at Rye.
And what about series third? One is tempted to say, "There was no third." The runner-up was Kurush IV, just 4 points behind Kurush V. Then, twenty-three points out of first place, along came the third boat, Vengeance, with a couple of Atlantic Coast Champions as skipper and crew. And Bill Gentzlinger had to sail very soundly even to do that well after an 18th in the opening race and no daily position over 4th. He ousted Lowell North from third place on the last day when North chose this critical hour to take 16th, his worst place for the week, and finished the series fourth a significant statistic is the following: in the top 23-point spread were 3 boats; in the next 23-point spread were 10 boats.
As in 1946, the series was sailed in November to avoid hurricanes; but in Havana there is no way to avoid northers, those 3-day storms which blast across the Gulf Stream and render the waterfront unfit for man or boat. Therefore the series was scheduled to start on Saturday, to allow 8 full days in which to complete 5 races. As is sometime the case when plans are carefully made to meet every contingency, the crisis did not arise, no postponements were necessary, and the series ended on time after a schedule that went like clockwork.
Annual Meeting was held the day before the series started. In his
annual report, President Smart commented on the prowess of the host
Cuban sailors and implied that they might be hard to beat during the
coming week. At the international flag raising ceremony, as the
representative of each of the 10 nations raised his country's flag, the
Cuban navy band played that country's national anthem. The
preliminaries were over and the series got under way.
Caption reads: Start of the 33rd World Star Class Regatta> Thirty seven sleek sailboats at Havana head out on the first of five races to choose the World Championsihp of the Star Class sailboats. Boat 3079 (extreme left) won the first race. It was captained by John Todd of Cambridge, MD. Third boat from left is the "Karush V" owned by defending champion Charles De Cardenas, Havana, 5th finished. AP wirephoto 1955.
The opener was sailed over a windward-leeward course in on eight to ten knot breeze. It was the only light race of the series and the only one in which a wind-shift resulted in a major catastrophe for those caught on the wrong side of the shift. The committee boat constituted the starboard (inshore) end of the line each day thereafter the wind was northeast along the coast, but in the first race it was more north. At the committee end Phil Somerville's Scotch Mist, Ulmer's Scylla and von Hütschler in the old Pimm got good starts. The Lippincotts, Howard skippering and Bob crewing in Circus, were well clear in the middle of the line. And at the outer end, Lowell North hit his old stride and made the perfect start at the stake; Owen Torrey's North American threat Cygnet was next (with President Smart crewing;) then Jorge de Cardenas and another group very close together.
Those who had sailed at Havana before or had read the accounts of the 1946 World's Championship were well aware of the part played by the strong Gulf Stream set to the eastward. In 1946 the outside tack, providing more lift from the current on the way to the weather mark, paid off in every race. In 1955 the outside tack also paid off in every race- except the first. The unfortunate half of the fleet, which held the starboard tack on the first leg looked good for awhile but then the wind shifted slightly to the east and strengthened inshore, allowing the whole inside group to tack and cross the outside boats easily. Local knowledge was apparently helpless to predict this outcome; Jorge de Cardenas was among the hapless outsiders, finishing 15th because of it. Lowell North and Jim Hill staged the best recovery of the outer group, tacking in before some of the others and so pushing North Star up to 9th at the finish. Other hopefuls who never did get out of the soup were Dick Stearns and Stanley Fahlstrom in the famous Magic; Bill Parks and Buck Halperin, whose Citation has been making a name for herself in Great Lakes waters; E. W. Etchells' 1951 World's Champion Shannon; and Cal Hadden's Third District champion En Garde. These four finished in a solid if dispirited block, filling slots No. 29, 30, 31 and 32 respectively.
But what of those who had better luck, or whatever it is that puts boats in the right place at the right time? Read Ruggles, whose Twin Star was destined not to do better than 16th for the rest of the week, led around the first three marks. But he was hotly pursued by John Todd, who passed Ruggles on the last run to take a daily first even as he had done two months earlier in the Silver Star series at Rye. Thus Todd and his crew Jack Streeton have the honor of being the first to have their names inscribed on the George Elder Memorial Trophy, which goes each year to the winner of the opening race.
