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Bacardi Cup
March 6 - 11, 2017, Miami, Florida


2017 Eastern Hemisphere Championship
May 30  - June 4, 2017
Viareggio, Italy


2017 Western Hemisphere Championship
June 13 - 18, 2017
Cleveland, Ohio USA

Newest Star Number

8522

 

 

1959 World Championship


1959 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP (Newport, USA) by Gary Comer complete results
Report from the 1960 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".

Lowell North's North Star III

For good reasons, I didn't care to write this account; but the editor of the LOG insisted, for better reasons, I couldn't say no. It is an extremely personal story of a great season for me, for my crew Bill Hackel, and for Turmoil. If I left too much out or put too much in, I ask for your forgiveness. If the actors seem to appear and disappear without explanation, it's because they did. If you seem to be watching the wrong part of a race, it's because I was in it. In this championship there were several others, less fortunate than I, who sailed excellent races. I couldn't see them all, so I can't tell of them all. If this story is worth a dedication, I'd like it to be to my crew and my friends, who made the telling of it possible.

HOW IT CAME TO BE
The phone rang, and I beard the familiar voice of Bill Hackel saying, "Comer, why don't you buy a Star Boat?" It was a warm Spring afternoon. As I looked out of my office window on to the lake, all of the reasons I hadn't owned a Star for two years seemed to fade away. I couldn't think of a truthful reason not to buy one; and that's how No. 4143 was born: a standard Old Greenwich with a few homemade frills. I called it Turmoil, for the way I do things.

I asked Skip Etchells to make a light spar, and I got more than I bargained for- or less, as it turned out. "You'll break it!" he said, and he was nearly right. For two weeks we didn't know what that mast would think of next. It buckled violently between all of the staying points. At the suggestion of Pete Bennett, we moved the upper shrouds to the tip. That straightened it out above the jib intersection. Then I put a strut between the lower shroud and the mast that stopped it from collapsing to windward below the spreader. If you're having trouble with your spar, the first thing to do, I think, is stop it floating at the deck. I blocked my mast solid, and with the other things we'd done, it began to behave. As it turned out in California, it was lucky we stayed with it.

We were fortunate to have two top skippers in our fleet- Pete Bennett and Gene McCarthy. The three of us were about evenly matched at the beginning of the season. Later Turmoil seemed to have the advantage.

The first indication we had that Turmoil could go, was in a match race with Dick Stearns. We heat him by 18 seconds in 30 M.P.H. winds. Around our way, Dick's Glider is always a dependable criterion of boat speed. We were encouraged.

In the weeks prior to the championship, we spent several evenings and week-ends tuning with Pete Bennett and Harry Nye. They were excellent trial horses, and reflected quickly what was good and bad in the many changes we made. In the end, all of us were moving better.

THE WORLD'S CHAMPIONSHIP
We arrived in Newport Friday night after a grueling two and a half days on the road. We weren't so tired though, that we couldn't scout out someone to tell us about the sailing conditions. Etchells, who had been at Newport the better part of a week, told us: "Sailing in the ocean out here is like sailing at home in the Bendix."

This was an accurate picture, we later found out. Huge, rolling ground swells with just enough wind to put a chop on them. Then a wind-current that increased as you went to sea, on occasion.

I asked Durwood Knowles how he was going- and I was sorry I asked. He said: "Let me tell you. For two days we've been tuning with one of the locals, a 14-year old boy. Every time we go on the wind he passes us. I don't mind that, Mon, but after he passes, he luffs his sails and hollers, "You give up? You give up? "

I witnessed this phenomenon the next day when 14-year old Skip Allan sailed past 8 Gold Stars and 5 Silver Stars to win the opening tune-up race. If Skip Allan would like to remember that race, I'd just as much like to forget the next one. It was a windward leeward, once around. I rounded the mark third, and jibed-directly into an impervious wall of 35 boats on the starboard tack lay-line! For a minute I thought I'd turned down the wrong corridor of a freeway. Sails were going by on either side, and lots ... lots of conversation. Etchells made a panic tack to escape, but I had him- and shaved out a 2-foot section of his rail. Was he mad! About that time, I wished I'd stayed in Chicago, and I suppose, so did Skip. Later, though, he changed his mind.

First Race
Like all of the races, the first one was sailed in the feeble whisper of the northwest trade. I'm told this wind blows over 20, north of Los Angeles. Here, and today, it was a peaceful 6 to 8.