Toward the end of the race the wind improved, and with it Straulino. The Italian double Gold Star winner, who, with his crew Nico Rode, had been in Havana for two weeks practicing, moved up to third; but Philippe Chancerel, the young French ace who gained international prominence by winning the Swedish open championship two years ago, passed Straulino on the last leg, and Merope finished fourth. Papa Charlie, as the señor de Cardenas is affectionately known in Cuban sailing circles, sailed a very strong second windward leg to climb from 8th to 5th in weather not to his liking.
von Hütschler brought Pimm
in 8th, but it was the old girl's swan song. Evidently the 18-year old
boat, twice World's Champion under the famous German-Brazilian skipper,
had lost some of her punch. Pimm
never did better than 20th in the subsequent heavier going, the weather
in which von Hütschler used to revel.
On the wild runs downwind in 1946 it had paid to sail in close to shore, jibe just before the next wave would have put you up on the Malecon, and coast along the beach out of the strongest current to the leeward mark. For some fortunate reason this thrilling but risky technique was not necessary in 1955. Most boats sailed, or tried to sail, straight down the wind to the finish. The surfboarding was fun, but sometimes difficult: a big wave, which looked as if it might provide you with a wonderful free ride would break at just the critical moment and leave the boat wallowing. Papa Charlie, however, knew what he was doing, especially downwind, and in this second race he passed all three of the leaders to round the home mark first. But son Jorge also knew what he was doing, especially upwind. He gave the boys the same treatment he had given them at Rye. Both he and Charlie lengthened out slowly but steadily. At the last weather mark son had the edge over father, and this time held it to the finish to win by 19 seconds.
Philippe Chancerel's Gam was 9th, to hold second in series points at this juncture and Lowell North's 7th was good enough to tie Jorge de Cardenas for 3rd. Bill Gentzlinger began to look more hopeful with a 6th, and would have done even better but for forgetting the strong current and over standing the weather mark accordingly.
The end of the race signaled the beginning of the celebrating. Of course the Cubans went wild with joy over the splendid showing of the home contingent. Paul Smart called it a sort of spontaneous national holiday. Everybody had known that the de Cardenases were good- very good- but the first race had been something of an upset, and it was now evident that if the weather held strong and steady they would be virtually unbeatable.
so off to the inevitable round of lavish Havana entertainments for the
second night. But the day's excitement was not yet over. At 10 p.m. the
weather bureau warned that a norther was coming. A dinner party at the
de Cardenases' left coffee on the table and ran for telephones and the
yacht club. From far and near skippers and crews materialized as if out
of the air. In an hour and fifteen minutes, in the middle of the night,
37 boats were hauled out - that meant 2 minutes per boat- and snugged
down for the expected storm.
Shannon took the start at the offshore end of the line; Cygnet was the best at the inshore end. Cygnet was pretty good at the start every day, not so good at the finish. Most of the fleet stood out to sea as per the usual formula. At the first mark the order was Kurush IV, North Star I, Bu IV, Vengence, En Garde, and Shannon. Etchells was not 6th for long: he was second at the end of the first run, and stayed there. On the way upwind the second time he split with Jorge, a risky operation because it involved taking the undesirable inshore tack for a while. But Shannon neither gained nor lost places, holding second to the finish. North maintained third to add another Gold Chevron to his big collection; Vengeance moved up to fourth; the Champion, ninth at the first mark, worked up to fifth at the finish; Basil Kelly's Conch, from Nassau was sixth; and Bu IV, Jorge Geyer's Brazilian entry, finished seventh. This was the best showing Brazil made during the week; but Geyer was never down in the ruck, and his series final 12th place, in a series as tough as this one, represents the best work the up-and-coming South Americans have done to date in the World's Championship.
approaching the weather mark on the port tack, tried to go about under
an approaching starboard tack boat, couldn't quite make it, hit the
mark, and withdrew. Merope
was 12th at the time; but even had she won this race, she would have
placed only third in the series. Nevertheless Straulino, like Etchells,
also had the situation solved now that it was too late, and put on a
brilliant show for the last two races There were other casualties on
this windy day, the most severe being the dismasting of Shillalah
whose owner, Dan Catlin had obtained the week off from prep school at
Andover (an unheard-of achievement) for the purpose of sailing in the
event. On the rest day, which followed the third race the entire fleet
was invited to a special reception at the presidential palace by
President of the Republic General Fulgencio Batista. This was only one
of the many extraordinary shore activities arranged for the visitors
during the week. No adjective short of stupendous can do justice to the
quality and quantity of the entertainments. Those who had been at
Havana many times and were accustomed to the lavish scale on which such
things are managed there reported that this time they were even more
impressive than ever.
performance of the Champion in 1954 (four firsts and a second) was so
brilliant that it outshone his 1955 record. That the 1955 showing was
also excellent is not to be overlooked. Two 2's, two 5's and a 6
average up to exactly 4. This average wins most big Star championships.