We started up at the committee boat end of the line and tacked for shore directly after the start. Ficker, Stearns and a few others were to windward and behind. We were upwinding them neatly. We sailed nearly to the starboard tack lay-line before going to sea. Malin Burnham was leading his side of the fleet; we were leading ours. It looked as though we would cross him near the mark, but he worked his way over on a pair of windshifts and flipped in to leeward of us at the mark. He rounded first, about 2 lengths ahead of us. Stearns was next, and then Stan Ogilvy followed by Lowell North. Lowell, on this dead run, sailed from fifth, 75 yards behind us, right through Stearns and Ogilvy, to third, a half-length behind us! Malin increased his lead over us by about 30 yards on this leg. We were to be the victim of this kind of running speed all too often in the next few days.

At the leeward mark, Billy had a scheme. Lowell was closing fast from a more favorable angle. Billy wanted to let him round first, then have us tack to sea. This would avoid being pinned when Lowell came around behind us. The theory was that Malin would cover whoever was second, and our tack would force Lowell to sail on to clear our backwind. When he did tack, Malin would be set to go right on him and we'd be free. I didn't do it, but it worked out exactly like Billy's plan- except we were the fall guys. We took enough exhaust from Malin in the next 5 minutes to allow North to cross us easily on the next tack. We never did get back what we'd lost. Malin rounded the weather mark first by ten lengths with Lowell second, another three lengths ahead of us. Halfway down the run,
Lowell drew abeam of Malin, and from there on; they seesawed down the long swells to a thrilling finish. Lowell hooked on to the last wave and slithered ahead of Malin to win by what one writer called "a coat of paint". They beat us by a minute. A few seconds behind was Ogilvy, followed by Etchells. How and where they came from I know not.

Seventh in this race was defending Champion, Bill Ficker. The next day, Bill changed mainsails and was back, as the Argentines say, in the "noise".

Second Race
The wind was light, almost non-existent, at the time of the scheduled start. Race Committee Chairman Bill Severance used the excellent judgment that he displayed throughout the series, and postponed the race till the wind came in.

At the start, we had a lovely opening with no boats on either side to worry about. We tacked on to the port, and went down the shore; taking little hitches out on what I thought were knocks. I say thought, because it was difficult to tell shifts. The swells were high enough, and long enough, that you gained speed on the downstroke, lost it on the way up. The result was a change in the apparent wind, which felt like a wind shift.

Most of the fleet, including us, sailed out to the starboard tack lay-line without ever crossing the rhumb line. Well, I thought it was the lay-line; it turned out we overstood. Alvaro de Cardenas tacked in to leeward of us and did a beautiful job of sailing out from under, rounding the weather mark first about 10 lengths ahead of us. Roy Rodgers was next, then Ficker, followed by North and Burnham.

Ficker took the low road on this reach of the triangular course, and climbed to second. North and Burnham, as usual, came off the wind on wings. As I recall, Alvaro staved off Ficker and rounded on to the beat first. We managed to get around ahead of the San Diego boys, in third. On the beat, we had a dandy battle with Ficker. We both took the long tack down the shore. One minute Bill would take us, the next we would take him. Lowell and Malin had gone farther out to sea. Alvaro wasn't going as well this time, and dropped several places. When Ficker tacked, he crossed us, but only by a length. We went beyond his backwind area and tacked. We were just barely laying the mark on the starboard tack. Bill hitched over and tacked into a safe leeward on us. That was all! I couldn't lay it any more and we had to tack. That gave Bill a comfortable lead, and moved North into striking distance on the run. Three-quarters of the way down, Lowell came by so fast I didn't even bother to luff him. Burnham finished fourth, passing von Hütschler on the reach and drawing uncomfortably close to our transom. Our unfortunate amigo de Cardenas, who had done so well the first time around, dropped to sixth at the finish. One fact was apparent- we were losing the series off the wind.

That night, over a gin and tonic, I asked our old camping partner Chick Rollins, "What the hell do they do to run like that?" "Let Your mast go forward," he said- and he showed us how.

Third Race
Wednesday morning, before the race, we made a few changes on our backstays. At the start, the wind was a howling 10 m.p.h. I remember vividly, the entire fleet was sailing for the line on the starboard tack, and Lowell was reaching along behind everyone on the port tack, waving and shouting at the committee. I found out later he'd broken a backstay and was asking for a postponement, which he didn't get. Lowell must have started dead last.

We got clear away, started down the shore again. This was the way it almost had to be: a long port tack down the shore, a long starboard tack to the mark. Dr. Mario Quina, the Portuguese, rounded first with a handsome lead. We needed a bit more to lay the mark; it was getting cramped, and there was a strong current running. Ficker was on starboard and we tacked into a close safe-leeward on him, just what he had done to us the day before. The result for Bill was disaster. He had to tack and cross behind several others and overstood the mark by considerable. Dick Stearns rounded the mark second, followed by Straulino. We were fourth with Burnham only five lengths behind. Today though, the Turmoil was playing a new tune on the run. We ran through Stearns and Straulino, up to second place. On any other day, Burnham would have made 20 to 40 yards on the run. (The course was windward leeward.) Today he barely gained the 5 lengths we were ahead.