The North American, for example, has been won in each of the last two
years with somewhat weaker averages.
Dr. Beppe Croce, who came from Italy to chairman the International Race Committee, did a superb job with the aid of a carefully selected committee of experts: Charles E. Lucke, Jr., Narciso Gelats, Clemente Inclan and Madame Fernandez Valle (recorder). Dr. Croce was of course responsible, but he gave full credit to his assistants, particularly Clemente Inclan who had the difficult and thankless job of setting the line and who did it so well that every section of the line was well populated every day. There were no protests and no actual recalls, always a most favorable indication that things were done right. (Lowell North pushed his luck a bit too far in the second race and got across the line too soon; but he came back of his own accord before the committee sounded any recall signal.)
its issue of November 21, 1955, an American national magazine called Sports
Illustrated published a feature
article by Henry Wallace on the de Cardenases. With the permission of
TIME, Inc., the copyright holders, we reproduce most of it here.
and the Boys
"There are two titles that make you important in yacht racing circles," said Cardenas recently. "The Bermuda race is one, and the Star class championship is the other. And he adds, "The best sailors are in Stars. If you are a Star champion, everyone who knows about yacht racing knows you have really achieved something. You are pointed out in any yachting group. 'That's the fellow who won the Star championship,' they say. . . ."
Cardenas, called Charlie by his sailing confreres, spends roughly 100 days a year making sure that he and his Star never get out of tune. During the weeks leading up to his championship defense, Charlie has spent every possible moment running his boat, Kurush V, alongside that of his second son, Jorge, to be sure that everything is adjusted perfectly.
Charlie could hardly have picked a better foil. For Jorge, after 20 years of tutoring from his father has emerged as the North American Star champion. As the two boats slice through the water together, Charlie fiddles with every adjustment that could give him more speed. Heavy weather is his favorite. Close-hauled, he is a genius at covering his opponent's moves and figuring the fastest way around the buoy. But if the wind is light, he watches every detail anxiously. He may change the setting of the mainsheet and straighten the slight rearward bend of his mast to give the sail more belly. He may shift his own position in the boat or that of his crew as little as a few inches to get the boat in proper balance. . . .
It is easy to get the impression that Cardenas enjoys tinkering as much as the actual sailing competition. He is a skilled amateur machinist who will design a brand new fastening if the standard one does not suit his purposes; and traffic in the Cardenas kitchen is frequently impeded by one end of a mast jutting out of the small home workshop where Charlie does his puttering. His attention to preparation and detail extends even to sprinkling small drops of water onto the bottom of his Star. If the drops run off quickly, the boat is ready for the race if, however, some of the drops hesitate, the bottom gets carefully re-sanded. And like all top Star competitors, Cardenas keeps his boat out of the water absolutely dry, except when he is actually sailing. "We put our boats in the water l5 minutes before a race" he says "and haul them out five minutes after. Leave them in these tropical waters for a week and they get whiskers (marine growth)." This, obviously, is unthinkable in a Cardenas boat.
and determined as he is, Charlie is well aware of the quality of the 38
entries that will be trying to dethrone him during the five-race series
for the world title. He names the European champion, Augustino
Straulino, as one master of tuning and tactics who might beat him.
Another is Duarte Bello of Portugal. A third, and perhaps the biggest
threat of all is Jorge, who took his own private title at Rye, NY last
September 10 and now feels ready for the big one "even if I have to
beat my father." His father, of course, isn't planning to be beaten by
Jorge or anybody else. Like many sailing champions, Charlie does not
enjoy losing. A quietly modest man on land, he can be a tyrant on the
water and any rare bit of slow or sloppy sail handling by Carlos Jr. is
likely to bring forth a staccato blast of rather colorful Spanish.
Charlie, say some of his close friends at the Havana Yacht Club, is too
tense about winning.