When we neared the mark, Malin was running close, so I sailed off by the lee, hoping he would go outside for the turn. He bit on it at first, then realized there wasn't time to get by us, before the mark, and veered under for an overlap. "Now Gary," he said, "you wouldn't sail below that mark, would you?" Well, as long as he put his bow in there, I figured I wouldn't. We both turned the mark from a broad angle, Malin going ahead and on to our wind.

Up till this time, we'd made all our points by sailing high. But now we had to foot. We cracked out and let her swim- and she swam! We sailed right through Malin, tightened up into a safe leeward and kissed him off. I don't think Malin had experienced anything like it this season-and neither had we. But there was more to come. Mario Quina had worked into a lead that looked to be about 100 yards ahead of us and 50 yards to windward. The swimming was great. We closed the 100 yards between, losing only a few yards to leeward. Quina tacked. We continued down the shore, sailing for speed. Soon we were in a dangerous position. The entire fleet was to sea of us. Although we were on the favored side, a wind-shift would have ended us. We tacked, and it was soon apparent that the Turmoil was ascending. Quina had the others by a light-year and it looked like we had him. He came over, and we forced him to tack, but he missed the safe-leeward. We went together for a while like we were tied, he to leeward and slightly ahead. He was right in my pretty picture window. He was, that is, until I reached for the traveler and knocked the whole business loose. We sagged right into his backwind and had to tack. The next time he came across, he had us by a length. He carried on about 20 yards and tacked to lay the mark. We laid it from where we were- we had to! We rounded ahead, almost overlapped.

Billy and I were not unhappy at this time. I called, "Buenos Dias, Señor- it's a good day for red boats!" He agreed. We exchanged the lead with him several times on this run- till we jibed away for position on Straulino and Burnham. That jibe might have cost us the race, and the Vanderveer trophy. Quina won by 15 seconds, we were second, Straulino third and Burnham fourth. North, by sheer determination, had sailed from dead last, fixed his backstay before the run and finished fifth! North Star and Turmoil were now tied for first place with 85 points- but North had us on horserace. Malin was 2 points behind us, 6 ahead of Quina. We were disappointed to lose the Vanderveer trophy, but not too disappointed, considering that we had almost not come to Newport and were now contenders for a Gold Star.

I asked Chick how we looked on the run today, and he replied, "Not right yet, kid." The next day was rest day, and we re-rigged completely for West Coast running. Bob Davis, whom we were staying with, figured out a cantilever arrangement for our backstays. Bob took us down to the South Coast Company, and with the help of Leo Benzini, had the fittings made. About noon, Bob, who is President of his own company, excused himself. "You're pretty well set now," he said, "and I have to get to work. This morning they started up a hundred thousand dollar machine I designed, and I should be there to see if it works." Bob's thoughtfulness was typical of our treatment at Newport. I know all of the sailors had the same delightful experience. As I said, we were staying with the Davises. Every morning Jane would pack a lunch for us with enough food to stuff a tribe of boy scouts: steak sandwiches, fresh fruit, orange juice, milk and candy bars. I gained five pounds that week. We didn't lose weight working on the boat either. "Caddies" were assigned to each Star, and they did the work, sponging the bottom in the morning and washing off the salt and putting the sails away after the race.

Before the series began, Chick Rollins offered to furnish us with a "mother ship". It was a long hour's tow to the starting line. Chick could have shown up with an outboard dinghy, and we'd have been thankful- but he does things big: a plush fifty-five foot Alden yawl, no less! After the race, a pair of Chick's crew would step aboard and take charge of Turmoil. We'd board the waiting Kirawan for our daily gin-and-tonic. Believe it, we were livin'.

The preparations for this regatta must have taken a year, there were so many things done for us. All came off quietly and perfectly. The trophies were beautiful old English silver. There were mugs, chafing dishes, coffee servers- and one I received an antique egg broiler. Every one of the trophies was a treasure. One superb touch: at the winners' dinner each skipper and crew was presented with a leather bound scrapbook; inside was a complete set of news clippings, along with a program containing the final results. Everyone who was there, wherever they placed, will fondly remember the Newport series.

Fourth Race
Getting back to the business at hand, the fourth race was triangular, sailed in a 6-mile breeze that diminished to a whisper at the finish line. Bill Ficker took the lead in this race and won by more than two minutes. The series, of course, was into the short strokes between North, Burnham and us.

At the end of the first beat, Howie Lippincott rounded second; we were third, von Hütschler next, followed by Malin, then Lowell. We sailed low, and made it to second place. We were wired for running now, and we weren't waiting for anyone. On the second beat, Lowell, Malin and we stayed together. This was an interesting tactical affair. Lowell came out from shore and tacked to leeward of us. We were going better and sailed by, on to his wind. He tacked, but I decided to give him air so we could both go to sea and pick up Burnham. Malin came over on the port tack; crossed behind Lowell - and we tacked square on his wind. After a bit of our exhaust, he tacked, choosing the lesser evil Lowell's backwind. Lowell was pointing slightly higher than Malin and I, but we had more speed. Soon Malin was sagging from backwind and tacked again to clear himself- and we tacked on him again, forcing him back into Lowell's disturbed air. Up till this time Malin had been going well, but he was caught in a nutcracker. It worked out neatly for us. We arrived at the mark with both of them below us and Howard Lippincott between.

This brings to mind an incident. Up by the mark Howie forced us, and we tacked into a safe leeward, dropping him behind with our backwind. When Lowell and Malin tacked, Howie knew I wanted to tack too and motioned me across. This same thing happened in the North American between Ogilvy and me. Stan wanted to go one direction; I wanted to go another. I was on the starboard, he on the port. He asked what I wanted him to do. I waved him across and dipped under him. I didn't want him in a safe leeward. Howard in this case didn't want me giving him more backwind. As it happened, we tacked and cleared him by five or six feet, without his altering course. If I'd waited longer it would only have been to his disadvantage. Later, Lowell tried to pass Howard to windward on the run, and Howie wouldn't let him. There was a foul and Howie was later disqualified. That evening I was told it was unfair of Lippincott to allow us to tack on the beat yet not let Lowell go by to windward on the run.

There is no similarity between these situations. In the one, Lippincott could not have held on, and only gained by our departure. In the other, he would have lost position in the name of being a "good guy" and letting someone take his wind to pass him. The assumption that a contestant low in points should "lie down" for the leaders is nonsense. And silly as this sounds now, it was reason for bitter feelings at the time.

As I said before, Ficker won the race by a wide margin. We were second and Lowell by a fantastic bit of sailing passed Buchan, Lippincott and - right at the line - Burnham, to finish third. We were now one point ahead of North, four ahead of Burnham.

Fifth Race
The fifth race is one that I would as soon someone else tell, although I have re-sailed it many times since, in, memory.

The wind was stronger this day than for any of the other races. As we were being towed out, we could see the government navigation spar leaning southward at a sharp angle. The current was running stronger than it had all week. We planned to start at the committee boat end, and then tack for shore away from the stronger current to sea. With thirty seconds to go, we were in an excellent spot. But we were to weather of almost everyone, and it looked as if they could squeeze us out at the mark. I drove under three of them, right into the backwind of two more. The current had set us full two boat-lengths! I looked up to the stake, and there was wise old Bill Ficker, luffing along on a reach, watching everyone else get set down the line. When the gun went off, we were in the collective backwind of the fleet-except for the three boats we had sailed below, and now they prevented our tacking. When we finally could tack, we were directly in the exhaust of Ogilvy, Stearns and three or four others. They all looked back in horrible fascination, as if they were watching the flames leap through the twigs and branches of a funeral pyre- ours. We were next to last on the one-day that the shore tack was a must.

Lowell was 50 yards to windward in clear air moving past the fleet like a 12-Metre. We tacked to sea for clear air. When we came back it looked grim, but not impossible. Then we got the final shaft. One boat came out to sea and tacked square on our wind. We had to go out once again and come back against the stronger current- heading right at their transoms. I had blundered.

Billy, thankfully, had nothing to offer in the way of criticism, only ideas on how we might get it back. It was this way all year long with Billy: whenever I got us into trouble, he would crew all the harder to get us out of it. We were 16th at the weather mark and running about fourth in the series at the time. Lowell and Ficker had a commanding lead, and Lowell, another Gold Star. We closed some distance on the run and worked to 8th on the next beat. The Turmoil was going better than it ever had. If the beat had been another quarter of a mile long, I think we could have sailed to third. However, we couldn't have caught North and Ficker if we'd sailed to Catalina. Billy Buchan finished third, behind Ficker, Jack Streeton fourth. Buchan, by the way, sailed a great series, and but for an unfortunate disqualification would have finished far ahead of his series 10th - and that isn't bad either. After the race, Lowell told me that his crew had mistaken the other red boat with blue numbers for us - so they sailed down the shore covering Jack Streeton!
Chick Rollins, our mentor for the week, told us not to feel bad. "The way Lowell was going today, Gary" he said, "you could never have beaten him." All I could think of was that I wished we had been near enough to try. Second place, though, doesn't seem as bad today as it did then.

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